Monday, June 15, 2015

Farewell to the Sunflower League

Eli Underwood, Author, the
Sunflower League Football Blog.
Dear Sunflower League Football Blog readers,

Effective today, I will be discontinuing the Sunflower League Football Blog. The message board will remain active, as will all archived blog posts and information, however, the live blog itself will not be continued.

The decision to stop writing the blog was my own, and it came after many months of deep consideration. On one hand, writing the blog the last seven and a half years has been a wonderful, rewarding hobby and an escape from the rigors of the "real world." Writing gives me a shot of creative adrenaline like nothing else, and I've been obsessed with the Sunflower League since I started going to games in the late 1990s.

On the other hand, as I continue further into my life, and career, I've found spending two to three hours a night writing the blog was becoming difficult to manage. Was it fun? Absolutely. I enjoyed every minute I spent covering the Sunflower League. But I also realized the time resources needed to continue providing outstanding coverage just weren't going to be feasible any longer.

If there was ever a good time to close down the blog it was this offseason.

Before I close things out, there are some thanks yous and other comments I wanted to get out there. If you've read anything on my blog, I'd ask you to read the remaining couple paragraphs.

First and foremost, I have to thank God for allowing me to develop a hobby into a weekly source of news and information for thousands of readers around the league. In the early days of the blog I was getting around 30 page views in-season per day. Less than six years later the blog surpassed one million page views. If that wasn't divine intervention, then I don't know what is.

I never had a goal for this blog. It could have fizzled out after a couple months and I wouldn't have thought anything of it. But the fact it continued to grow in popularity for so long was truly awesome. I like to think God used it as a tool to bring more enjoyment to people's daily lives, and maybe in some cases provide motivation or encouragement. I hope that was the case.

I would like to thank all those who read my work, followed the blog (and Tweets), and supported its purpose. Students, parents, players, alumni, media members -- you've all been wonderfully supportive and you were the main reason I kept the blog going for as long as I did. Through the writing I've crossed paths with thousands of individuals I wouldn't have otherwise known. And I will forever be grateful for that.

I would like to tip my hat to the league's coaches. There's so much more that goes into coaching high school football than what you see every Friday night for three hours. Managing hundreds of athletes (and their parents) is not a job for the faint of heart. What my blog did was put the coaching staffs under an even sharper microscope. But I can honestly tell you through the years I never received one disparaging email from any head or assistant coach. In fact, most of their emails were extremely supportive of the blog.

I would like to thank my family for their support, especially my fiance who's never once complained about accompanying me to a high school football game in the frigid November cold or my relative Twitter addiction.

Below I've catalogued 100 of some of the most powerful, unique and and colorful photos I came across covering the Sunflower League. I've put the respective year the shot was taken below each photo. Each image has its own unique story -- its own split-second in time. You may know the story behind some of the photos, while others may be completely foreign to you.

Regardless of your perspective, I challenge each of you to find a block of time this summer to sit down, study and enjoy the photos. Really soak them in. Think about all they represent. I'm confident they'll provide you some form of sentimental imagery about the Sunflower League that no words -- written or spoken -- could have ever otherwise painted. Most importantly, they'll get you ready for the 2015 football season, which will be here before you know it.

If you ever want to give me a shout I can be reached at elias.m.underwood@gmail.com. And don't worry, I'll still be around following the Sunflower League in some capacity.

Take care, best wishes, and God bless. Thanks for all of the wonderful memories. Now go do something great with your lives.

Very respectfully yours,

Eli Underwood

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TL-R (1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2009)

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Special thanks to publications such as the the Lawrence Journal World, the Kansas City Star, the Prairie Village Post, and many others for providing the above photos.