|SM East's Elliot Faerber.
All games times 7 p.m. unless otherwise noted
SM East at SM Northwest (Thursday Night Game) at SM North District Stadium
The first game of the 2011 Sunflower League schedule has the potential to be a very competitive matchup. While SM Northwest doesn’t return any big names on paper, I can guarantee you their head coach, Aaron Barnett, has been using the game against the Lancers as a proverbial carrot on a string all offseason.
Last year SM East came in and embarrassed SM Northwest, 24-0, in the opening game of the season. The Cougars stumbled to an 0-3 start before they regained their bearings. SM East, led by wide receiver Elliot Faerber, is the favorite, but SM Northwest would love to return the favor they were given in week one last year.
Olathe Northwest at Leavenworth at Leavenworth
An opening week victory—which one of these teams will collect—is a tremendous confidence booster, and could do wonders for either club in the early stages of the season. If Olathe Northwest wins they’ll head to SM South in week two, where they will likely be favored, and a 2-0 start would be feasible. For Leavenworth, a victory would signify major strides in year two under Kevin Kopecky, and it would be a great booster before their game against Lawrence Free State in week two.
SM West at Lawrence at Lawrence
The one thing we know in this game is that neither team will be breaking in an inexperienced quarterback or running back (assuming both sides stay injury free). Lawrence’s Brad Strauss will have all eyes on him as he works to build on his tremendous sophomore season, while Armani Williams will be working to silence the critics who blamed SM West’s poor end to the 2010 season on his accuracy problems. At the running back position, Lawrence will be featuring returning starter Charles Jackson while SM West will be led by Tre Burt.
Lawrence Free State at Olathe South at ODAC
Last season these two teams played each other in week one and what most people remember from the game is how Lawrence Free State ran wild, scoring 42 points with ease and handing Olathe South an early loss. Olathe South is the favorite in this one, and they have the advantage of playing at home at ODAC. All signs point to an Olathe South victory, but Free State is a wildcard, and we'll see how they perform with a relatively new crop of skill position players.
SM South at SM North at SM North District Stadium
This will be the first game as head coach for SM South’s Ryan Lonergan, and you know he and the SM South faithful would love nothing more than a victory over a conference rival in the first game of the season. These teams have played some great game in the past and this one should be a competitive, fun contest to watch. One key thing of note will be observing how much of SM West's offensive and defensive philosophies Lonergan brought with him to SM South.
Game of the Week
Olathe North at Olathe East at CBAC
This contest was selected as the Hy-Vee High School Game of the Week on KC Metro Sports, which means the eyes of the metro will be on these two teams. The action kicks off before the game with the 810 WHB and Metro Sports sponsored “High School Gameday,” which is essentially the high school version of ESPN’s College Gameday—a very cool addition to the Game of the Week, if I might add. As far as the actual game goes, it doesn’t get much better than this in the Sunflower League. These two powers will give us a good showing in week one and we’ll have a much better understanding of how much reloading each team did in the offseason.