Off the Wallace: Ryan Wallace 9/10
By Ryan Wallace PrepsKC staff writer
Posted: September 11, 2016 - 5:30 PM
The Kansas season is a couple of weeks, in but let’s take a look at some of the better games as the season unfolds.
September 16: Blue Springs @ Shawnee Mission West
In a week of highly anticipated and rare cross-state battles, this one is of particular intrigue. From a Kansas perspective, Shawnee Mission West returns fifteen starters from an athletic squad last year that finished 7-3. Steadily improving each of the past two years, head coach Tim Callaghan may have his most gifted team since the Vikings captured a state title in 2012.
West is 2-0, and the stage is set for the longtime head coach to earn career victory No. 100 against, of all programs, Blue Springs and home turf to boot. The Wildcats could be ripe for the picking too, given the game with the Vikings is sandwiched between two Missouri powers, Park Hill and Rockhurst.
September 23: Shawnee Mission East @ Olathe North
Like their rival Vikings mentioned above, the Lancers of Shawnee Mission East will also have a doozy of a Week 3 game when they travel across the border to take on Rockhurst, but it’s this Week 4 match-up with Olathe North that holds plenty more Sunflower League intrigue.
One year ago, it was East who cruised into the 6A playoffs as a favorite to face Lawrence in the semifinals. However, Dustin Delaney’s rebuilt power took a rare tumble to the steady might that is Olathe North and Gene Weir. For the Eagles, it was sweet payback for back-to-back 6A playoff exits courtesy of Shawnee Mission East, especially a one-point loss in 2014 that led to the Lancers hoisting the title.
Not since 2013 have these two met during the regular season and since that time games have been decided by an average of 6.5 points. The Lancers have handed North three of their eight losses over the past three years, but will this be the night North takes back control of the Sunflower League and ownership of this budding rivalry?
September 30: Mill Valley @ St. Thomas Aquinas / St. James Academy @ Blue Valley
The final week of September featured two games worth noting, each with a storyline too good to pass up. The first is Mill Valley visiting St. Thomas Aquinas, a battle that has left a sour taste in the mouth of Randy Dreiling over the last several meetings. Aside from a 20-point defeat at the hands of Bishop Miege, the Saints were rolled through all obstacles last fall. Well, every obstacle except Mill Valley. Though the Jaguars team may look a little different without Logan Koch, Christian Jegen, and many more, this time around it’s personal for STA as they look to not only avenge last year’s double dose of defeats but also welcome the new EKL members to league play with a loss.
Across town, St. James Academy will also be a new EKL member on the road. To prove themselves as a true competitor in the EKL though, they’ll have to get past a date with 6A juggernaut Blue Valley. A win over the Tigers would send shockwaves across the league and signal to fellow members that Tom Radke’s group is no brush over newcomer. St. James certainly has the roster to do so.
October 7: Olathe Northwest @ Lawrence Free State
One year ago, it took until October before Robert Lisher’s Firebirds were able to soar. A rugged menu of the Sunflower League’s top teams set the season off to an 0-3 start before Free State was able to rally and rattle off eight in a row before falling to eventual 6A state champion Derby in the semifinals. Though the squad will be without the vital services of Bryce Torneden, now a Kansas Jayhawk, there’s still plenty of firepower left on deck with brothers Jay and Jax Dineen anchoring the defense, and Topeka Hayden transfer Dallas Crittenden under center on offense. This meeting with Olathe Northwest shouldn’t be taken lightly though. Chip Sherman’s program has steadily improved over his two years on the job and year three could be his best yet with his regime now fully in-place with upperclassmen.
October 14: Pittsburg @ Bonner Springs
Perhaps no team was more eager to see Mill Valley and St. James move to the EKL than Bonner Springs. A year ago, prior to facing both teams at season’s end, Lucas Aslin’s squad was undefeated and primed to make a showing in the 5A playoffs. Two losses later, that chance was gone. This time around, a new head coach and new district await the Braves. After a late season change with Aslin stepping down to fill a new position in Oklahoma, Bonner Springs named former offensive coordinator LaDrew Murrell interim head coach in an effort to keep continuity amongst a group that had truly turned a corner under the previous staff. Murrell will have the opportunity to put a big stamp on his coaching resume with a win in this marquee matchup welcoming Pittsburg and arguably the state’s top collegiate prospect, Trevor Kent, to town. Expect a clash of styles too, as Pittsburg’s smash mouth approach tangles with Bonner Springs’ spread.
October 21: Basehor-Linwood @ Atchison
A year removed from heart-breaking finishes, Basehor-Linwood and Aitchison are both in search of deeper runs into the 4A-I playoffs this fall. Those hopes culminate in this crucial tussle for district supremacy in late October. In one of the most thrilling finishes we saw in 2015, Basehor’s thrilling comeback to Eudora fell short in double overtime of the sectional round. Even before that near upset of the Cardinals, these Bobcats proved to everyone just how dangerous the upcoming season could be, losing by a touchdown or less in four of their five losses last year.
Rod Stallbaumer returns one of the most versatile playmakers around in senior Eric Scott, who will be the prime focus on offense and a lethal patrolman in the defensive secondary. The Bobcats will need those talents against Atchison’s talented tandem of Adam Smith, an all-state selection on defense who will take over at quarterback this year, and receiver Bryce Enzbrenner. That duo, along with heralded defensive lineman Dai Coye Haley, went 8-1 last season but missed the playoffs due to points after falling to Piper in a rain-soaked district finale. This time around, Jim Smith’s club will be as veteran as they come with 23 returning letterman and a 4A-I title run to fulfill.
October 28: Paola @ Louisburg
Finishing off the regular season slate is a Frontier League battle that rarely fails to bring the drama. Two of the area’s more consistent programs, Paola and Louisburg have consecutively made the playoffs 10 of the last 11 years… but they’ve never had to go through each other to get there. Given their successful histories, close proximity (14 miles), and a primary focus of physically overpowering opponents at the line of scrimmage, this Week 10 contest could be a four-quarter knockout to, potentially, decide a new District 3 champion. Last season’s regular season contest between the two saw Paola escape with an 11-10 victory, but this time around Louisburg’s returning offensive line will look to push all-league rusher Thomas San Agustin into the end zone regularly. If you’re a fan of hard-nosed, power football there’s no better place to be for a pre-Halloween clash than Louisburg Stadium.