Thursday, November 20, 2014

Sunflower League Sub-State Round Previews

SM East edged Olathe North, 37-27, in the 6A East Sub-State game a season ago.
Photo Marisa Walton, SME Harbinger.

Olathe North (11-0) at SM East (11-0)
Where: SM North District Stadium
Last meeting: SM East beat Olathe North, 37-27, in Sub-State last year.
Topeka CJ spread: Olathe North -2

Gamechangers

Venus Triplett, Olathe North: Statistically speaking, nothing Triplett's done this year will go down in the Olathe North record books. But his ability to make a big play, at the biggest moments, it what makes him an elite back. Look no further than his 83-yard touchdown reception out of the backfield last week as the key play which sprung the Eagles to a lead and the victory.

Kyle Ball, SM East: The FBS-bound Ball has been a stud all season, but especially in the playoffs. Through two games he's recorded 27 tackles (eight for loss) and a sack. What's more, the Lancers have surrendered just one touchdown, and it came on Lawrence's opening drive of the Regional game. Ball is a relentless, physical freak, and he has the potential to make as big of an impact on the game as anyone.

Significance

Olathe North
A win would put the Eagles in a state title game for the 10th time in the last 19 years, which is really an insane statistic, if you think about it. It's even close to Lawrence's historic hay day, where the Chesty Lions made 13 state title games in 18 years. Lawrence holds the all-time record for Kansas state titles with 10. A state title victory would put Olathe North at nine.

SM East
If SM East wins they would be the first team from 6A East to make back-to-back state title games since Olathe North did it in 2009 and 2010. A win would also give the Lancers 12 wins on the season, which would be the most ever in a single season for the program. Last, but not least, it would give head coach Dustin Delaney 23 career wins with SM East, which would be the most ever by a Sunflower League coach through their first two seasons.

Analysis

Well, it's pretty obvious what we'll see in this one. The league's best offense (SM East) versus its best defense (Olathe North). We've been waiting for this game since August, and it's played out like a fairytale: co-league champions, both undefeated, in a rematch of the 6A East Sub-State game from a year ago, with the winner advancing to the state title game. Some are even calling this matchup the de facto 6A state title game, although the Firebirds or Salthawks will have something to say about that. But I'm not going to analyze this one any more. We've been analyzing it for 11 weeks. It's time to see who wants it the most on the field.

Hutchinson (7-4) at Lawrence Free State (8-3)
Where: Free State Athletic Stadium
Last meeting: N/A
Topeka CJ spread: Free State -4

Gamechangers

Bryce Torneden, Free State: The Firebirds have an outstanding lineage of dual-threat quarterbacks. In fact, Torneden is the fourth different starting quarterback to lead Free State to a Sub-State game since 2006. But he can sort of separate himself from the rest if he can lead his team to a state title as a junior. His stats speak for themselves: 1,237 rushing yards and 15 rushing touchdowns, plus 958 passing yards and 10 rushing touchdowns. He's also a pretty solid free safety when he's not taking snaps under center.

Blaik Middleton, Hutchinson: Middleton's 2,268 rushing yards this fall set the Hutchinson record for most rushing yards in a single season. And he accomplished the feat in just 11 games. That should tell you something, especially considering the Salthawks have had guys like Kerry Gamble, Romero Cotton, Josh Smith and Ben Heeney in their backfields. Also of note: Middleton has punched in 30 touchdowns. He will be the best running back the Firebirds have faced all year.

Significance

Free State
A win would put Free State in the state title game for the second time in seven years, and bring longtime head coach Bob Lisher one step closer to the elusive state title ring. It would also mark Free State's sixth win in a row, which would be quite remarkable considering they began the year 2-3.

Hutchinson
The Salthawks are aiming for their 10th state title trip in the last 12 seasons (they've gone 7-2 in state title games in that time frame). Perhaps more importantly, it would instill confidence in the Hutchinson community that first-year head coach Ryan Cornelson is capable of carrying on Randy Dreiling's legacy of winning football, if the Sub-State run hasn't already done that.

