Thursday, November 27, 2014

6A State Championship Statistical Comparison

Hutchinson's Blaik Middleton. Photo Hutch News.

Passing Yards

Hutchinson
Turner Wintz: 525, 5 TDs

SM East
Gunnar Englund: 1,191, 19 TDs

Rushing Yards

Hutchinson
Blaik Middleton: 2,616, 36 TDs
Turner Wintz: 838, 11 TDs
Jacob Hardenberger: 828, 5 TDs

SM East
Wyatt Edmisten: 1,370, 29 TDs
Gunnar Englund: 678, 6 TDs
Jackson Gossick: 596, 6 TDs
Calvin Jones: 508, 4 TDs
Sam Huffman: 456, 6 TDs
Mike Bamford: 312, 2 TDs
Parker Shirling: 101, 2 TDs

Receiving Yards

Hutchinson
Blaik Middleton: 200, 2 TDs
Ryan Stocklein: 170, 1 TD

SM East
Alec Dean: 513, 8 TDs
SM East's Gunnar Englund. Photo SME Harbinger.
Sky Tate: 208, 4 TDs
Jackson Gossick: 163, 2 TDs
Charley White: 136, 2 TDs

Tackles

Hutchinson
Lucas Dunbar: 94
Josh Patterson: 58
Ryan Stocklein: 56
Gabe Raigoza: 51
Heath Davidson: 42
Colton Fee: 42

SM East
Kyle Ball: 112
Rider Terry: 76
Jack Anderson: 74
Sam Pottenger: 65
Sam Williams: 54

Sacks

Hutchinson
Gabe Raigoza: 2.5
Heath Davidson: 1.5
(five with one)

SM East
Kyle Ball: 10
Sam Williams: 5
Rider Terry: 4
Luke Heisdorffer: 3
John Aliber: 2
Sam Pottenger: 2
(four with one)

Interceptions

Hutchinson
Colton Fee: 3
Peyton Pendergrass: 3
Turner Wintz: 1
Ryan Stocklein: 1
Josh Patterson: 1
Quinten Ruiz: 1

SM East
Charley White: 5
Taylor Robinson: 2
(five tied with one)

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Hutchinson and SM East program profiles

Hutchinson quarterback Turner Wintz' return from
the injured reserve list helped fuel the Salthwaks late
season run. They've won six of their last eight games.
Photo courtesy Kansas.com
Hutchinson
Location: Huchinson
Enrollment: 1,510
Previous state title appearances: 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012
State championships: 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011
Current FBS alumni: Ben Heeney (Kansas), Geneo Grissom (Oklahoma)

Salthawk Football
Head coach: Ryan Cornelson
Record: 8-4
Last 20: 12-8
Offense: Power-I (pro style)
Defense: 4-3-4
Points scored per game: 35.3
Points allowed per game: 27

Program Persona
If Kansas has ever had its own version of some mythical west Texas football community, it would be Hutchinson. The Salthawk nickname stems from the abundance of salt mines which rest in the area, providing employment opportunities to thousands within the community. The town has distinctive good and bad sides of the railroad tracks, and like any other "big" small town, the locals can all name the five to ten powerful families who have all the money and control commerce.

In 1997, former head coach Randy Dreiling ventured to the football program like some 1700s Spanish missionary in southern California, seeking to establish a collective "well-being" in the community. At that time the Salthawk program was the laughingstock of big-class football. They were amid a 26-game losing streak and had zero state titles to their name. Dreiling broke the losing streak in his first game, and by his seventh season the program was making its first state title appearance.

From 2004 to 2011, Hutchinson basically owned big-class Kansas football. They won seven state championships in that time frame (four in 6A, and three in 5A) and set the gold-standard for high school football in Kansas. The town's inhabitants took great pride and ownership of the success. The program's iconic gold 'H' logo adorned the front license plate holders of what seemed like every vehicle in the Reno County area. The outstanding fanbase even travelled notoriously well on the road, making a name for themselves with their ability to outnumber a home crowd's attendance in communities hours away from Hutchinson. The program and its constituents were cocky -- and they could be. In the 10 seasons from 2003 to 2012, they won 116 games and lost just 13.

