|Darren Sproles. Photo courtesy the Kansas
1. Darren Sproles, Olathe North, 1998-2000
Easy pick here. Sproles combined to rush for 5,230 yards (a then Olathe North record) and 79 rushing touchdowns (a then Kansas record) during his time with Olathe North. His efforts helped lead the Eagles to state championships in 1998 and 2000, and he was given the Simone Award in 2000. After an All-American career at Kansas State he's gone on to have major success in the NFL with the Chargers and the now with the Saints.
2. James Franklin, Olathe North, 2007-2009
Franklin was a rushing yardage machine for Olathe North, despite the fact that his running style was less than orthadox. As a sophomore he rushed for 1,142 yards and 16 touchdowns. He followed that up by rushing for 1,971 yards and 22 touchdowns as a junior, then he hit the pinnacle rushing for 2,803 yards and 31 touchdowns as a senior in leading Olathe North to a state title while also claiming the Simone Award. He broke Sproles' rushing record at Olathe North and he now holds the title with 5,916 career rushing yards.
3. Maurice Mack, Olathe North, 1999-2001
|Dee Bell. Photo courtesy the Lawrence
5. Ryan Torain, SM Northwest, 2001-2003
Torain, like Sproles, is currently playing in the NFL where he is a member of the Washington Redskins. His time in the NFL has come after a successful collegiate career in which he spent time at Butler C.C. as well as Arizona State. Torain wasn't always a well-known commodity, however. In fact, he didn't really blow up on the Kansas City high school scene until his senior year when he came out of nowhere to rush for over 1,900 yards and 25 touchdowns. His efforts helped SM Northwest to a 9-2 record and a Sectional Round berth.
6. Justin Gore, Olathe North, 2002-2004
Gore doesn't carry the cloute of many of Olathe North's other famous running backs and that's probably because he didn't win a Simone Award, but he was one of the best running backs of the past 11 years in the league. His hallmark moment came in the 6A state title game against Hutchinson when he was a junior. He carried the ball 32 times for 175 yards and a touchdown, and it was enough to give the Eagles the victory. As a senior he led Olathe North to another title appearance, rushing for 1,845 yards and 31 touchdowns.
7. Jim Bouknight, Olathe North, 2000-2002
When you watched Bouknight run the football there wasn't anything that really jumped out about him. He didn't have the speed of his precessors (Sproles and Mack) and he wasn't exactly physically imposing. His will to succeed, however, was his greatest strength. Opposing Sunflower League coaches probably felt they had finally caught a break once Mack graduated, but Bouknight turned out to be just as much of a headache, rushing for 2,793 yards and 34 touchdowns as a senior in 2002. He led Olathe North to the 6A title, and he was awarded the Simone Award at season's end.
8. Joseph Harris, Olathe South, 1999-2001
Harris has never received his due because he was playing at the same time as guys like Sproles and Mack. Also, his team was knocked out of playoff contention in both his junior and senior seasons because they had to play Olathe North in districts and at the time only one team qualified from each district. In nine games as a junior Harris totaled 1,018 yards and 21 touchdowns. In a nine-game season as a senior he rushed for 1,484 yards and 28 touchdowns.
If Hunter had run been two inches taller, 20 pounds heavier, and .2 seconds faster, he would have been on the rader of every major college football program in the country. He ranks up their with Sproles as the shiftiest running back I've seen in the Sunflower League, and he just had the "knack" that all of the great running backs have with the ball in their hands. His numbers were solid--he rushed for just under 2,800 yards in two years as the Free State starting tailback--but quarterback Camren Torneden carried the ball quite a bit, and in a more pro-style offense Hunter could have easily been a 2,000 yard back.
10. DJ Barnett, SM West, 2002-2004
Barnett has gone down in SM West lore as one of the best players in Vikings history and still to this day he is the benchmark for what their running backs strive for. Barnett struggled as a junior, rushing for just over 500 yards in a tumultuous 2-7 campaign. Fast forward to 2004 and Barnett matured into one of the best running backs in the city. He rushed for just over 1,900 yards and 18 touchdowns on the season, helping SM West to a 9-3 record. To this day I haven't seen a running back carry as much of a team's offensive workload as what Barnett handled in 2004.