Analysis

If Hutchinson still makes a state title game without Dreiling, then we all lose. Okay, that's just me playing to the Sunflower League's collective pathos, but there is some truth in the statement. An All-Sunflower League state title game would be epic for those who follow the Sunflower League, regardless of which league team you root for. I think Free State's going to have the fight of their lives slowing Middleton, but I've seen the Firebirds step up to every task they've faced since districts, and there's no reason to believe it will stop now.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Sunflower League News & Notes, and statistics

Olathe North quarterback Cole Murphy is going for
his 19th career victory, as a starter, on Friday against
SM East. Photo KC Star.
Eli's News and Notes

**SM East running back Wyatt Edmisten and Free State quarterback Bryce Torneden lead all remaining Sunflower League players with 26 touchdowns apiece. If either player records four more touchdowns, they will join the prestigious 30-Touchdown Club. Since 2000, just nine Sunflower League players have scored 30 or more touchdowns in one season.

**Torneden is also closing in on the 1,000/1,000 Club, representing players who've both passed and rushed for 1,000 yards in the same season. The 1,000/1,000 Club is more exclusive, as just four league players have accomplished the feat since 2000.

**If Olathe North wins the 6A state title, and quarterback Cole Murphy starts both the game this week against SM East (as expected), and the state title game, Murphy would have 20 career victories as a starting quarterback to his name. Just six players have accomplished this since 2000 (four if you want to get technical).

(For more information on Sunflower League statistical feats, refer to the 'Hall of Fame' tab.)

**If you're looking for a lifetime achievement award, look no further than Olathe North running back Venus Triplett. The talented three-year starter still has at least one game remaining, but his rushing totals through 33 career starts tells a tale of tale of dominance: 680 carries, 3,715 rushing yards, and 57 touchdowns.

**Olathe North head coach Gene Wier has a 6-2 record in Sub-State games. Free State's Bob Lisher is 1-2, and SM East's Dustin Delaney is 1-0.

**Top Five List: Best Sunflower League Sub-State games since 2000

1. Olathe North 16, Blue Valley 14, 2009
Eagles' Jared Morss chips in game-winning 33-yard field goal as time expires.

2. Olathe East 22, Lawrence 18, 2005
Hawks overcome early 12-0 deficit, win on the lone score of the second half.

3. Olathe North 12, Olathe East 10, 2002
Botched snap prevents Hawks from attempting game-winning field goal as time expired.

4. Lawrence Free State 14, Blue Valley 7, 2008
Free State puts together miraculous road victory against heavily favored 10-1 Blue Valley.

5. SM West 31, Lawrence Free State 14, 2006
Two 11-0 teams, with a combined six FBS players, produces big play after big play.

Statistical Leaders

Passing Yards (QB rating) (Wins-loss record as starter)
Gunnar Englund, SM East: 1,176 yards, 19 TDs (123) (14-1)
Cole Murphy, Olathe North: 1,034, 11 TDs (111) (18-7)
Bryce Torneden, Free State: 958, 10 TDs (86) (8-3)

Rushing Yards
Venus Triplett, Olathe North: 1,237, 21 TDs
Wyatt Edmisten, SM East: 1,216, 26 TDs
Bryce Torneden, Free State: 1,190 15 TDs
Gunnar Englund, SM East: 644, 6 TDs
Jackson Gossick, SM East: 528, 6 TDs
Calvin Jones, SM East: 508, 4 TDs
Vinnie Shabazz, Olathe North: 464, 4 TDs
Carson Bowen, Free State: 436, 4 TDs
Cole Murphy, Olathe North: 403, 6 TDs

Receiving Yards
Joel Spain, Free State: 553, 13 TDs
Alec Dean, SM East: 498, 8 TDs
Jeighlon Cornell, Olathe North: 347, 4 TDs
Josh Moore, Olathe North: 264, 3 TDs
Venus Triplett, Olathe North: 252, 2 TDs
Sky Tate, SM East: 208, 4 TDs
Tye Carter, Free State: 163, 4 TDs
Charley White, SM East: 136, 2 TDs

