|Olathe East's pep motif. @Hayden_frazier3.|
(Thursday Night Game)
I'm glad this is the first game of the season. It will really be a put-up-or-shut-up moment for both teams. We've heard all offseason about how Leavenworth is supposedly ready to start making some headway as a program. This is, quite frankly, a foreign concept in the league and hard to grasp as it pertains to Leavenworth. The Pioneers do have a ton of returning talent--but it's talent off a team that went 2-8 last year. SM North on the other hand has a chance to return a loss to the team that ended their season cold and left them out of the playoffs a year ago. I don't think either team could have any more motivation to come out and get after it in this game. For that reason, I expect a hard-fought contest.
SM West (0-0) at Lawrence (0-0) at Lawrence High Stadium
This is the second year in a row in which SM West has kicked off the season at Lawrence but both teams look to be significantly improved from their 2011 form--at least in terms of maturity and win potential. Last year SM West's defense had no answers for Lawrence's high powered spread attack, and Brad Strauss had his sort of breakout game on the league scene. This year's game should be more evenly matched and both teams will probably be able to stick to their respective fortes to try and start the season out with a W.
Lawrence Free State (0-0) at Olathe Northwest (0-0) at CBAC
It wouldn't surprise me if this game turned out to be a high-scoring affair as both teams tend to focus their efforts on the offensive side of the ball. New names are going to emerge for Olathe Northwest. Meanwhile, Free State will be working on getting their big-name returning talent such as Kyle McFarland, Joe Dineen and Tye Hughes comfortable and back to the outstanding levels they played at in 2011. One thing to look out for is just how many chances Olathe Northwest takes through the air. If the Ravens throw the ball as much as they have in the past and struggle with completions, it will allow Free State's offense more time on the field and that could be recipe for disaster for Olathe Northwest. It wouldn't surprise me if the Ravens stuck to the ground early in this game to sort of feel out their new offensive unit.
Olathe North (0-0) at SM Northwest (0-0) at SM South District Stadium
If you've followed the Sunflower League to any capacity over the last decade you're probably excited to see what Gene Wier does in his first game back with Olathe North. And if you have any experience with Central Kansas football you'll probably want to see how Linn Hibbs does in his first game with a Johnson County team. Both storylines are tremendous and the combined eight state championships between the two head coaches speaks volumes about the level of coaching in the Sunflower League this year. I'm interested to see what new talent Olathe North has to display as well as what type of game plan SM Northwest employs under Hibbs.
SM South (0-0) at SM East (0-0) at SM North District Stadium
This game, to me, is the most intriguing matchup on paper. We've literally been hearing about SM East quarterback Jordan Darling for eight plus months, and it will be nice to finally see him in a Lancer uniform playing against Sunflower League competition. I think we'll get a pretty good impression after one game of the type of impact he can have for SM East. On the other side of the ball, SM South is a team that seems to be on the brink of really putting things together as a program. The Raider's running back, Gabe Guild, is going to get plenty of carries and he must play well for his team to win. Last season the Lancer defense held Guild to 106 yards on 22 carries, one of his lowest outputs of the year. He's going to need to have a big night this time around.
Sunflower League Game of the Week
Olathe East (0-0) at Olathe South (0-0) at ODAC
There hasn't been any love lost between these two Olathe rivals. Earlier in the week the Olathe East Pep Club posted a sign inside Olathe East High which read "State Rings Won't Help You Now!" in obvious reference to the matchup this Friday. This set off a Twitter firestorm, and I can't really say things have cooled down. They won't until the game's over. Olathe East enters this matchup as the underdog, but they have plenty of talent--we just haven't seen that talent perform much on the varsity level. Olathe South will be getting their first taste of what it's like to be a defending state champion and it'll be interesting to see if that will cause any jitters early on. Both teams and fanbases are pumped up for this game and it will be an electrifying atmosphere for high school football in week one.