Then the unthinkable happened, when following the 2013 season Dreiling announced he was leaving the program after 17 years to take the job at St. Thomas Aquinas. Dreiling's assistants followed him east, so the school administration made an external hire in Cornelson. There's no telling if Hutchinson football can keep their identity alive. The program made a nice rebound this year, and made the coveted state title game for the 10th time in 12 years, but the true tell-tale sign will be where they're at two years from now, when Dreiling's final leftovers graduate and move on. In the meantime, the Hutchinsonians will continue to show up in force to support their program, with the hope Cornelson will keep those gold 'H' logos on their vehicles for years to come.

Notes

**Nobody (myself included) expected the Salthawks to make a return to the 6A state title game this fall once Dreiling announced his intentions to take the St. Thomas Aquinas job. It certainly hasn't been all smooth sailing in year one under Cornelson, either. Through week six, the Salthawks' record sat at 2-4, and one of those victories had been by three points in overtime. But around week six many of their injured starters began returning to the starting lineup, and they've gone 6-0 since. Last week they absolutely manhandled a Free State program, on the road, that had been playing very well.

**You can't say enough about Hutchinson's running back, Blaik Middleton. The 6-foot-1, 190-pound senior hasn't garnered any FBS offers, but that may change once college coaches have a chance to sit down and evaluate his senior game film between now and January. Last week Middleton gashed Free State for 353 rushing yards and six touchdowns on a mere 21 carries. Most of his yardage came between the hashmarks, which made the numbers even more impressive. On the season he leads all big-class running backs in rushing yards, with 2,621, and he's also added 36 touchdowns for good flavor.


SM East's Mike Bamford (45) and Will Kost 
celebrated their victory against Olathe North last
Friday. The Lancers have gone 23-2 since the start
of the 2013 season. Photo Kansas City Star.
SM East
Location: Prairie Village
Enrollment: 1,639
Previous state title appearances: 2013
State championships: None
Current FBS alumni: Jordan Darling (Kansas)

Lancer Football
Head coach: Dustin Delaney
Record: 12-0
Last 20: 18-2
Offense: Flexbone
Defense: 3-4-4
Points scored per game: 47.3
Point allowed per game: 11

Program Persona
There's an identity crisis in the far northeast corner of Johnson County. SM East, a high school which pulls a substantial portion of its student body from Kansas' two wealthiest cities -- Mission Hills and Leawood -- isn't supposed to be dominating a sport which isn't offered at any of the exclusive country clubs which dot that part of the county. The Lancers own 52 state titles in men's sports, but not one of those championships falls under the category of football.

Take a step into the SM East world. It's set in a part of the county canopied by towering oaks and sycamores. There are houses the size of high schools. Its narrow, winding streets are sprinkled with quaint shops and high-end boutiques. Traverse those streets, among the BMWs and Volvos, and you gain a sense of why the program isn't a historic football power. This isn't some mining community. They aren't reliant on manual labor opportunities provided by the ebbs and flows of some oil boom, and there's not a collective chippiness among the locals. Those sorts of rustic qualities have been a staple of the communities surrounding some of the region's most successful high school football programs (see Hutchinson).

But, you can immediately recognize why it could be the state's next dynasty in the making. The program is buoyed by a support system of high-achieving students, highly-involved parents, strong community, and a seemingly endless line of sponsors willing to do their part to help create a winning atmosphere. SM East has small-town support with high-rise money.

More importantly, the country club school has bought into the blue collar offense carried to its shores by Delaney. The Lancers have never been a terrible program. For years they seemed to have final ledgers which fell between two and five wins. Former head coach Chip Sherman was able to get the Lancers over the hump in the late 2000s, but he left before seeing the program through to playoff successes. Delaney's arrival took what was an already steady program, and turned them up several notches. The result has been a 23-2 record since September of 2013. If they win a state title Saturday, the notions of the Lancers being solely a country club campus can be put out to pasture.

Notes

**SM East's identity sits with its flexbone offense -- the offense Delaney learned and used as the offensive coordinator at Hutchinson from 2006 to 2009. While the Hutchinson offense of the Dreiling years and SM East's offense essentially have the same bloodlines, there seem to be some minor variations. For one, the Lancers appear willing to throw the football more than what we saw from Hutchinson. Quarterback Gunnar Englund has passed for 1,191 yards and 19 touchdowns, and SM East is almost as potent through the air as they are on the ground. Second, SM East seems to run a more methodical version of the offense. While Hutchinson keyed on big plays from their fullbacks and slotbacks, the Lancers will run four straight fullback dives if it means they'll get 2.5 yards per carry. Those differences might stem completely from personnel differences, or simply subjectivity in the mind of the viewer, but I think they're worth noting.

