Through the Uprights: Mike Lavieri 11/1

Mike Lavieri

By Mike Lavieri PrepsKC columnist
Posted: November 1, 2018 - 6:46 PM

Maybe the gap between the Eastern Kansas League and the Sunflower League isn’t as big as we thought.

The Sunflower League went a perfect 3-0 against Eastern Kansas League schools in the first round of the playoffs signaling the two leagues are closer than the hot takes indicate.

Sure Gardner-Edgerton beat up on Blue Valley Northwest and Olathe South won a barnburner against Blue Valley West, but maybe the surprise of the first round was No. 10 seed Olathe East knocking off 7-seed Blue Valley, 31-21, to set up a date with No. 2 Shawnee Mission East.

Once considered a threat to challenge for the EKL title, Blue Valley trended in the wrong direction in the final four weeks of its season going 1-3 while Olathe East is heading in the opposite way having gone 3-1 in the past four weeks.

Stacking up Bishop Miege, St. Thomas Aquinas, Blue Valley North and Mill Valley in the Eastern Kansas League against Gardner-Edgerton, Free State, Shawnee Mission East and Olathe North in the Sunflower League, I do think the leagues would split if they were to play a series where each league team played the other.

In the middle of the leagues, we already saw middle-of-the-league Olathe East top Blue Valley, and Shawnee Mission Northwest, Shawnee South and a healthy Olathe South are as every bit as good as the Hawks.

Maybe where the Eastern Kansas League is slightly better is the bottom third of the league, but even then the games would be a toss up.

The Sunflower League used to be the cream of the crop. The league held a streak of 45 straight years of sending a member school to a state title that was snapped in 2015 after Blue Valley knocked off Olathe North in the semifinals.

The league hasn’t seen a state title participant since 2014 when Shawnee Mission East won the Class 6A title. The league is looking to start a new streak and the only team in its way is last year’s state champion – Blue Valley North, which remains the only EKL team left in Class 6A. The Sunflower League has seven teams remaining in the East and Free State in the West.

The Sunflower League is making its case for deepest league in the state and I’m here for it.