RE/MAX Big 3 Games of the Week
By Dion Clisso PrepsKC Managing Editor
Excelsior Spring at Oak Grove
7 p.m. Friday at Oak Grove Stadium
A few years ago the thought of Oak Grove and Excelsior Springs playing for the Missouri River Valley East Conference title sounded crazy. This year the Panthers and Tigers have rolled through the season and now meet for a chance to win the conference title.
If Excelsior Springs wins the game, the Tigers would share the title with the Panthers and Harrisonville, while Oak Grove can win the championship outright and finish the regular season at a perfect 9-0.
The turnaround for each program has been a little different. Oak Grove is three years removed from a 0-10 campaign with back to back 7-3 seasons. This year the Panthers have taken a big step forward rolling through their schedule including handing Harrisonville its’ first-ever loss as a member of the MRVC.
The Panther success has been on the shoulders of a strong rushing attack led by sophomore Aaron Graham and an effective passing game led by John Latishaw.
Excelsior Springs rebirth has been more sudden under third-year head coach Andy Sims. The Tigers won a combined three games the first two years before winning their first four games to start this season. Only a week No. 5 33-27 loss to Harrisonville has kept this from being a battle of unbeatens.
Along the way Excelsior has scored more than 30 points in five of their games and no less than 27 in every contest. This should be a good battle of emerging teams looking to each get a top seed when district play starts next week.
Liberty at Blue Springs South
7 p.m. Friday at Larry Stewart Stadium
The regular season closes out with two teams jockeying for position in the district tournament. The Jaguars currently have the No. 4 seed with Liberty right behind in No. 5.
Depending how things fall in the rest of the district this could merely be a warm up for a rematch the following week.
Liberty enters coming off a tough 28-21 overtime loss at Columbia Rockbridge. The Blue Jays have a 4-4 record but have only been overmatched in two of those losses. Liberty lost big to powers Blue Springs and Rockhurst while falling in overtime to Rock Bridge and a four-point loss to Raymore-Peculiar.
The Jaguars have suffered similar fates to the Wildcats and Hawklets with their only other loss a tough 6-0 defeat at Fort Osage in the second week of the season.
Park Hill South at Park Hill
7 p.m. Friday at Park Hill District Stadium
The annual rivalry game pits two teams looking for some momentum heading into the postseason. Both teams come in off of tough losses and a win over their rival should bring some confidence as the district tournament begins the following week.
Park Hill has had a hard time finding consistency this season. They opened with a win over Raytown South but have struggled at times including a current three-game losing streak. Last week they fell in a back and forth battle with St. Joseph Central 32-29.
The Panthers have been streaky at times, losing their first two, winning their next three and then going 1-2 in their last three games. Park Hill South looked like it had its fifth win of the season last week, but Liberty North rallied for a 24-21 win.
This game will be very important for both teams as they are still battling for a high seed in a district where almost every team can move up or down in the final week.
Shawnee Mission East at Shawnee Mission West
7 p.m. Friday at Shawnee Mission South Stadium
For the second straight year the Shawnee Mission West and Shawnee Mission East meet with a district title possibly on the line.
The Lancers and Vikings have been the two best programs in the Shawnee Mission District the last few seasons and the annual meeting has turned into one of the best games in the Sunflower League each year.
This year both teams have just one loss in the regular season and opened district play with easy wins last week. Something will have to give, with the winner most likely earning the district title and a home game in the first round of the 6A playoffs.
This game should come down to which offense can sustain drives and not turn the ball over. Both teams have spent the year playing tough, physical defense with the ability to have balance on offense.
The Vikings are led by standout tailback Bret Sterbach while East has a balanced attack featuring Jordan Darling and a bevy of talented receivers. This could be the one of the most exciting games of the year and repeat of last season’s 30-25 down to the wire game which West won could be in order.
DeSoto at Spring Hill
7 p.m. Friday at Spring Hill Stadium
Heading into district play, this game looked like it might be an elimination game between teams that lost their opening game of districts. Instead both won impressively and now control their own destiny going forward.
Spring Hill pulled one of the biggest upsets of the year, not just gaining the win over St. James but how the Broncos accomplished that win. Spring Hill jumped all over the Thunder in the first half with 24 unanswered points and never looked back, winning 41-12.
DeSoto was equally impressive with a 16-6 win over Bonner Springs setting up this week’s showdown between these two Frontier League teams.
St. James Academy at Bonner Springs
7 p.m. Friday at Bonner Springs Stadium
The other side of the DeSoto-Spring Hill game looks like an elimination instead of what could have been a championship game.
St. James had been living on the edge with come from behind wins in two of its last three victories but Spring Hill never let them be a part of the game. This week the Thunder need to find a way to get its offense on track early in the game and not play from behind.
Bonner Springs needs to just find a win to stop a four-game losing streak after opening the year with three straight victories. During the losing streak the Braves offense has been missing in action and needs to find a way to score more than two touchdowns if they want to have a chance to play in the postseason.
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Shawnee Mission Northwest Cougars
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St. Joseph Lafayette Fighting Irish
Mid Buchanan Dragons
Blue Valley Tigers
St. Paul Lutheran Saints
Fort Osage Indians
St. Thomas Aquinas Saints
Oak Grove Panthers
Sabetha Blue Jays