**I don't think anyone would disagree defensive end Kyle Ball is the Lancers' best player. The 6-foot-2, 235-pound defensive force is as good of a defender as the Sunflower League's had since SM Northwest's Mike Rivera in 2003. Dating back to the beginning of the 2013 season (25 games) Ball's recorded 219 tackles (65 tackles for loss), and 18 sacks. He holds an offer from Kansas, but like Middleton, could see a few more come his way once his senior tape is released.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Kansas 6A Sub-State Game Recaps

Several Lancer defenders worked to bring down Olathe North receiver Mark Keeling. SM East
won the game, 36-35, in double overtime. Photo Kansas City Star.
SM East 36, Olathe North 35, 2OT

The matchup folks had been talking about since August turned out to be better than the hype. Two 11-0 clubs, Co-Sunflower League Champions, squaring off in Sub-State. It doesn't get much better than that, and the action on the field made for a legendary game that will be talked about for years to come.

SM East had the first offensive possession of the game, receiving the opening kickoff. The Lancers put together a clinical opening drive against the vaunted Olathe North defense, driving down the field with little resistance and scoring on a 24-yard touchdown run from Sam Huffman. The Lancers connected on the PAT and led 7-0.

Olathe North converted one first down on their next possession, but was forced to punt. The Lancers put together another impressive drive, taking the ball inside Olathe North's 5-yard line. But on a fourth and one try, Olathe North linebacker Jesse Kendricks put a big hit on quarterback Gunnar Englund, stopping him short of the first down.

The Eagles got the ball out of the shadow of their endzone, and converted a couple first downs, but were eventually forced to punt again. By now it was midway through the second quarter.

SM East drove methodically down the field again, but things were slowed to a halt. They had a 23-yard touchdown run from Huffman called back on penalty, before turning the ball over on downs. The teams traded possession three times, before Olathe North took the final snaps of the half. At the intermission SM East held a 7-0 lead.

Each team punted the ball twice to begin the third quarter. SM East looked like they had something going on their third offensive possession, but an uncharacteristic Englund pass was picked off by Olathe North's Chaz Burgess who returned the interception 81 yards for a touchdown to tie the game.

SM East got the ball back but was soon forced to punt. Olathe North's Isaiah Simmons was able to make his way through the punt unit to block the punt, and Olathe North took over at the SM East 15-yard line. A few plays later Venus Triplett took a carry in from a couple yards out, to give Olathe North a 14-7 lead with 45 second remaining in the third quarter.

The Lancers answered back quickly, driving the ball down the field and scoring on a 48-yard touchdown run from Huffman. However, the PAT missed, and Olathe North held onto a lead at 14-13.

Olathe North was forced to punt on their next possession. SM East was then able to put together another long drive, and eventually scored on a five-yard touchdown run from Wyatt Edmisten. The Lancers also converted on the two-point try, and went ahead 21-14.

Olathe North received the kickoff, and had just over four minutes to score. The Eagles put together one of their better drives of the season, but ended up facing a fourth down and goal at the SM East 11-yard line. Quarterback Cole Murphy lobbed a short flag route to Burgess, who made the catch around the defender for a touchdown. The PAT tied the game at 21.

SM East kneeled the ball to go to overtime. Olathe North won the toss and elected to play defense first. SM East made it into the endzone on their opening possession, scoring a one-yard touchdown run on fourth and goal. Olathe North matched the score on their possession, on a Murphy bootleg, to tie things at 28 and move to a second overtime.

The Eagles had the first possession, and scored relatively easy on a run up the gut from Triplett. SM East took four downs, but also made their way into the endzone on a one-yard touchdown run from Edmisten. But the Lancers weren't content kicking a PAT and moving on to a third overtime.

The Lancers called a rocket toss to right edge, for Huffman, who motioned to the right. Huffman headed toward the boundary, but then made a sharp cut north, and slipped into the endzone past several Olathe North defenders. The score put SM East ahead 36-35, awarding the Lancers the victory, and a second consecutive 6A state title berth.

