Sunflower League Preview

By Adam Sullivan PrepsKC Columnist
Posted: September 5, 2014 - 2:48 PM

Lawrence Lions:

Head Coach: Dirk Wedd (14 years, 78-69)

Last Season: 3-6

Key game: 10/31 vs Olathe East
Assuming the Lions fall to Olathe North the second week of districts their matchup with the Hawks will likely determine the District Runner-up.

Outlook: The Lions went through a rough 2013 season winning only three times on the year. Good news for LHS fans would be the Lions return a strong junior class led by junior quarterback Alan Clothier.

Other key players: Nyle Anderson, Amani Bledsoe, J’Moni Bryant, Tanner Green, Ivan Hollins and JD Woods.

Adam’s projection: 7-2

Lawrence Free State Firebirds:

Head Coach: Bob Lisher (17 years, 103-72)

Last Season: 9-2

Key game: 9/19 @ Lawrence
Week three could be huge for the Firebirds. After facing SM West and Olathe North the first two weeks it’s possible with a loss to Lawrence, Free State could be sitting 0-3. Win one of the first three and you can build a little momentum getting closer to districts.

Outlook: Bryce Torneden takes over at quarterback this season for Free State. Many Lawrence residents are familiar with Torneden name as Bryce’s older brother Camren led the Firebirds to the 2008 state championship game. 

Other key players: Carson Bowen, Scott Frantz and Joel Spain.

Adam’s projection: 5-4

Leavenworth Pioneers:

Head Coach: Mark Littrell (One year at Leavenworth, 3-7)

Last Season: 3-7

Key game: 10/31 vs Lansing
Assuming the Pioneers can claim victories over Schlagle and Washington the first two weeks of district play, a win against Lansing would put Leavenworth 3-0 in district play for the first time in a very long time.

Outlook: Leavenworth dropped to Class 5A giving them a chance to have the best season in Pioneer history. Leavenworth should have an easy route to the playoffs this season led by senior quarterback Landry Hodges who passed for six touchdowns a season ago.

Other key players: Jake Boyce, Anthony Hunt, Juwann Potts and Isaiah Ross

Adam’s projection: 4-5

Olathe East Hawks:

Head Coach: Jeff Meyers (22 years, 160-68)

Last season: 7-4

Key game: 10/17 @ Olathe North
Easily the biggest game of the season for Olathe East. The Hawks have a great chance of going 6-0 or 5-1 through the first six weeks of the season. If East can top the Eagles not only would they win bragging rights but they’d also have a shot at a top playoff seed.

Outlook: The last time the Hawks missed the playoffs it was 2001! Don’t expect that to change this season as East will be led by running back Jalen Branson who rushed for 852 yards and 10 touchdowns a season ago.

Other key players: Chris Diddle, Brycen Hinson and Max McClellen.

Adam’s projection: 8-1

Olathe North Eagles:

Head Coach: Gene Wier (24 years at OLN, 199-47)

Last season: 8-4

Key game: 9/5 @ Rogers (Ark.) Heritage
Olathe North has a chance to prove how talented the Sunflower League is in week one as they head down to Arkansas. Not only would it be a giant win for the program but a win would give coach Wier his 200th win at North.

Outlook: North has 17 starters coming back this season in what looks to be one of the best teams in school history. Venus Triplett looks to be the go to guy on offense as he rushed for 1,530 yards and 25 touchdowns a year ago.

Other key players: Chaz Burgess, Jesse Kendricks, Josh Moore, Cole Murphy, Isaiah Simmons and Marcel Spears.

Adam’s projection: 9-0

Olathe Northwest Ravens:

Head Coach: Chip Sherman (One year at NW, 3-6)

Last season: 3-6

Key game: 9/19 @ Leavenworth
The Ravens have struggled to produce wins and with a loaded district the playoffs look like a reach. An early week three matchup with Leavenworth looks to be a competitive game and a chance at a win for the Ravens.

Outlook: Olathe Northwest will rely heavily on Jack Hatzfeld and Manny Psihountas this season as the Ravens hope to move up in terms of the Olathe schools.

Other key players: Adam Harter, Mitch Holsinger and Ethan Wall.

Adam’s projection: 3-6

Olathe South Falcons:

Head Coach: Jeff Gourley (Six years at OLS, 36-24)

Last season: 5-4

Key game: 9/5 @ Hutchinson
A week one matchup of recent state champions should live up to the hype. Hutchinson looks to continue its dynasty under new head coach Ryan Cornelson. A win by South would give the Falcons momentum heading into league play.

Outlook: Jake Seurer will be the man for Gourley this season. If Seurer has a big year look for South to fly high. On a negative note it appears South has the toughest schedule in the league.

Other key players: Coleman Clanton, Nate Howard and Stephen Miller.

Adam’s projection: 3-6

Shawnee Mission East Lancers:

Head Coach: Dustin Delaney (One year at SME, 11-2)

Last season: 11-2

Key game: 9/12 vs SM South
East looks to have the easiest schedule in the league this season with what looks to be a cakewalk in district play. A week two matchup with rival SM South and head coach Ryan Lonergan may be the closest game of the year for the Lancers.

Outlook: SM East is loaded with talent from a team that reached the state championship game last fall. East returns 16 starters led by defensive end Kyle Ball. Look for the Lancers to make a deep run in the post-season.

Other key players: Alec Dean, Gunnar Englund, Jackson Gossick, Will Kaiser and Charley White.

Adam’s projection: 9-0

Shawnee Mission North Indians:

Head Coach: Ben Barlett (First season)

Last season: 0-9

Key game: 9/12 vs SM Northwest
As a SMN alum I know first-hand that the “Hula Bowl” is a unique rivalry. I’m sure the Indians would love to snap their 19 game losing streak against the Cougars.

Outlook: Sophomore quarterback Will Schneider looks to be a bright spot in a struggling program.  Good news for the Indians would be besides SM East, two district games look winnable against Harmon and Wyandotte.

Other key players: Tyler Burnett, Nick Perez and Isaiah Shields.

Adam’s projection: 2-7

Shawnee Mission Northwest Cougars:

Head Coach: Linn Hibbs (Two years at SMNW, 5-14)

Last season: 3-7

Key game: 10/31 @ SM South
The Cougars have a good shot at reaching the playoffs this season. Assuming they get past Blue Valley North, a week nine matchup with SM South will likely determine the second team to come out of this district.

Outlook: Duron Lowe who rushed for 543 yards last season looks to be the anchor on offense for Northwest this season. Look for a young lineup to struggle this season.

Other key players: Clay Drouillard, TJ Hutton and CJ Perez.

Adam’s projection: 2-7

Shawnee Mission South Raiders:

Head Coach: Ryan Lonergan (Three years, 10-17)

Last season: 4-5

Key game: 10/31 vs SM Northwest
A win over the Cougars will likely punch Souths’ ticket to the playoffs for the first time since 2007.

Outlook: Lonergan has done a tremendous job rebuilding the South program in his tenure, but they still lack enough talent to really contend for a league title. The Raiders are poised for a playoff run but don’t expect to see them make a deep run.

Key players: Marshall Bland, Brendan Brooks and Zach Gerber.

Adam’s projection: 4-5

Shawnee Mission West Vikings:

Head Coach: Tim Callaghan (11 years, 84-33)

Last season: 4-5

Key game: 10/24 vs SM South
This week-eight matchup has district championship written all over it!

Outlook: It’s no secret that West struggled last season but don’t count out veteran head coach Callaghan. The Vikings will rely on Tarik Watson to have a big season offensively.

Other key players: Isaiah Macklin and Carter Pembridge.

Adam’s projection: 5-4