Monday, September 15, 2014

Sunflower League Week Two Review, News & Notes

SM West's Isaiah Macklin (right) had coverage
on Olathe Northwest's Manny Psihountas Friday
night at CBAC. Olathe Northwest won the game,
22-0. Photo Mark Witters.
Eli's News and Notes

**The only thing worse than seeing a player go down with a severe injury is seeing that same player being carted into an ambulance. Olathe East's James McGinnis' head injury on Friday was stark reminder of how little importance the game of football has when you evaluate the big picture. Let's all be thankful McGinnis had a successful surgery and has now moved to a recovery stage. I'm a firm believer the benefits of football (hard work, developing camaraderie, being part of a team, etc.) far outweigh the negatives, but that's not to say the negatives don't unveil themselves from time to time.

**SM North has now lost 21 games in a row, which matches the Sunflower League's modern record for consecutive losses, set by Leavenworth from 2008-2010. Their sophomore quarterback Will Schneider isn't to blame, however. He leads the Sunflower League in passing yards with 468 and passing touchdowns with six.

**If you're not familiar with Brian Libeer's work, get yourself acquainted. A champion of the Sunflower League, Libeer is SM East's unofficial videographer. You may hate the Lancers, but it's hard not to enjoy Libeer's work. Libeer's Vimeo page can be linked here.

Trending Up

Olathe South: This offseason the Falcons modified their blocking schemes, and made some slight variations to their offense, and the results have been incredible -- so far. Olathe South is also playing lights out defensively and forcing turnovers at a great clip. You really couldn't script a better start to the season through two games, however, a win against Olathe North this Friday would be the cherry on top.

SM Northwest: There was preseason chatter that SM North was going to end their losing streak at the Cougars' expense in week two -- and that almost happened. But SM Northwest made a resilient comeback late in the fourth quarter and won on a field goal. Another nice little takeaway from the game was the explosiveness of SM Northwest's offense. Sure, SM North isn't a world-beater, but the Cougars showed they have some playmakers.

#PrayforJames: Olathe East defensive back James McGinnis' injury on Friday (documented here) put a clouded cover on the weekend, but the support the Sunflower League and surrounding communities have shown has been wonderful. We ask that you please continue to keep McGinnis and his family in your thoughts and prayers as he continues to battle through the recovery process.

Trending Down

SM South: After a promising performance in week one, the Raiders seemed to take a step back against their hated rival, losing by 38 points. That's now nine losses in the last 10 matchups between the schools. Granted, SM East has looked close to flawless this year, but the point remains SM South come out flat. The Raiders need to find a way to be more competitive in big games like this.

SM West: There's no doubt the Vikings have experienced talent in players like Isaiah Macklin, Asher Goldston, Tarik Watson and Carter Pembridge -- but they just don't seem to have the pieces put together to do anything at this point in the season. The outcome of their game against SM North on Friday could completely define where they go from here.

Game managing quarterbacks: While I still think having dominant running backs is essential to winning a state title, I don't think you can make it out of the Sunflower League alive without a dynamic quarterback, or at least a compensatory plan (i.e., a Wildcat formation, rotating in a true dual-threat quarterback, etc.). Olathe North has been pretty lousy on offense without their starting dual-threat quarterback, Cole Murphy. Meanwhile, the two teams playing the best right now -- Olathe South and SM East -- have dual-threat quarterbacks in Jake Seurer and Gunnar Englund who have played incredible.

Week Three Power Rankings

1. SM East (2-0): The Lancers have outscored their opponents 88-10 through two games, and their starting defense has only given up a field goal. SM East hasn't played the world's most challenging schedule (their opponents are a combined 1-3) but that won't change any time soon -- their schedule is loaded with cream puffs through the rest of the regular season.

2. Olathe North (2-0): For the second week in a row the Eagles came away with a victory after overcoming a halftime deficit, and that was without first-string quarterback Cole Murphy who was nursing a leg injury. With a matchup this Friday against Olathe South, we're going to find out whether the Eagles' close calls have been early-season cobwebs, or a sign of who they truly are.

3. Olathe South (2-0): At one point in the fourth quarter against Olathe East, Olathe South led 46-3. That's insane! I didn't foresee this kind of mojo from the Falcons, especially this early in the year. They completely controlled Friday's game from start to finish. Now, it's time to face the big fish -- Olathe North. ODAC will be rocking again on Friday.

