Sideline Pass: Jim Bradford 12/7

Jim Bradford

By Jim Bradford PrepsKC Staff Writer
Posted: December 7, 2010 - 4:40 PM

It’s human nature to hang your head after a humbling loss. Even more so when you get it handed to you like Olathe North did last weekend.


When a kickoff from Wichita Heights hit the ground in front of the Eagles deep returners with 5:18 left in the first quarter in Saturday’s Class 6A state championship game, so too did the Eagles chances. That thud you heard Saturday afternoon came all the way form Topeka.


The first six minutes had been all Heights. The three and a half quarters that followed were all Heights. They scored five plays later and the rout as on. In the end, Wichita Heights was left celebrating a convincing 48-14 win over North and bringing a Class 6A title back to Wichita for the first time since 1983.


Sometimes things don’t end the way they are supposed to. I know that’s tough for a team like the Eagles to understand, since they have been the team administering the beatings for the better part of the last decade and a half, but it can’t take away from a great season.


That’s the beauty (or some might say the curse) of high school football. Only one team can finish the year with a win. Oh, I know there could be that isolated case where a team loses it’s first two district games, then wins their final game, but fails to advance to the playoffs, but that’s not the point.


When the playoffs begin, 16 teams are primed for a shot at the state title in the big classes in Kansas and only one finishes with a win.


The last team from the eastern side of the state — Olathe North — had an amazing year.


“To go through our playoff system and get to this point is quite an accomplishment,” said North head coach Pete Flood after Saturday’s loss. “It’s still a very good season. Today, we just didn’t play well. We can’t let that take away from what we did.”


Lost in the Eagles 10th state title game appearance in the last 15 years is the fact that the Eagles took a hit form graduation last year.


They lost the school’s all-time leading rusher in James Franklin and one of the best — if not the best — offensive and defensive lines in the state.


The Eagles had one returning starter on both lines when the 2010 season began. That just shows you the caliber of player that comes through the North program and the ability that coaches have to harness that players talent. Players like Victor Simmons and Adonis Saunders in the backfield and guys like Sam Todd, Tanner Gentry and Kyle Swartz on defense led the Eagles back to with a win of the high school football promised land.


Of course, it wasn’t just North that should be holding their collective heads high.


Their sub-state finals opponent, Olathe East, had an equally impressive run, but just came up one game short with the likes of Brandon Willingham, Austin Fulson and Vince Gertsner.


Olathe South stumbled early, but came on late on the shoulders of Nick Sands. Shawnee Mission East won more games in 2010 then ever and won a share of the Sunflower League title for the first time since 1966 with John Schrock and Josh Mais. The Vikings are SM West won a share of the league title behind Tre Burt, Will Livingston and young quarterback Armani Williams.


In fact, all eight teams on the eastern side of the Class 6A state bracket were form the resurgent Sunflower League.


And there’s no reason to think that won’t be the case next year.


Not only were league mainstays Olathe North and Olathe East strong again in 2010, but the return of SM East and addition of SM West made the league as strong as it had been in many, many years.


Seven teams finished with at last five regular season wins. Four had two losses or fewer.


Sure, Wichita grabbed its first state title in nearly three decades, but they might not want to get to comfortable with that trophy out West. If the entire 2010 season is any indication, the East will rise again. Quickly.