Saturday, December 4, 2010

Sunflower League Elite 11 Team

The Sunflower League Elite 11 team is essentially a bigger collaboration of my weekly player ratings. I felt that these 11 players were the top playmakers in the Sunflower League during the 2010 season. Of course there were a few players who were on the fringe of this list that I had to leave off. Overall, however, I feel these 11 were the biggest headliners in the Sunflower League. Included in the list are my MVP, Offensive Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, and if you scroll to the bottom my Coach of the Year.

Most Valuable Player
Brandon Willingham, Olathe East
Olathe East’s senior running back gets the nod as my Sunflower League Most Valuable Player for the 2010 season. He joins former Hawks Derek Miller and Anthony Parks on the list of MVPs. What separated Willingham for this distinction? Simply put, Willingham was the heart and soul of Olathe East’s 10-win season. The Hawks had enough confidence in Willingham to basically scrap their passing game this season. Opposing defenses knew they had to do one thing to beat Olathe East—shut down Willingham. Yet, this task was much more complicated when the defenses actually lined up across from him and the Olathe East offense. Willingham’s most impressive game came against Free State in the Regional round of the playoffs. Trailing 16-0 entering the third quarter, things weren’t looking good for the Hawks. Willingham took his game to another level in the second half, scoring three touchdowns on runs of 59, 53, and three yards to give the Hawks a 20-16 advantage and the win. While some may argue that other players were as talented or produced as good of stats, no player consistently did more for his team than Willingham.

Rushing stats: 1,714 yards, 23 TDs
Defensive stats: 40 tackles

Offensive Player of the Year
Adonis Saunders, Olathe North
While Saunders had a reputation around the Sunflower League of being, well, boisterous, he was usually pretty good at backing it up often in the form of long touchdown runs. Saunders took his first carry of the season 77 yards for a touchdown, and he rattled off four touchdowns runs of 60 or more yards through Olathe North's first four games. The former Kansas Class 6A 100-meter champ was probably the league's fastest player this season, and if you wanted further proof all you had to do was watch Olathe North for a quarter or so. Saunders was pretty much gone once he broke past the second level of a defense. His rushing efforts helped Olathe North to reach their second straight 6A title game, and while Olathe North did come up short, it was fitting that Saunders' last touchdown of the season came on a 79-yard pass reception.

Rushing stats: 1,554 yards, 20 TDs
Defensive stats: 1 interception

Defensive Player of the Year
Kyle Swartz, Olathe North
Big, playmaking linebackers are hard to come by at the high school level, but Olathe North's Kyle Swartz fit the mold and earned my vote as the Sunflower League Defensive Player of the Year. Swartz' most impressive statistic was the 148 tackles he totalled in 13 games from his linebacker position. The 148 tackles were 30 more than any other player in the Sunflower League totalled during the season, and 60 of his tackles came during the Eagle's four playoff games. One of the better examples of Swartz' dominance was in Olathe North's Sectional round playoff game against Olathe South. Up 10-0, the Eagles were looking for a big play to kill any hopes Olathe South had of winning. Swartz jumped in front of an Olathe South pass and intercepted it, then a few plays later pounded in a one-yard run to effectively seal the victory.

Defensive stats: 148 tackles, 1 interception

Nick Bandy, Olathe Northwest
In some ways it’s a head scratcher that Bandy didn’t get more touches. He was probably among the top five fastest players in the league and he seemed to have the “Midas touch” for the Ravens. Bandy was an excellent contributor for the Ravens on offense, defense, and special teams and he made big plays nearly every week. Of course, that was what everyone had come to expect of the talented senior. One thing I am confident of, had Bandy played for a more successful team he would have been one of the headliners of the league this season.

Offensive stats: 33 catches, 494 yards, 3 TDs
Defensive stats: 44 tackles, 9 pass break ups, 3 interceptions
Special Teams stats: 1 kick return touchdown

Austin Fulson, Olathe East
It was Austin Fulson who led the Sunflower League in tackles last season with 125. We knew those abilities were going to transfer over to his senior year on the defensive side of the ball, but who knew he was going to have such a stellar season on the offensive side? Fulson’s efforts were often overshadowed by coverage of Brandon Willingham, but he was nonetheless a quiet force that kept Olathe East among the league’s best. Perhaps the game that epitomized Fulson’s efforts the most was Olathe East’s Sectional playoff game against SM Northwest. Olathe East was struggling to get anything going offensively, and Willingham was being shut down. Fulson’s number was called on a run play early in the fourth quarter and he ended up taking that carry 89 yards for what proved to be the game-winning touchdown. It was fitting that he was what put Olathe East over the top in that game. Fulson’s defensive efforts shouldn’t be looked past either, as he was one of the league’s leading tacklers for the second season in a row.