Hutchinson running back Blaik Middleton had a career night against Free State. He carried the ball
21 times for 353 yards and six touchdowns. The totals gave him 2,621 rushing yards and 36 rushing
touchdowns on the season. Photo Hutchinson News.
Hutchinson 42, Lawrence Free State 14

Free State had put together an impressive late-season run, rattling off five straight victories, including two in the playoffs. But that streak wouldn't continue as they ran into an equally on-fire Hutchinson team, led by Blaik Middleton, likely the best running back in the state of Kansas.

The Salthawks set the tone early. On their opening possession they converted a fourth down try, then followed that up with a 59-yard touchdown run from Middleton to go ahead 7-0.

Free State took the ensuing kickoff into Hutchinson territory, but a fumble on their first play turned the ball over to Hutchinson. Salthawk quarterback Turner Wintz got Hutchinson deep into Free State territory on a 46-yard run, but a pass into the endzone was picked off by Carson Bowen, slowing some of the momentum.

Free State's offensive possession stalled near midfield, and Hutchinson regained possession. A few plays later, Middleton busted up the middle of the Firebird defense on a 38-yard touchdown run. The Salthawks then pulled off a successful surprise onside kick, and led 14-0 at the beginning of the second quarter.

Hutchinson drove with ease on the Firebird defense, before a Middleton touchdown run was called back on a penalty, and they stalled and turned the ball over on downs. Free State finally answered, with several long runs from Bowen. They eventually punched in a touchdown on a seven-yard touchdown run from Bowen, to make things 14-7.

But the Salthawk machine couldn't be slowed. Middleton came back a few years later, busting a 66-yard touchdown run up the middle to make things 21-7, Hutchinson.

Free State managed a nice kickoff return, and scored on a 13-yard touchdown run from Bowen a few plays later to make things 21-14. But that was all she wrote for the Firebird offense. Middleton added a 57-yard touchdown run on Hutchinson's next possession to go up 28-14. A Free State drive stalled inside the Salthawk 10-yard line, before the game went to halftime.

Free State showed promise on their first drive of the second half, but a Bryce Torneden pass was picked off in the endzone by Peyton Pendergrass. The Salthawks used that momentum to drive 80 yards, scoring on a two-yard touchdown run from Middleton. That made things 35-14 in favor of Hutchinson.

Free State drove all the way down to the Hutchinson one-yard line on their next possession, but unable to punch it in, they turned the ball over on downs. The clubs traded possessions to start the fourth quarter, before Middleton added his sixth touchdown of the day on a 29-yard touchdown run. The score put Hutchinson up 42-14.

Neither team scored in the final 6:38, and Hutchinson took the victory. The Salthawks will be making their 10th state title appearance since 2003 on Saturday against SM East. For Free State, the program dropped to 1-3 all-time in Sub-State games.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Jeff Meyers done as Olathe East's head coach

Former Olathe East head coach Jeff Meyers.
Jeff Meyers is no longer the head football coach at Olathe East.

The Sunflower League Football Blog had received word his coaching departure was imminent, but nothing materialized until Friday afternoon.

The announcement became official when the Olathe School District website posted a job opening for the Olathe East head coaching position.

Meyers' exit comes on the heels of a 3-6 campaign, which marked the program's first losing season since 1999.

The Hawks began the year 3-1, but closed out the season on a five-game losing streak.

Sources close to the program say the poor results on the field this fall were correlated with a general decline in the condition of the program the past few years.

The sources cited intrasquad conflicts of interest, apathy from the coaching staff, and a general lack of cohesion as a handful of the the problems that had arisen.

Meyers was the first and only head football coach in Olathe East history. He took over in the fall of 1992 when the building opened its doors, and had remained the head coach ever since.

In Meyers' 23 years at the helm, the Hawks combined to go 163-74. His teams advanced to the Sub-State round of the playoffs on six occasions ('94, '02, '05, '10, '11, '12) and his 2005 team finished as the 6A State Runner-Up. 

A seasoned veteran, Meyers' 23-year tenure in the Sunflower League was the longest active streak of seasons coached within the league.

Meyers, who's served as the Mayor of Shawnee since 2004, has been linked to the Blue Valley Southwest head coaching job. The position came open last week after Bill Lowe stepped down as head coach.

As far as Meyers' replacement goes, early reports indicate the program will likely seek an external hire.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Kansas 6A Sub-State Scores

Friday, Nov. 21

SM East 36, Olathe North 35, 2 OT
Hutchinson 42, Lawrence Free State 14