Looking for playoff redemption
By Dion Clisso PrepsKC Managing Editor
Halfway through the season a lot of teams don’t want to talk about the playoffs. In fact some are even forbidden to even mention the word playoffs.
There is a thought that looking forward to playoff games you haven’t even earned the right to play will get you burned. Karma will come and get you and other boogie man type of things.
The reality in high school football is that looking too far ahead will get you beat. That is true on any level of football but at the high school level the look ahead loss seems to bite almost every team at least once in a season.
The “taking it one game at a time” approach can be great in theory. It helps to keep kids focused on the task at hand without looking too far down the road.
One school that is going by the one game at a time motto while keeping its eyes on the playoffs is Basehor-Linwood. The Bobcats are one of the top teams in Kansas Class 4A and have won all of their games to start the season. In fact Basehor-Linwood has won 20 straight regular season games dating back to the 2009 season.
That is an impressive stat. The Bobcats haven’t lost a regular season game since Mill Valley topped them in the third week of the 2009 season. Since that time Basehor has been as dominant as any team in the Metro, except for the playoffs.
The Bobcats have taken perfect and near perfect records into the playoffs the last two seasons before being upset in the first round. Those playoff losses are something that is on the mind of every player and coach.
“That’s the knock on our program,” Hopkins said. “The last two years we’ve gone into the playoffs feeling confident believing we can go a deep run and both times we got upset on our home field in the first round by the second-place team in the other district.
Playoff success has been hard to come by for the Bobcats. The last four seasons Basehor-Linwood has fallen in the first round of the postseason. Last year it was to a talented, yet under rated Sumner squad. The year before that Basehor-Linwood went 8-1 in the regular season and lost to Jefferson West in the first round.
In 2008 the Bobcats got into the playoffs with a 4-5 record and lost to Holton. In 2007 it was the same 4-5 but Basehor-Linwood topped Eudora in the first round 13-8 before losing to Holton in the second round.
That win over Eudora is the high water mark for Basehor-Linwood over the last 30 years. That victory was the first playoff win since 1980.
This season there is a strong desire to end the playoff drought. There is sense of redemption around this team. It is loaded with seniors and juniors who have been starting for several years and are now ready to take that next step.
“I think we are not going to make the mistake of overlooking an opponent,” senior linebacker Jessie Hiss said. “I think we kind of looked past Sumner on to the next week. I think we are taking it week by week.
“Since our group of guys have been playing together so long we just click. I think no one wants to settle for anything less than a state championship this year. We are just taking care of business.”
Hopkins knows the pressure to make a deep playoff run and accepts that pressure willingly. He wasn’t happy with how last season ended and says this team is focused on playing multiple playoff games, not just one as in year’s past.
“We try not to focus on the end and we don’t want to focus on the end but we do understand that the end for us needs to be deeper in the playoffs than round one,” Hopkins said. “We are uncompromising with that on our kids and they are uncompromising on that. They are just adamant that what we keep doing is improving and not get satisfied and think we are pretty hot stuff.”
For the seniors this is their last chance to make their mark in Basehor-Linwood football history. The talented group includes many players who have been starting for four years including Hiss and Colin and Ryan Murphy.
This year the Bobcats have been even more dominant than a year ago. Through the first four games the closest any team came was 22 points. Lansing kept it that close but that wasn’t really a game. In fact the other wins have been by margins of 26 (Piper), 43 (Bonner Springs) and 60 (Bishop Ward). This past week Turner kept it close with the Bobcats but it was still a 28-14 decision.
Basehor-Linwood looks primed for another Kaw Valley League title and district title. It looks like Mill Valley, also 5-0, will be the Bobcats biggest regular season test while Perry-Lecompton (5-0) would be the toughest team in district play.
Conference titles are nice but that isn’t the goal this year for the Bobcats. Hopkins said that they are working for bigger goals.
“Our focus is to win games in districts and win games in the playoffs,” Hopkins said. “We care about the Kaw Valley League but we’ve won it two years in-a-row. What would be a first if we can do it would be some playoff games. We want to win the Kaw Valley League if it helps us win some playoff games that is great.
“We want to play our best game of the season late, in the playoffs.”
Derrick Thomas Academy Chiefs
Lone Jack Mules
Lawrence Free State Firebirds
Seneca-Nemaha Valley Raiders
Blue Springs South Jaguars
Oak Grove Panthers
St. Paul Lutheran Saints
St. Pius X Warriors
Pleasant Ridge Rams
Olathe Northwest Ravens
Sabetha Blue Jays
Shawnee Mission South Raiders
Mill Valley Jaguars
Oak Park Northmen