Sideline Pass: Jim Bradford 11/18
By Jim Bradford PrepsKC Senior Writer
Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away, two football teams in Johnson County were above all.
Before seemingly endless directional additions were made to both Olathe and Blue Valley, it was a pair of bluebloods in Blue Valley High and Olathe North that ruled with a (grid)iron fist.
Even with the dawning of the age of enlightenment – so to speak – in Olathe and Blue Valley that has seen six new directional models added in the last 30 years, it was always North and Blue Valley. Between them they have 14 state titles. North has eight in Class 6A and Blue Valley has six in Class 5A.
Blue Valley is in its second year back up in Class 6A after having spent a couple of years in the higher class in 2008 and 2009. North dropped down to Class 5A for a couple of years about a decade ago. In the midst of these tours in different classes, the two teams have met before in the state playoffs, and as recently as last year, when North won 27-14 in the state quarterfinals. They also met in 2009, when North was on its way to a perfect season and its eighth state title. The team got a last-second field goal to advance to the state title game that year at Blue Valley.
And while North fans would rather not remember it, back in 2005, the Tigers handed the Eagles their worst loss in school history – a 49-0 whitewashing of the Eagles in the second week of the Class 5A playoffs that year.
So, these teams are familiar with one another. Heck, they were league rivals until 1989, when the Eagles flew out of the EKL to join the Sunflower League.
And now, they meet again. This time, it’s for a chance to play in the Class 6A state title game.
Eleven weeks of football are in the record books. And only two remain in Class 6A. It seems only fitting that in the final year of district play in the state of Kansas – in Class 5A and 6A – that two of the teams with the most district titles of any team on this side of the state during the district-play heyday are facing off for a chance to ply for a state title.
Both coaches have the utmost respect for one another and each other’s program heading into the 7 p.m. matchup at Blue Valley.
“Olathe North is a great team, that’s for sure,” Blue Valley head coach Erik Driskell said. “They are physical and athletic and play extremely hard. It will take our best effort on Friday night. But that’s what you expect in a semifinal game against a great team with great tradition.”
North is certain of the same in a matchup of two teams that have won all 14 of their state titles in the last 24 years.
“Blue Valley has a great tradition,” North first-year head coach Chris McCartney said. “They are a lot like we are with many state appearances over the last 20 years. They have a very big and physical offensive line and most of their skilled players back form a year ago. Their defense is super-aggressive and they have turned up the intensity the last few games.”
The big, physical Blue Valley line and experienced Colton McCumber at quarterback lead the way for the Tigers. Not even losing their starting running back could get the Tigers off track. Out with AJ Totta and in with Will Evans, who ran roughshod over Lawrence last Friday night for more than 200 yards.
The suddenly big-play offense and special teams of the Eagles led by the three-headed monster of quarterback Matt Wright, running back Vinnie Shabazz and receiver/returner Isaiah Simmons are ready for a showdown and are fully aware that they will be facing a team that has some revenge on their mind. Something exactly like what the Eagles had in their mind last Friday when they faced Shawnee Mission East for the third straight year in the playoffs, losing in 2013 and 2014 in the state semifinals.
“I would say all teams that don’t win the state title in the previous season have unfinished business, but at Blue Valley we talk about giving our best, loving one another, and leaving a legacy.”
Yep, legacy. Each of these two teams has plenty of legacy already and is looking to add to their legacy.
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