Sideline Pass: Jim Bradford 8/25
By Jim Bradford PrepsKC Senior Writer
The class of the Sunflower League and the East Kansas League made their marks in 2010.
Olathe North made a return trip to the Kansas Class 6A state title game one year after winning its eighth state title since 1996. While they came up short against a wildly talented Wichita Heights team, the Eagles proved that the Sunflower League, once again, rules the roost on the eastern side of the state when it comes to Class 6A.
In a season when the new kid in town dominated the headlines, Blue Valley was the one left standing in the EKL — and rode that wave of momentum to a Class 5A state title.
Gardner-Edgerton ran roughshod over the competition in their first year in the EKL, but ran into a buzz-saw in the state playoffs as Blue Valley exacted some revenge for a 42-21 regular season loss and advanced to the state title game where they beat Bishop Carroll for the 5A state title.
So, as the new high school football season creeps over the horizon, the question is the same for both leagues?
Will the same two heavyweights rise to the top in 2011?
If you’re the betting kind, I wouldn’t get against it, but, as in the past, it won’t come easy for the two teams that have won a combined 12 state titles in the last 20 years.
In the Sunflower League, graduation took its toll. The Eagles pretty much lost their entire backfield and most of a stellar offensive line.
At Olathe East and Shawnee Mission East, graduation zapped their skill positions as well.
Olathe North is looking at an easier reload, thanks to some transfers — including East transfer Treshawn Root and another running back from Arizona.
Olathe East will rely heavily on blue-chip defensive end Matthew Baltimore and Shawnee Mission East will lean on Elliot Faerber and running back Adam Lowe to help the Lancers build on their most successful season ever.
Don’t sleep on Olathe South this fall. Frankie Sauer is back at quarterback and the Falcons have one of the best offensive lines in the area led by Scott Gourley.
Shawnee Mission West has some talent back in 2011, led by quarterback Armani Williams and you ever know what Free State and Lawrence might be capable of.
Even one-win Leavenworth won’t stay down long. Pioneers’ Kevin Kopecky revitalized the St. Thomas Aquinas program a few years back and is capable of doing the same in Leavenworth.
While Blue Valley welcomes back a handful of skill position players in quarterback Kyle Zimmerman and running back Justin Fulks, and a standout line, making them a clear favorite to make a deep run again in 2011, but the EKL isn’t one of the best leagues in the state for nothing.
Aquinas has something to prove in 2011 and remember that newcomer a year ago? Well, Gardner-Edgerton wasn’t all Bubba Starling. The Blazers aren’t going away that easy.
Throw in Bishop Miege, Blue Valley West and BV Northwest and you’ve got the makings of a super league. Sleeper alert might just be Blue Valley North, who welcomes former Olathe North head coach John McCall as its new leader. The coach who led North to the 2003 state title might be just what the Mustangs need. As if it weren’t a daunting enough task to maneuver the EKL. If a team runs the table here, they’ve earned it.
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Sedalia Smith-Cotton Tigers
North Kansas City Hornets
University Academy Gryphons
Blue Springs South Jaguars
Bishop Ward Cyclones
Olathe South Falcons
St. Thomas Aquinas Saints
Excelsior Springs Tigers
St. Pius X Warriors
Park Hill Trojans
Hogan Prep Academy Rams