Friday, May 29, 2009

Players to Watch in 2009: James Franklin

Name: James Franklin
School: Olathe North
Year: Senior
Position(s): Running Back, Defensive Back
Height: 5'10"
Weight: 180 lbs.
Notes: Franklin may very well be the class of the Sunflower League in 2009, assuming he lives up to the hype he has built up over the past two seasons. As a sophomore, Franklin quietly entered the league's running back scene, and finished the season with 1,142 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns.
In 2008, Franklin was Olathe North and arguably the league's top talent, finishing the season with 1,971 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns on 268 carries. Perhaps the most impressive thing about his rushing totals as a junior was that he rushed for over 200 yards in each of the Eagles' last five games. Following the season Franklin was named to various All-State Class 6A teams and was a runner-up to winning the prestigious Simone Award annually given to the top high school football player in the Kansas City Metropolitan.
All eyes will be on Franklin to repeat his success in 2009, and with the loaded roster that Olathe North has returning, Franklin has a very good chance to be as lethal as he has been in previous years. Perhaps a bigger question for 2009 is how will Franklin compare to previous Olathe North running backs when all is said and done? He is following a lineage of Eagle running backs that includes Beno Gore, Darren Sproles (Simone winner), Maurice Mack (Simone winner), Jim Bouknight (Simone winner), Justin Gore and Josh Gore...

Photo Courtesy KC Star

Monday, May 25, 2009

Players to Watch in 2009: DJ Balazs

Name: DJ Balazs
School: SM West
Year: Senior
Position(s): Quarterback
Height: 5'10"
Weight: 170 lbs.
Notes: Balazs first got the nod to start at quarterback the second game of the 2007 season for the Vikings. Balazs, then just a sophomore, began his career 4-0 as a starter with key wins over rival SM East and league favorite Olathe South. However, the magic did not continue throughout the entire season for Balazs. Several key injuries, coupled with a brutal schedule to end the season saw SM West finish off the 2007 campaign with four straight losses. During that stretch Balazs left quite a bit to be desired as a quarterback, and he finished the 2007 season with a mere two touchdown passes--a number which ranked last in the Sunflower League at season's end.
Balazs clearly took the tough ending of the 2007 season as a learning experience. The DJ Balazs that started for SM West in 2008 was a completely different quarterback--for the better. The junior signal caller led SM West to a 9-0 regular season in 2008, including completing 58% of his passes for 961 yards. Balazs and the Vikings fell short in their first round playoff matchup, but not for lack of effort on Balazs part. In the game Balazs threw a touchdown pass, and also ran for one, accounting for the 14 points SM West put up in the game.
When the dust settled in 2008 Balazs proved to have been one of the most talented non-seniors in the league--his 1000+ yards passing earned him Second Team All-Sunflower League honors. If Balazs continues his development look for he and Camren Torneden of Lawrence Free State to compete for the top dog spot at the quarterback position in 2009.

Photo Courtesy the KC Star.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Players to Watch in 2009: Keene Niemack

**For the upcoming weeks and months I will be compiling my list of the top players to watch for in the Sunflower League for the 2009 season. The list should be a good transition into the football season, and should help to provide a little more information on the top returning players in the league. The first player: Lawrence Free State senior Keene Niemack.

Name: Keene Niemack
School: Lawrence Free State
Year: Senior
Position(s): WR/DB
Height: 5'11"
Weight: 170 lbs.
Notes: Niemack played his first two varsity football seasons at 2A-1A Lyndon High School. At Lyndon, Niemack accelled as a defensive back and running back, while also dominating the Track and Field scene. A move to Lawrence in 2008 sent Niemack to Lawrence Free State, where he promptly made an impact for the football team.
Niemack saw the majority of his playing time on the defensive side of the ball in this past season, playing at linebacker and defensive back positions. Niemack's biggest game of the 2008 season came in the Sub-State matchup against Blue Valley, when he intercepted two Anthony Abenoja passes, one of which prevented a sure-fire Blue Valley touchdown. With one year under his belt, Niemack's transition to the size and speed of Class 6A football should be complete, and Niemack should make even bigger strides for the 2009 season.

Photo Courtesy John Henry,

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Olathe East's Settle Wins Award; Rivera Signs

**Olathe East senior Rick Settle (left) was named the KC Star's 2009 Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year today. Settle started at the quarterback and safety positions for Olathe East the past two seasons, in addition to being a three year varsity starter for the baseball team. In the classroom, Settle compiled a 4.75 GPA and ranked #1 in his graduating class at Olathe East. As Olathe East's starting quarterback, Settle compiled an 18-3 record. Former Sunflower Conference football standouts who have won the award include Olathe South's Justin Dyer in 2002, and Olathe North's Brandon Weir in 1997.

**Former SM Northwest linebacker Mike Rivera (center) signed an NFL free agent contract with the Chicago Bears two Sundays ago. Rivera enjoyed a very successful career as a starting linebacker at Kansas, following a standout high school career at SM Northwest. Rivera's signing now puts three SM Northwest alumni in the NFL. The other two are Ryan Torain, running back for the Denver Broncos, and Ryan Lilja, offensive lineman for the Indianapolis Colts.

Photos Courtesy:, KU Athletics