4. Lawrence Free State (1-1): The Firebirds are kind of who we thought they were. The zone-read spread offense will keep them in any game, and they compete hard on defense. The question is, do they have the horses to get over the hump and become a legitimate title threat this season? Or will their youth delay that for a year? We'll find out in the coming weeks.

5. Olathe East (1-1): Olathe East's week two performance was a complete dichotomy from where they were at in week one. It's as if they forgot how to pass the ball, stop the run, and play coverage on a tight end, all in a week. The especially concerning thing was the Hawks' complete lack of energy. However, I tend to think Olathe East just had a bad day and Olathe South came out on fire.

6. Lawrence (1-1): Lawrence looked quite a bit better in week two, but then again, Leavenworth hasn't quite proven to be Blue Valley West either. The Chesty Lions have one of the league's most talented running back duos in JD Woods and Trey Moore, and I expect LHS to ride those two as far as they can this fall. The spread seems to be dead -- the Chesty Lions are back to power football.

7. Olathe Northwest (1-1): Friday's win against SM West was probably the most complete game of the Chip Sherman era at Olathe Northwest. Offensively they aren't gangbusters, but they managed three touchdowns and a field goal, which was solid. Their defense played great forcing four turnovers and blocking a punt. Questions still remain, but I like the direction the Ravens are headed.

8. SM South (1-1): To cite a relevant analogy, the Raiders played SM East the same way the Royals have played the Tigers all season. After a solid week one performance, the Raiders looked to be back in their sub-.500 form of the past few seasons. SM South is a better club than what they showed on Friday and they'll get chance to prove that against Olathe East this week.

9. SM West (0-2): This is sort of uncharted territory for the Vikings. They sit at 0-2 for the first time since 2003, and their offense has been terrible (through two games they've committed six turnovers and scored just two touchdowns). SM North looked like an easy week three game, but with the way the Indians closed things out Friday, the Vikings had better beware.

10. Leavenworth (1-1): The Pioneers need to treat every game as preparation for districts, because as a I stated in the preseason, having dropped to 5A they won't face any of these teams again. Part of that logic means includes focusing on the effort as much as the outcome. Leavenworth nearly came back to tie this game in the fourth quarter after being down by 13 early. That tells you something.

11. SM Northwest (1-1): The Cougars jumped out to a 24-0 lead against SM North, took their foot off the pedal, and nearly lost the game. Fortunately for SM Northwest, I think they gained some much needed confidence by winning late, and they have a W to show for it. Running back Duron Lowe needs 20 touches a game, minimum, as he appears to be the team's best offensive hope.

12. SM North (0-2): SM North was seconds away from completing a 24-point comeback and ending their hideous losing streak against their rival. So close. But, if you're the Indians, you've got to be excited. The program hasn't shown that kind of fight in years, and their next opponent -- SM West -- is reeling at 0-2 and provides another chance for the Indians to shed the losing streak.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Sunflower League Week Two Game Recaps

Olathe North's Jadon McGaha tackled Free State's Carson Bowen during Olathe North's
14-7 victory on Friday night. It's the second time in two weeks the Eagles have had to make
second half comebacks to win. Photo by John Young, Lawrence Journal World.
Lawrence 21, Leavenworth 14
The Chesty Lions got on the board first when JD Woods scored a touchdown on a five-yard run with 4:45 left in the first quarter. Lawrence got on the board a second time when Alan Clothier scored on a seven-yard touchdown run midway through the second quarter to put LHS up 13-0. Leavenworth kept the game close, as Landry Hodges scored on a one-yard keeper just before the half to make things 13-7. Hodges added the Pioneers' next score on a 26-yard touchdown run at the midway point of the third quarter. The score gave Leavenworth a 14-13 lead. Before the end of the quarter, Woods added his second touchdown of the game, scoring on a six-yard run, which put LHS up 21-14.  Leavenworth had their chances late, including a final drive into LHS territory, but they weren't able to turn it into points.

