|Free State's Camren Torneden, left, and Chucky|
1. Lawrence Free State, 2008, 9-4
Early quarterback injuries turned out to be a blessing in disguise for the Firebirds, as Camren Torneden was converted to the starting quarterback. Free State's one-two combo of Torneden and running back Chucky Hunter was too much to handle for most teams in the league, and the Firebirds made it all the way to the 6A title game.
2. Olathe South, 2004, 10-3
The Olathe South football program looked dead in the water after back-to-back 2-7 seasons. The emergence of stars Bryce Morris, Brady Croucher, Devin Cummings and Tony Bryant helped this team come out of nowhere and eventually land a spot in the state championship game.
3. SM West, 2004, 9-3
SM West hadn't had a winning season since 1999, and head coach Tim Callaghan's previous season had been disastrous at 2-7. The Vikings relied on a stout defense and the running ability of DJ Barnett to battle to a nine win season and Sub-State appearance.
4. Olathe North, 2007, 10-2
Coming off the program's first losing season in what seemed like decades, Olathe North was in desperate need of a resurgence. A sophomore tailback by the name of James Franklin powered the team to a 10-2 record and Sub-State berth.
5. SM North, 2000, 9-2
The quarterback to receiver combination of John Martin and Nathan Winslow proved to be one of the best ever featured in the Sunflower League, as the Indians battled all the way to the Sub-State game, where they lost to eventual champ Olathe North. The team was coming off a 3-6 season in 1999.
|Lawrence High's Nolan Kellerman.|
7. SM East, 2001, 6-5
Todd Dain's greatest season still remains during his time as the Lancer's head coach. After starting the season 0-4, the Lancers somehow reeled off six straight wins by a combined total of 24 points. That included a 13-10 win over a 9-0 Blue Valley North team in the Sectional round of the playoffs. The Lancers lost to Olathe North in the Sub-State round, but their late season heroics are still remembered.
8. SM Northwest, 2003, 9-2
The 5-5 record the in 2002 was quite misleading. It didn't include much of Ryan Torain, and linebacker Mike Rivera was well-respected, but not quite the legend he was yet to become. Relying heavily on those two future NFL players, the Cougars put together a nice 9-2 season that ended with a loss to Olathe North in Sectionals.
9. Lawrence Free State, 2006, 11-1
This is the only team since 2000 to have made it all the way to Sub State, undefeated, before losing. The Firebirds had a potent offensive attack and a 3-5-3 defense that confused the heck out of most offenses. The team was led by the Murphy brothers, Ryan and Brian, current Minnesota Viking Chritian Ballard, and defensive linemen Kyle Weinmaster and Mike Ruder. The team lost at Sub-State to SM West in one of the most hyped games in Sunflower League history.
10. SM Northwest, 2007, 9-2
The Cougars had won a combined seven games in the three seasons prior to 2007. Second year head coach Aaron Barnett had a pretty good team led by Alex Carder, Bryce Atagi and Bryce Murray, but it wasn't until later in the season that the unit gained much attention. They lost to Olathe North in Sectionals.
1. Lawrence, 2009, 1-8
This team comes in as the most surprisingly bad Sunflower League team since 2000 because of how much of a contrast this team was from previous LHS units. Keep in mind, LHS had won a combined nine state titles in the 80s and 90s, and the only way the Chesty Lions avoided a goose egg in the win column for 2009 was because they played Leavenworth in the last game of the season.
2. Olathe North, 2005, 6-5
|SM North's Mack Brown still had a great season in 2004,|
earning offers from Colorado and Ole Miss along the way.
The Indians were coming off a 6-4 campaign in 2003 and they looked like one of the league's best in the preseason. The team was led by arguably the top quarterback in the state of Kansas in Mack Brown, and he was one of 27 seniors on the roster. They looked primed for success, but ultimately a loss in their final district game against SM West kept them out of the playoffs.
4. SM West, 2007, 5-4
The Vikings only returned four starters from their 12-1 6A runner-up team from 2006, but they were still voted by the coaches as one of the league favorites. After a 5-0 start, the wheels fell off for the Vikings, literally. The team's top two running backs, JD Steffen and Darron Harvey, both suffered season ending injuries and the team lost its final four games.
5. Olathe North, 2006, 4-5
There was hope that year one under new head coach Pete Flood would reawaken the Olathe North program. Year two was an a jump start, but year one was a little rough. In Josh Gore's final season as the team's starting tailback, Olathe North eked out a four-win season, highlighted by a loss to Olathe Northwest, which remains the only game Olathe Northwest has ever won versus an Olathe opponent in the the Raven's seven year history.
Photos courtesy the Lawrence Journal World