Rushing stats: 896 yards, 13 TDs
Defensive stats: 80 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, 1 touchdown

Kenny Mings, SM Northwest
Mings, like several other players on this list, really came into his own as a senior. His ability to impact a game from all three aspects—offense, defense, and special teams—was what made him such an asset to SM Northwest and their run to sectionals. Another thing you couldn’t discount about this kid was his ability to make plays on the ball in the air. Mings rarely lost battles with receivers or defensive backs for jump balls. Mings basically willed SM Northwest to their upset of SM West in the playoffs after he returned a blocked punt 65 yards for a touchdown, then sealed the game with an interception at his team’s own one-yard line in the waning seconds of the game.

Receiving stats: 29 catches, 413 yards, 6 TDs
Defensive stats: 38 tackles, 12 pass break ups, 4 interceptions
Special Teams stats: 1 Punt Return TD, 1 blocked punt return for a touchdown

Dylan Perry, Lawrence Free State
There were questions as to whether Lawrence Free State would be able to carry on their stellar tradition of top notch quarterback play this year, following the graduation of Camren Torneden. Perry proved the doubters wrong and established his name among the best in Free State history. The only disappointment is that we we’re only able to see Perry play the starting quarterback role for one season. His numbers were spectacular—and despite playing with a bum ankle for half the season he still helped Free State to a 5-5 record and a berth in the playoffs. Perry’s explosiveness and speed made him one of the league’s biggest scoring threats in 2010.

Passing stats: 1,124 yards, 7 TDs
Rushing stats: 1,022 yards, 9 TDs
Defensive stats: 1 interception, 1 blocked kick return for a touchdown

Nick Sands, Olathe South
Who was the top workhorse running back in the Sunflower League? You didn’t have to look any further than Nick Sands to find it. Sands was the feature back in Olathe South’s first year of transitioning to a wing based offense. Sands had a lot of carries, and he tallied a lot of yards. After a rough start to the season (for Sands and the Falcons) the team began to click and Sands rushing totals soared. While his hard-nosed running style wasn’t as fun to watch as backs like Willingham or Saunders, Sands got the job done and put up some of the best numbers in the league.

Rushing stats: 1,578 yards, 17 TDs

John Schrock, SM East
John Schrock in some ways reminds me of another former stud from the Shawnee Mission School District. SM West’s breakout season came in 2004, when they went 9-3 and reached the Sub-State round. SM West’s “rebirth” that year had a lot to do with the play of running back DJ Barnett who rushed for over 1,900 yards and was truly the Vikings go-to player. Still to this day, SM West’s arrival in the 2000s is recognized by the name DJ Barnett. Schrock, much like Barnett, will carry that distinction if SM East can keep up the quality level of play in years to come. Schrock, who was easily the best pocket passer in the league, gave SM East that extra something they always needed and it was a shame he wasn’t able to help the Lancers in the playoffs following his collarbone injury. On the bright side, Schrock’s legacy could be tied pretty strongly to SM East football in the future.

Passing stats: 1,634 yards, 9 TDs
Rushing stats: 9 rushing TDs

Victor Simmons, Olathe North

The one player who could have legitimately challenged Adonis Saunders in a foot race this season was Simmons, his explosive teammate. While Simmons was listed as a quarterback his role for Olathe North was hardly that. The senior rarely passed the ball, instead he was used predominately out of the shotgun/pistol offense on option and designed run plays. Simmons topped 1,000 yards rushing for the second consecutive year and also made key contributions on the defensive side of the ball. His 85 tackles were a good indicator of what the coaches at Kansas will be expecting of Simmons next season when he joins the Jayhawks.

