Sideline Pass: Jim Bradford 3/23
By Jim Bradford PrepsKC Senior Writer
Sure, the season is still more than five months away, but it’s never too early to start thinking about high school football season and when you think of high school football in Kansas, the Sunflower League immediately comes to mind.
And when you think about the Sunflower League, the Olathe schools immediately come to mind.
Sorry, Shawnee Mission schools, sorry Lawrence, Free State and Leavenworth. Olathe is the football heavyweight. They are the barometer, the measuring stick.
So, as they say, the Sunflower League title – and most often the Class 6A state title – runs through Olathe.
Not only do you have the defending state champion in Olathe on the south side of town, but you have perennial Olathe East – which advanced to the state semifinals in 2011 – and first-time district champion Olathe Northwest, a team that hung 56 points on Olathe North in the final game of the regular season last year. Oh yeah, and what about North? Gene Wier is back and let’s not forget this team started 5-0 last year, won the state title in 2009 and finished as the state runner up in 2010.
Yep, starting with the mighty Falcons at Olathe South, Olathe is loaded once again and ready to take on the rest of the Sunflower league.
But thanks to the unbalanced schedule, not every team has to play each other and some of the Shawnee Mission and Lawrence teams dodge the talented quartet.
Not Shawnee Mission East, though. I’m not sure who they ticked off, but not only are they the only school that play all four Olathe schools, they play them back-to-back-to-back-to-back. Yep, they start with Olathe North in week two and then host Olathe East in week five, culminating as brutal of a stretch as I can ever remember in the Sunflower League.
While SM East got smacked in the face as the only team to have to face all four Olathe teams, it appears that SM South dodged the bullet. They won’t face an Olathe school until the final week of the season and if they can spring a bit of an upset in the first week of districts against Blue Valley Northwest, they might be playing Olathe East with a district title on the line in week nine.
I’m not sure that’s the fairest way to juggle the Sunflower League schedule, but with 12 teams, I’m not sure there is a fair – or easy – way to do it.
After SM South, SM West and SM North might have it easiest, taking on just two Olathe schools, but they’ll have to take to the road. SM North gets Olathe South and Olathe Northwest on the road while SM West gets to go to Olathe North and Olathe East in back-to-back games in week three and four.
Lawrence will be looking to take the next step in 2012 and will only have to play two Oalthe schools. They have Olathe South and Olathe East at home. After going to Olathe Northwest in the season opener, Free State gets Olathe South and Olathe North at home in weeks three and four.
Over in the EKL, the defending Class 5A state runner up Blue Valley will once again have its hands full. Very full. And it starts early for the Tigers.
Week one sees the Tigers taking on Gardner-Edgerton. The Blazers have made the most of their first two years in the EKL, winning it in 2010 and advancing to the state semifinals – against, well, you-know-who – in 2011. This time around, Gardner-Edgerton comes in as a Class 6A team and one of the best games in the EKL takes place in first week of the season.
Week two offers the Blazers a chance at revenge for a regular-season beat down last fall. Bishop Miege – with its new head coach Jon Holmes – will have to try and bottle Traevohn Wrench and the Blazers again as they did in an early-season 34-0 pasting of the Blazers in Gardner. With Montel Cozart back as the Stags quarterback, the Stags are sure to be one of the top teams in the area.
St. Thomas Aquinas is sure to be a thorn in the EKL’s collective side this fall, as usual. They open the season with the Blue Valley directional schools with a visit from Salina Central sandwiched in there in week three.
The biggest test for the Saints may come in week one when they play BV Northwest. And speaking of the Huskies, we’ll know exactly what kind of team they have by week five at the latest. They have all four of the big-time EKL heavyweights – Blue Valley, Miege, Aquinas and Gardner-Edgerton slotted in four of the first five weeks of the season. Head coach Mike Zegunis and the Huskies are always a sexy pick out of the EKL, but this year we won’t have to wait until districts to see what they have. We’ll know early.
Too bad we have to wait until September to get this thing going.
Bonner Springs Braves
Bishop Miege Stags
Shawnee Mission South Raiders
Prairie View Buffalos
Olathe East Hawks
East Buchanan Bulldogs
Oak Park Northmen
Lees Summit Tigers
Mill Valley Jaguars
Santa Fe Chiefs
Central Heights Vikings
Spring Hill Broncos
Jefferson County North
Mid Buchanan Dragons
Liberty Blue Jays
Blue Valley Tigers