Olathe South 46, Olathe East 17

What looked to be a wonderful matchup between two of the league's biggest rivals turned out to be a an anticlimactic blowout, dampened completely by an injury to Olathe East's James McGinnis. Things look bad for Olathe East and great for Olathe South when on Olathe East's first play of the game, quarterback Chase Miller fumble an apparent pass -- and the fumble was scooped up and returned for a touchdown by Jack Murphy. Next, Olathe South forced an Olathe East punt, then drove 52 yards and scored on a two-yard run from Collin Fischer. Olathe South rinsed, repeated, and scored again on another two-yard from Fischer to go up 21-0. Olathe East slowed the onslaught with a 27-yard field goal from Chris Diddle midway through the second quarter, but couldn't muster much else. Olathe South's Jake Seurer hit Coleman Clanton on a 27-yard drag route to go up 27-3, before Seurer hit Clanton again, just before the half, on a wide-open walk in touchdown reception from 40 yards out. The Falcons led 33-3 at the half. Four minutes into the third quarter, Seurer added a 23-yard touchdown run to make the lead 40-3. It was around that time Olathe East's McGinnis went down with a head injury. He was removed from the field on a stretcher before play resumed (read more on McKinnis' situation here). Not long after, Brady Noernberg scored a touchdown to put Olathe South up 46-3. Olathe East was able to add two touchdowns in the waning minutes of the game.

Olathe North 14, Lawrence Free State 7

The state of Kansas' top ranked team in the preseason needed another late effort to top a tough road opponent, but once again they did what they needed to get things done. Free State broke the game open when Bryce Torneden scored on a seven-yard touchdown run in the first quarter to go up 7-0. The score held through halftime. The visitor's locker room was closed due to repairs, which prohibited the Eagles from entering the locker room at halftime -- instead they had to stay out in unseasonably cold weather. And it must have pissed them off. In the second half Olathe North's defense allowed a mere 17 yards of total offense, and their offense finally came alive. Chaz Burgess was thrown in at the quarterback position, and responded with a 26-yard touchdown pass to Jeighlon Cornell to tie the game in the third quarter. Midway through the fourth, Burgess orchestrated a drive that ended with a three-yard touchdown run from Venus Triplett to put the Eagles up for good.

SM Northwest 34, SM North 32

Early on it looked like SM Northwest was going to run away with things. Duron Lowe scored touchdowns on runs of 80 and 92 yards on the Cougars' first two possession to put SM Northwest up 14-0. Things tightened, but the Cougars were able to add a 29-yard field goal from Johnathan Killeen before the half to go up 17-0. SM Northwest made the lead 24-0 early in the third quarter when they capped a drive with a one-yard touchdown run from Clay Drouillard. SM North finally scored on an 18-yard touchdown pass from Will Schneider to Isaiah Shields, to make things 24-6. SM Northwest came back and finished a drive with a 17-yard touchdown run from Sam Sullivan to make the game 31-6, but then SM North came alive. The Indians scored on four straight passing touchdowns from Schneider; a 12-yard pass to Tyler Burnett, then a 54 yard pass to Burnett, followed by a two-yard pass to Parker Williamson, and finally, with time winding down in the fourth quarter, a three-yard pass to Williamson. The final score put the Indians up 32-31. But SM Northwest answered emphatically. The Cougars managed to drive into SM North territory as the clocked ticked under a minute. As the game entered its last half-minute, Killeen booted a 22-yard field goal attempt through the uprights to give SM Northwest a 34-32 victory.

SM East 48, SM South 10

For the second week in a row SM East wasted no time setting the tone. The Lancers capped two early drives with touchdown runs of three and four yards from Wyatt Edmiston to go up 14-0. On their next offensive possession, quarterback Gunnar Englund took a keeper 56 yards for a third touchdown. Sam Huffman added a rushing touchdown before the half to put SM East up 27-0. Midway through the third quarter the Lancers added to their lead with an 11-yard touchdown run from Edmiston, making things 34-0. SM South finally got on the board with a field goal, but two more Lancer touchdown runs from Mike Bamford and Calvin Jones put SM East up 48-3. A late SM South touchdown made things 48-10.

