View From the Press Box: Dion Clisso 11/22
By Dion Clisso PrepsKC Managing Editor
As we get one step closer to the state championships on both sides of the state line, it is interesting to see the teams that are still playing. There are surprises on both sides and a few teams that have been everything we thought they would be.
Let’s take a look at some teams that surprised in a few different ways:
Shawnee Mission East – Ok raise your hand if you had the Lancers at 10-1 and hosting the Kansas Class 6A semifinal. East started the year with a new coach, philosophy and plenty of questions. The Lancers program has been a consistent winner since Chip Sherman took over five years ago, but he left this summer to take over Olathe Northwest.
Dustin Delaney came in from Emporia and turned the Lancers from a spread offense to an option running attack. The other change was putting most of the top talent on the defense and a few short months later East is not only one step away from its first-ever title game, it is in the semifinals for the first time. Whatever happens from here is gravy but East has a very good shot at winning a title which is something I wouldn’t have considered just three short months ago.
Liberty North – The Eagles started the season as a team that many thought would have a chance to go deep in the Missouri Class 4 playoffs. This was the fourth year of the program and these seniors were the first to spend all four years as Liberty North Eagles.
As the season went on, injuries and inconsistent play kept the Eagles right around the .500 mark. Even with a 5-4 record, North’s tough schedule allowed them to earn the No. 1 seed in the Class 4 District 8 bracket. Just two quarters into the first game against a winless St. Joseph Benton North found itself tied at 14 all. From that point the Eagles have outscored their opponents 136-10 to advance to the Class 4 semifinals against Jefferson City Helias. For a team that was battling to stay around the break even mark four weeks ago, the dream of a state championship is becoming a reality.
Harrisonville – While Liberty North turned on the jets in the postseason, Harrisonville fell back to earth. The Wildcats opened the year with a big win over Jefferson City Helias but may have peaked at that point. A tough loss to Bolivar would follow along with regular season losses to Pleasant Hill and Oak Grove. Those defeats aren’t bad, but in years past the Wildcats would have those wins and probably still been playing.
While Harrisonville probably counts the first round home loss to Raytown South as a disappointment, I think it shows the growing depth of Class 4 in the Kansas City Metro. Liberty North and Pleasant Hill are very good teams and squads like Grandview, Smithville and Raytown South are a little better than their record shows.
Blue Valley West – Ok, the Jaguars are playing in the semifinals against Blue Valley, which is exactly how many would have predicted the season would play out. How West got to this point is a little interesting. The Jaguars looked unbeatable the first three weeks and then couldn’t buy a win the next three. Now West is riding a five-game winning streak that includes a come-from-behind win over Blue Valley just three weeks ago.
The Jaguars battle injuries but now are healthy led by standout quarterback Ryan Ralston. West is a team with good pieces that is playing its best football. The Jaguars are where I thought they would be, just not how I thought they would get there.
Lafayette County - The Huskers entered the season with all kinds of questions. In fact, after I talked with coach Steve Cook during the summer, I wondered if Lafayette County was going to come back to earth and be closer to a .500 team.
Not only did the Huskers not fall back to earth, they didn’t miss a beat going undefeated in the regulars season. Lafayette County then found itself winning another district title and making it back to the Class 2 quarterfinals.
The Huskers lost this past week to Lawson, but it was a great run from a basically new team.
With just two weeks left in the season it will be interesting if there will be any more surprises. There are a few things that look like a lock (like Blue Springs), while others might need some good fortune. Either way it’s been a great season, no matter what you expected.
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