Monday, August 15, 2011

August First and Ten

Elliot Faerber
Elliot Faerber is the first SL
wide receiver to receive a D1
offer since SM West's David
Leonard headed to Wyoming
in 2007.
With practices in the state of Kansas and the Sunflower League kicking off today, it means that in just three short weeks, on September 2, the high school football season will begin (September 1 if you want to split hairs).  In the meantime here are 10 of the top storylines heading into what appears to be a another great year of football in the Sunflower League.

1. Is this a great season for top-flight talent in the SL?  Hardly, at least on paper.  Aside from the two division one commits (Elliot Faerber of SM East to Illinois and Matthew Baltimore of Olathe East to Northern Illinois) there isn't a bundle of returning players that we know will tear the league up.  This does mean we should see an influx of new talent as the season matures, however.

2. The league's only new head coach is Ryan Lonergan, who took over the play calling duties at SM South this past summer after eight years as an assistant at SM West.  The longest tenured coach in the league is Olathe East's Jeff Meyers, who will be entering his 20th season as head coach of the Hawks in 2011.

3. Biggest riser?  Lawrence High is the preseason favorite to make a big jump in the SL rankings.  If junior quarterback Brad Strauss can continue to make big strides the Chesty Lions could be in for their first playoff victory(s) since 2006. 

4. We'll be hard-pressed to see a Simone Award winner come out of the league this season.  Generally the award goes exclusively to quarterbacks or running backs, and throughout the SL there is no returning starter at either of those positions who's developed a big name in the metro.  Olathe North's Treshawn Root and SM West's Tre Burt could be battling it out for top running back in the league, however.

5. One of the top games on the fall schedule takes place in week one, when Olathe North travels to CBAC to battle it out with Olathe East.  It's the Hy-Vee High School Game of the Week on KC Metro Sports, and it will be broadcast to the metropolitan area.  It will also be a great chance to see which of Olathe's top two programs has more swagger early on (particularly the battle between defensive ends Tanner Gentry of Olathe North and Baltimore of Olathe East).

Free State's Ryan Murphy set off a string of
dynamic quarterbacks for the Firebirds that
has continued for the better part of the last
five seasons.  We'll see if that trend contin-
ues in 2011.
6. Possible sleepers?  Lawrence Free State and SM Northwest.  Neither of those teams is generating a great deal of preseason hype but these two programs generally get stronger as the season goes along.  The reason for this may lay in their offensive systems.  It doesn't matter who either team puts at quarterback--they continue to put up gaudy numbers and perform like the league's elite. 

Free State's quarterback spot has gone from Ryan Murphy, to Craig Rosenstangle, to Camren Torneden to Dylan Perry without dropoff.  SM Northwest's past three quarterbacks, Alex Carder, Matt Nowak and Stephen Mangelsdorf all developed into top notch talents.  If these trends continue, it wouldn't be surprising to see either team exceed their preseason hype, or lack thereof.

7. Two players who will go into 2011 with chips on their shoulders are Lawrence High's Anthony Buffalomeat and SM West's Armani Williams.  Buffalomeat's 2010 season was cut short by an ankle injury, which prevented him from helping LHS in district play.  Williams received much of the blame for SM West's poor ending to last season, despite the fact that he wasn't even the week one starter for the Vikings. 

 8. Perhaps the lack of a truly dominant team will be equalled in the bottom half of the league, where there might not be a complete cellar dweller.  Leavenworth enters season two under Kevin Kopecky, and it would be hard to imagine the Pioneers having not made substantial improvements during the offseason.  SM North will be in year two under Kevin Grayless, and SM South's coaching change looks like a step in the right direction.

9. An Olathe school has represented the East side of the bracket in 13 of the past 15 6A state championship games (the two exceptions were SM West in 2006 and Free State in 2008).  Olathe North and Olathe East both look like they have the potential to continue that dominance, and Olathe South may be in the race too if their new running backs develop well.

10. The defining feeling heading into the 2011 season is that I can't recall a year in the past where there was fewer returning stars or less dominant teams.  Generally speaking, in August there are usually two, three, or sometimes even four teams in the SL that you could legitimately see winning a state title.  This year I'm not sure there's even one!  There is also a lack of big name talent returning, as mentioned earlier.  The league is up for the taking--we'll see who wants it most.


EagleSenior said...

Olathe North travels to the CBAC i think

TheImpaler said...

Yes, the O South/LFS game is at ODAC.

Fightin Eagle said...

I think the only team that was not mentioned in this post was ONW. It's kind of obvious why, don't you think?

Govannon Grey said...

That's just funny right there, Fightin Eagle.