Olathe Northwest 22, SM West 0

Olathe Northwest was able to put some of their offensive concerns to rest in this game, scoring early and leading comfortably throughout. They also forced four turnovers and blocked a punt in forcing a shutout defensively. The scoring started when Eli Pruss took a first quarter run in for a touchdown to put Olathe Northwest up 6-0. The Ravens added another touchdown before the half when they capped a drive with a two-yard touchdown run from quarterback Jack Hatzfeld. In the third quarter the Ravens added a field goal from Devin Antcil to go up 15-0. Later in the second half, Pruss added a three-yard touchdown run to put Olathe Northwest ahead 22-0.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Week Two Game Scores

Friday, Sept. 12

Lawrence 21, Leavenworth 14
Olathe South 46, Olathe East 17
Olathe North 14, Lawrence Free State 7
SM Northwest 34, SM North 32
SM East 48, SM South 10
Olathe Northwest 22, SM West 0

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Sunflower League Week Two Game Previews

Olathe East's Jalen Branson. Photo KC Star.
Game of the Week
Olathe East (1-0) at Olathe South (1-0) at ODAC

In the last 10 seasons, these teams have faced off 13 times, with Olathe East holding an 8-5 advantage in that time frame ... Olathe East won last year's matchup, 21-12 ... both teams claimed victories against out-of-conference foes last week ... Olathe South defensive tackle Scott Preston is out for the season after breaking his fibula against Hutchinson ... Olathe East's defense forced five turnovers against Garden City last Friday.

Leavenworth (1-0) at Lawrence (0-1) at Lawrence High Stadium

Leavenworth defeated Lawrence 18-6 last season ... the Pioneers are 1-0 for just the second time in seven years ... Lawrence has gone 3-8 in their last 11 games ... the Chesty Lions forced six turnovers last week (four fumbles and two interceptions) but also committed four turnovers ... Leavenworth's shutout victory last week was their second in 11 games under Mark Littrell ... these teams infamously battled it out in the "Toilet Bowl" in the final week of the 2009 regular season ... both teams were 0-8 entering the Toilet Bowl, and Lawrence won the game 13-6 in overtime.

Olathe North (1-0) at Lawrence Free State (1-0) at Free State Athletic Stadium

Free State has gone 20-4 since the beginning of the 2012 season, tops in the league ... Olathe North is 2-2 versus Free State during that stretch ... Eagle quarterback Cole Murphy left Friday's game with an injury but is expected to play this week ... Free State lost starting linebacker and backup running back Sam Skwarlo to a season ending Lisfranc tear in his foot on Friday ... Free State quarterback Bryce Torneden leads the league in all-purpose yardage with 280 ... Olathe North running back Venus Triplett leads the league in rushing yards with 196.

SM West (0-1) at Olathe Northwest (0-1) at CBAC

Olathe Northwest beat SM West 18-10 a season ago ... Olathe Northwest was held to just 194 yards of total offense in their loss to Hays last week ... SM West has lost six of their last seven games, following a stretch where they won 20 of 22 ... Viking linebackers Jordan McKinney, DJ Turner and Montell Madlock combined for 46 tackles in week one ... Chip Sherman is 2-2 against SM West ... Tim Callaghan is 5-1 against Olathe Northwest.

SM South (1-0) at SM East (1-0) at SM South District Stadium

SM East beat SM South 27-21, in overtime, last season ... Lancer quarterback Gunnar Englund leads the league in passing yards (208) and passing touchdowns (3) ... SM East has won eight of the last nine games in this series, dating back to 2005 ... SM South running back Dalton Lewallen leads the league in touchdowns with four ... the Lancers have gone 19-5 since the start of the 2012 season ... SM South is 1-0 for the first time since 1998 ... eight different Raider receivers caught passes last week.

SM Northwest (0-1) at SM North (0-1) at SM North District Stadium

This rivalry game is traditionally known as the 'Hula Bowl" ... The two programs have combined to go 5-34 since 2012 ... SM North is carrying a 20-game losing streak ... the longest losing streak on record in the Sunflower League was a 21-game losing steak set by Leavenworth from 2008 to 2010 ... SM Northwest has won the past 11 games between the two schools, including a 56-28 victory last season.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Sunflower League Extra: Part I

Free State junior quarterback Bryce Torneden had
an impressive first game for the Firebirds Thursday,
combining for 280 yards of total offense and three
touchdowns. Photo LJWorld.
Week One Players of the Week

Bryce Torneden, Free State: In his first career start at quarterback, Torneden completed nine of 12 passes for 128 yards and a touchdown, and rushed for 152 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries. More importantly, his team collected the victory.

Dalton Lewallen, SM South: Talk about an impressive showing to begin the season. Lewallen carried the ball nine times for 106 yards and three touchdowns, in addition to catching two passes for 39 yards and another touchdown. Defensively, Lewallen recorded five tackles and an interception.