Tackles
Kyle Ball, SM East: 102
Jadon McGaha, Olathe North: 90
Rider Terry, SM East: 69
Jack Anderson, SM East: 67
Marcel Spears, Olathe North: 64
Jay Dineen, Free State: 61
Bryce Torneden, Free State: 57
Paul Bittinger, Free State: 53
Shane Hofer, Free State: 53
Jesse Kendricks, Olathe North: 50

Sacks
Kyle Ball, SM East: 10
Sam Williams, SM East: 5
Josh Moore, Olathe North: 4

Interceptions
Andrew Keating, Free State: 5
Charley White, SM East: 5
Joel Spain, Free State: 4
Vinnie Shabazz, Olathe North: 3
Isaiah Simmons, Olathe North: 3

Takeaways
Free State: 31 (17 ints, 14 fum rec.)
Olathe North: 23 (12 ints, 11 fum rec.)
SM East: 21 (12 ints, 9 fum rec.)

Passing Yards
Olathe North: 1,255 (114 ypg), 13 TDs
SM East: 1,176 (107 ypg), 19 TDs
Free State: 985 (90 ypg) , 10 TDs

Rushing Yards
SM East: 3,878 (352 ypg), 55 TDs
Free State: 2,696 (245 ypg) , 28 TDs
Olathe North: 2,690 (245 ypg), 38 TDs

Monday, November 17, 2014

Sunflower League Sectional Round Review

Quarterback Gunnar Englund and the SM East flexbone offense were too much for SM West's
defense to handle on Friday night. The Lancers won, 41-0. Photo David Compton.
The Good

**With Olathe North's victory against Blue Valley, the Sunflower League was guaranteed a representee in the 6A state title game for the 46th year in a row. The 6A classification has only been around for 46 years.

**Lawrence Free State's victory against Junction City kept the Firebirds alive in the 6A West bracket. If Free State can beat Hutchinson on Friday, the 6A state title game will feature two Sunflower League teams for the first time in history.

The Bad

**An undefeated team will suffer their first and only lost of the 2014 season this week, and be done for the year. Olathe North (11-0) and SM East (11-0) will be the first teams to square off in the 6A East Sub-State round, undefeated, since 2007, when Free State and SM West were in the same position.

**Leavenworth wasn't able to fully capitalize on a weak 5A East. With Blue Valley making the jump to 6A, and Bishop Miege dropping to 4A, the East side of the 5A landscape was particularly undermanned this fall. The Pioneers did an excellent job advancing to Sectionals, but in the end, they just couldn't get past Aquinas.

The Ugly

**SM East has outscored their opponents 531-97 this fall, for an average margin of victory of 48-9. That's a beautiful stat if you're a Lancer, but to the rest of the league, that's complete domination.

**Lawrence Free State begin playing 6A West opponents six weeks ago. They've gone 5-0 since. Their opponents' records, as of each game, were as follows: 2-5, 6-1, 7-1, 7-2, and 8-2. Needless to say, it's been an impressive run for a Free State team that entered that stretch at 3-3. If the Firebirds knock off Hutchinson (7-4) Friday, it would suggest they really exposed 6A West (if they haven't already).

Sectional Round Player of the Week

Bryce Torneden, Free State: Across the board, there wasn't one player who jumped out as having a completely dominant performance that would rank head and shoulders above the rest. But as far as production goes, no player had the impact of Torneden. The junior quarterback combined for 313 total yards, from a variety of sources. He completed nine of his 16 passes for 145 yards, carried the ball 19 times for 89 yards and two touchdowns, returned an interception 32 yards for a touchdown, and had 47 kick return yards.

Down and Out

Leavenworth (6-5)
Well, it appears the Pioneers have found their niche in class 5A. They should do all in their power to remain in 5A going forward. The team went 5-1 against 5A competition, but just 1-4 against 6A clubs. But we also can't lose sight of the big picture. Head coach Mark Littrell and his staff know how to win, and Leavenworth is no longer going to be the perennial doormat we grew accustomed to for so many years. No, Leavenworth is finally a program capable of doing some damage.