Rushing stats: 1,455 yards, 10 TDs
Defensive stats: 85 tackles

Denzell Simpson, SM West
Every Monday I would receive Mid-Statesports’ weekly league statistic updates, and the first thing I would do was check the tackles category to see if Simpson still led it. And he did for the final eight weeks of the regular season. The most impressive thing about his tackle totals was that he was doing it from the safety position. Rarely does a safety lead his team in tackles, let alone the entire Sunflower League. It was Simpson’s tenacity that really made him so good on the defensive side of the ball. I was fortunate enough to catch a few games in which Simpson really laid out an opposing player—and let me tell you, the kid truly defined “hard hitter.”

Defensive stats: 102 tackles (38 solo), 4 tackles for loss

Coach of the Year
Chip Sherman, SM East
Of all the awards this was the easiest to choose. In just two seasons Sherman has transformed SM East from a team that was nicknamed the smurfs into a legitimate league and playoff contender. The Lancers went 8-2 this season, claiming a share of the Sunflower League championship (the school's first since 1966) and winning their district outright. Perhaps two of Sherman's most impressive underlying accomplishments were his helping of the development of John Schrock into the Sunflower League's best passer, and also the intensity and passion his Lancers have started to show on the field.

Photos courtesy Facebook, Olathe North Eagle football, the Kansas City Star,,,
Stats courtesy


Anonymous said...

Wheres Drew Goodger on this? Proably the best D-Linemen in the state and a versatile tightend.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the above comment that Goodger should be listed. Nick Bandy was over-rated at the beginning of the season, and is over-rated now. Bandy is a great athlete, but Goodger is a great football player.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure a lot of good players were left off the list. When you only list 11 players in an entire league that will happen. I think its a good list, personally, a lot of exciting players who had big impacts on their respective teams.

Anonymous said...

This is a great list, but the fact that there's no love for linemen show your true knowledge of the sport there Eli... you just a stats checker like the average fan.

Anonymous said...

Why would you leave such a negative comment. Elipuy a lot of work into this. Great job Eli this is a great list!

Anonymous said...

good list, but no linemen?

Anonymous said...

Over-rated? I don't think any player on the list was "over-rated". Eli obviously didn't look at just the stats but saw how each player made big plays. Is it necessary to bash the players that are on the list because you're annoyed a lineman didn't make the list?

Eli Underwood said...

As I stated in the prelude, my Elite 11 team is essentially an extension of the Top 5 Player Ratings I conduct during the season (a la skill position players).

I intentionally leave lineman off that list, and left lineman off this list, because it wouldn't be fair to grade out the lineman without the use of game film.

If you want to know the top lineman in the league I suggest checking the Coaches All-Sunflower League teams (which I will post later today). The coaches are the ones who grade those guys out and watch just how well they play on the interior on the game film every week.

Anonymous said...

Once again you don't show your knowlege of the league. We played against Goodger twice this year. In this league there was no one who had a bigger impact in a game against us than him. NO ONE!!!!!
This was not about a lineman but what you stated in your comments. IMPACT PLAYER.
Way to show you don't belong in journalism. No reasearch was done on your part.
Bad job again!

EagleFreshman said...

Dude, Eli is a great journalist of the league, I knew almost nothing of the league outside Olathe North until I found his blog. Though I amm disappointed that there is the lineman list yet. (I'm a lineman).

He still shows some of the most professional articles on the Sunflower League I have ever seen. Keep up the good work Eli, and don't listen to critics who only mean to insult you.

EagleFreshman said...

P.S.- can you please delete that last dude's comment? I hate scrolling down to see that horrible insult. Thanks

Anonymous said...

Shouldn't be linemen or running backs or any type of postioin. Should be about which where the most domminant players in the league. You can bet he would have put Will Sheilds down if he would be playing in this league. Put down the best players not the guys who have stats. Show's no real research done. Just looking in the paper of Saturday.

Anonymous said...

You state Mings long return on the blocked punt in the West game. Who picked up the blocked punt and was quick enough to pitch the ball to Mings? Who cuaght the winning pass and leaped over the West defender to score in the West game? Who did West make a concerned effort to run away from that game. Goodger!!!! On all three.

Anonymous said...

Solid list Eli. Obviously impossible to please everyone. Let the crybabies cry and the workhorses work. Picking 11 from a League is pretty dang tough, look down that list and it's pretty good.