Week One Coach of the Week

Jeff Gourley, Olathe South: Olathe South followed up their incredible 12-1 run to the 2011 state title with mostly disappointing back-to-back 5-4 seasons. Seeking improvement, the coaching staff consulted with Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn this past offseason, while Malzahn was recruiting Braden Smith. The result was a revamped offense, courtesy of one of the nation's most brilliant offensive minds. On Friday, Gourley and his team ransacked Hutchinson, 24-2, and set the tone for what they hope will be another incredible run in 2014.

Sunflower League Week One Tweets of the Week

"Better see @eliunderwood at the (Olathe) East and (Olathe) South game next week, no better place to be." - @falcon259

"any late night articles tonight? 4 hour bus ride from Hutch need my updates on the rest of the league." - @b_winsk

Statistical Leaders

Passing
Gunnar Englund, SM East: 208, 3 TDs
Matt Hollingsworth, SM South: 146, 1 TD
Chase Miller, Olathe East: 142, 2 TDs
Will Schneider, SM North: 130, 1 TD
Bryce Torneden, Free State: 128, 1 TD
Landry Hodges, Leavenworth: 112
Jack Hatzfeld, Olathe Northwest: 79, 1 TD
Jake Seurer, Olathe South: 59
Alan Clothier, Lawrence: 52
Matt Wright, Olathe North: 47, 1 TD

Rushing
Venus Triplett, Olathe North: 196, 1 TD
Bryce Torneden, Free State: 152, 2 TDs
JD Woods, Lawrence: 134, 1 TD
Matt Hollingsworth, SM South: 107, 1 TD
Isaiah Ross, Leavenworth: 107
Dalton Lewallen, SM South: 106, 3 TDs
Tarik Waton, SM West: 105
Jalen Branson, Olathe East: 103
Collin Fischer, Olathe South: 98, 1 TD
Matt Wright, Olathe North: 94, 1 TD
Terrick Bell, SM North: 90

Receiving
Alex Dean, SM East: 148, 3 TDs
Nick Perez, SM North: 98, 1 TD
Zach Cahill, Olathe East: 78, 1 TD
Johnny Heath, Leavenworth: 75
Joel Spain, Free State: 61, 1 TD
Matt Burton, Olathe South: 54
Price Morgan, Lawrence: 52
Josh Moore, Olathe North: 44
Manny Psihountas: 43

Tackles
Jordan McKinney, SM West: 19
DJ Turner, SM West: 15
Steven Miller, Olathe South: 13
Jake Seurer, Olathe South: 13
David Burton, Olathe Northwest: 12
Montell Madlock, SM West: 12
Price Morgan, Lawrence: 12
Jack Murphy, Olathe South: 10
Bremen Scholz, SM South: 10
Kyle Ball, SM East: 9
Amani Bledsoe, Lawrence: 9
Joe Fales, SM South: 9
Sam Skwarlo, Free State: 9
Nic Stebar, Olathe South: 9

Sacks
Nate Amos, Leavenworth: 2
Kyle Ball, SM East: 2
Eli Pruss, Olathe Northwest: 2

Forced Fumbles
Jalen Branson, Olathe East: 1
Dearion Cooper, Lawrence: 1
Joe Fales, SM South: 1
Shane Hofer, Free State: 1
Patrick Kirby, Olathe East: 1
Anthony McCray, Olathe East: 1
Nick Perez, SM North: 1

Fumbles Recovered
Jalen Branson, Olathe East: 2
Ivan Hollins, Lawrence: 2

Interceptions
Dearion Cooper, Lawrence: 1
Ivan Hollins, Lawrence: 1
Dalton Lewallen, SM South: 1
Derek Miller, Olathe East: 1
Isaiah Simmons, Olathe North: 1
Tyler Stoetaert, Olathe Northwest: 1
Joel Spain, Free State: 1
Nick Starnes, Leavenworth: 1
Charley White, SM East: 1

Field Goals
Chris Diddle, Olathe East: (2/2)
Devin Antcil, Olathe Northwest: (1/2)
Jake Boyce, Leavenworth: (1/2)
Logan Swartz, Olathe South: (1/1)

**Lawrence, Olathe North and SM Northwest did not submit defensive statistics.