SM West (6-5)
The 41-0 loss to SM East was a rotten ending to what turned out to be a pretty solid season for one of the league's youngest teams. With the amount of youth they broke in this fall (their defense, for instance, featured eight starters who were non-seniors) it's reasonable to believe the Vikings could return to being one of the league's more dominant fixtures starting next fall.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Sectional Round Game Recaps

Olathe North's defense suffocated Blue Valley's balanced offensive attack, limiting the Tigers to just
one offensive touchdown. Photo Kansas City Star.
Olathe North 27, Blue Valley 14

Blue Valley had been on a roll the past seven weeks, but Olathe North was able to put an end to their success, thanks to a stellar effort defensively. After a scoreless first quarter, Olathe North added a 15-yard touchdown run from Venus Triplett to go up 7-0. Blue Valley answered immediately when Gannon Cornley returned the ensuing kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown. However, a missed extra point left Blue Valley one point down, at 7-6. In the third quarter Olathe North tacked on a 16-yard touchdown run from Marcel Spears to make the lead 14-6. Blue Valley didn't waste much time, coming back early in the fourth quarter with a 10-yard touchdown run from Colton McCumber. McCumber also converted the all-important two-point conversion on a pass to Trenton Schroeder to even the game at 14. On Olathe North's next possession they dialed up a perfect play call -- a wheel route to Triplett after misdirecting the Blue Valley defense. Triplett caught a well-timed ball from Cole Murphy and went 83 yards for a touchdown to put the Eagles up 21-14. Olathe North forced a turnover late in the quarter, then added a 10-yard touchdown pass from Murphy to Josh Moore to seal the deal on their fifth Sub-State trip in nine years.

Lawrence Free State 37, Junction City 17

It's becoming a trend for Free State to overpower their 6A West opponents with an explosive spread attack which seems to be peaking at just the right time. Junction City struck first on a 27-yard field goal from Wayne Shirley to go up 3-0. The Firebirds answered with a five-yard touchdown run from Bryce Torneden midway through the first quarter go ahead 7-3. On Junction City's next possession, the Blue Jays delivered a home run on a 75-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Henington to Jovon Baldwin to go up 10-7. Free State answered with a second quarter run which put the game out of reach. First came field goals of 26 and 25 yards from Daniel Clarke. After those, Torneden returned an interception 32 yards for a touchdown. Then Clarke added his third field goal of the game from 23 yards out to make things 23-10 at the half. In the third quarter Free State tacked on touchdowns runs of two yards apiece from Torneden and Carson Bowen to go up 37-10. Henington added a 10-yard touchdown pass to Jake Bazan in the final minutes to make things 37-17.

SM East 41, SM West 0

The machine that is SM East had no problems for the 11th week in a row, taking care of SM West in mechanical fashion. The Lancers went up 12-0 in the first quarter on a six-yard touchdown run from Wyatt Edmisten and a 34-yard from Gunnar Englund. A 13-yard touchdown run from Englund in the second quarter gave the Lancers a comfortable 19-0 lead at intermission. In the third quarter Jackson Gossick took a carry in from 35 yards out, before Edmisten added a three-yard touchdown run, his second of the day, to make things 35-0. SM East added a a two-yard touchdown run from Edmisten in the fourth quarter to seal the deal, and hit the 40-point mark for the 10th time in 11 games.

St. Thomas Aquinas 27, Leavenworth 7

A 27-point Aquinas lead at halftime was all the Saints needed to coast to the victory. They scored first on a four-yard touchdown run from Kyle Bollig. In the second quarter they added a four-yard touchdown run from Karter Odermann, a 40-yard touchdown pass from Odermann to Nathan Burditt, and a 10-yard touchdown run from Ben Ewing. Leavenworth's last gasp of the season came on a four-yard touchdown run from Isaiah Ross in the third quarter.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Kansas 6A & 5A Sectional Playoff Scores

Friday, Nov. 14

6A East
Olathe North 27, Blue Valley 14
SM East 41, SM West 0

6A West
Lawrence Free State 37, Junction City 17
Hutchinson 35, Derby 28

5A East
St. Thomas Aquinas 27, Leavenworth 7
Shawnee Heights 34, Pittsburg 14

5A West
Bishop Carroll 48, Wichita Heights 7
Salina South 49, Maize South 28