Anonymous said...

Okk if you guys knows whats best and all then go make your own blogs...and put Goodger all over it if you want

Anonymous said...

Funny that during the year I see all kinds of blast on the comments section and it appears ok to do so. But when someone has an opinion also that may differ it's not supposed to be allowed. Then why have a comment section, if it is only to sing the praises of the author.
If that is the case then, Great job Eli, you speak the mind of all your dominions here in the Sunflower League.
Was that better for all of you!

Anonymous said...

You are right, the banter is part of the fun of this site. But be careful about biting the hand that feeds.
The focus is obviously on Goodger but there are PLENTY of others that were good enough to make this list (several probably better than Goodger, impossible I know) but it's not a list of the 100 best SFL players Preston Schenck? Elliot Faerber? Tre Burt? Brad Strauss? Plus others?
Putting up solid arguments for other player and crying about it (bashing the author) are two different things.

Anonymous said...

No I'm the one who stated about why people can't dissagree with the author. I have no intrest in Goodger or any other player. I'm from Lawrence. All I said is let people have their say.
As for who is on the list, your're right 11 is tough to figure out. But when the 11 on the list is based on stats. That is not a reflection of the top players of this league which the title of the article states that it is. SF Elite 11 team. Even if you asy as a disclaimer. Specialty players, doesn't give you an out from being critizied for your choices. I get it that he can't be at all the games and see all the players. But there are players who if you asked coaches and reporters at games would say "they saw players that dominated games without stats. Lets be real also, this is highschool games. You know the defensive stats are not even close to being acurate.

Anonymous said...

hm... thats strange a list was made and not everyone in the world agrees with it. Eli is right about judging lineman, you have to watch every single snap. Which is why game film would be necessary. How do you expect him to attend every single Sunflower League game and grade out every single lineman? If he wanted to do that he would be a Coach. Not a real journalist??? Could that comment be more far-fetched? When was the last time a lineman, on either side of the ball, won the heisman? So your saying every journalist who voted for Ingram last year doesn't belong in journalism? If he is just a stat checker then why do you constantly check the site and feel the need to leave comments? His opinion obviously bothered you because you feel like its one of the, if not the most, insightful opinions about Sunflower League Football. My final point, and to be down right honest, was their a single lineman in this entire league that had more of an impact on a game or had more big play potential than those 11? Probably not. And if you say their was, your full of shit because no O-Lineman or D-Lineman from the Sunflower League is playing at Florida, USC, or Oregon next year. Yes you are correct that some banter is ok, but Eli is an UNPAID student doing this in his free time because he enjoys doing it. If you want to bash someone go talk to Sam Mellinger.

Anonymous said...

Its quite comical in someway goodger made Kansas top 11 but not this list. Dont get me wrong the players on this list are special but how many of them are kansas top 11

Anonymous said...

Its not a Kansas Top 11 list. That would include all of Kansas.. this includes just the Sunflower League...Hence not a Kansas Top 11 List. Its Sunflower League Elite 11 Team. Not the best player at every position. Not the best linemen. Not even all the best players in the league. Just a list of 11 guys that Eli thought had the best years. Why would you put a lineman on a list like this? Like the post two above said, none of the lineman were THAT dominant.

Anonymous said...

Goodger doesn't even have an offer, yet. Clearly a bunch of SMNW homers.

Anonymous said...

Swartz is the defensive MVP not Goodger. 148 tackles... thats quite a bit especially on a talent rich team like Olathe North. Compared to a middle of the pack SMNW team.

Anonymous said...

@ This comment.

Once again you don't show your knowlege of the league. We played against Goodger twice this year. In this league there was no one who had a bigger impact in a game against us than him. NO ONE!!!!!
This was not about a lineman but what you stated in your comments. IMPACT PLAYER.
Way to show you don't belong in journalism. No reasearch was done on your part.
Bad job again!****

So because your team played against him twice and apparently he made you guys look like little girls its necessary to assume he "belongs" on this list? Sounds like you, who left an anonymous comment, do belong in journalism, you panty sniffing jackass.

EagleFreshman said...

Boy do I love these constant arguements. :) I'm gonna miss this until the next season. :(

Anonymous said...

*Goodger has three division one offers. And let me clarify that HE IS the most dominant player in the league. Schools had to constantly change their game plan to run away from Goodger. He is not the most electrifying player in the league by any means, but he certainly is the one of the reasons SMNW made a solid playoff run. After playing against SMNW, they are in no way a middle of the road team. They dominated OE in the sectionals, but slipped on two plays that ended up costing them their season. Despite Goodger not being on the list, Eli does a great job covering the Sunflower League. No questions asked.

Anonymous said...

Goodger, his friends, and family have done a great job on this board. They have made it about him and pose as others to hype him more. He is a solid player, but not all teams game planned around him (personal knowledge). Yes he would be discussed but not planned around. He was not even close to the most DOMINANT player in the league, that's practically a joke. He is without a doubt a very good player but come on! And as far as the team being an upper tier team...not quite there. Yes they beat West and hung with OE but come on...let's be honest and critical.
Great banter when all is real deal instead of BS. It was a fun season.
Again, good job to Goodger by making this your publicity blog. And good job on a very solid year.

Anonymous said...

he isn't on the real Kansas top 11 team, he is on the second team of the kansas top 11 though

8 time state champs said...

I think eli can do whatever list he wants...but to say you have to watch all the film in order to put a lineman on the list is stupid. Do you really think the journalists putting the all-american teams together have watchted every snap or even half? I saw ON vs. SMNW one time and didn't think Goodger was anything special but the fact he made the Top 11 team (1st team and 2nd team on another list) says that he should have been on here.

Anonymous said...

Just because he's a stat checker doesn't mean he's not a good journalist, or entertaining to read. Those aren't mutually exclusive statements. I did like Eli's explanation of why he doesn't list linemen, although I do feel the big boys need some love. I don't care what running back you have there, if you don't have a decent line, that guy doesn't go anywhere, doesn't have the stats and doesn't win heismans or any other award. As far as running backs go, they are a direct product of their linemen, obviously a lot of the yards they make has to do with athletic ability and such, that's the difference between a 5 yard run and a 40 yard run, but without a good line, there's not even a five yard run.

Anonymous said...

I think everyone agrees Drew Goodger is a good football player but so are all the kids Eli put on his list. It appears, Eli is not alone in thinking these guys can play football. Each of the kids on the list received post season honors from different sources and all players had multiple honors. So before you bash Eli (and he already told you why he doesn’t put linemen on the list) look at what they got:

Brandon Willingham - All Sunflower League 1st team RB; All State Topeka/Wichita newspapers 1st team RB, HM DB; All State Coaches RB

Adonis Sanders – All Sunflower League 1st team RB, 2nd team DB; All State Topeka/Wichita newspapers 1st team RB, HM DB

Kyle Schwartz – All Sunflower League 1st team LB, 2nd team TE; All State Topeka/Wichita newspapers 1st team LB

Nick Bandy – All Sunflower League 1st team WR, 2nd team DB, 2nd team P; All State Topeka/Wichita newspapers 1st team WR; All State Coaches WR

Austin Fulson – All Sunflower League 1st team DB, 2nd team RB; All State Topeka/Wichita newspapers HM;

Kenny Mings – All Sunflower League 1st team WR, 2nd team KR, 2nd team DB; All State Topeka/Wichita newspapers HM

Dylan Perry – All Sunflower League 2nd team QB; All State Topeka/Wichita newspapers HM

Nick Sands – All Sunflower League 1st team RB; All State Topeka/Wichita newspapers HM

John Schrock – All Sunflower League 1st team QB; All State Topeka/Wichita newspapers HM

Victor Simmons – All Sunflower League 1st team DB; All State Topeka/Wichita newspapers 1st team DB

Denzell Simpson – All Sunflower League 1st team DB; All State Topeka/Wichita newspapers HM; All Coaches DB

Keep up the good work Eli!

Anonymous said...

Joe of the most underrated players in the SFL . eli should create a elite lineman list but this is a good list based on skill positions

Anonymous said...

Yeah Goodger was good but i bet half of these comments for him are either him or part of his entourage at northwest. Good list Eli

Anonymous said...

get a life losers... instead of nagging on a highschool football player who couldnt care less. thanks

Anonymous said...

get off drew goodgers dick ... hes not kyle swartz or dominick wilson ...