|Olathe East lost to SM West 18-8 last night. KC Star.|
The biggest surprise this season has been by far the Olathe School District's poor showing. Outside of Olathe South who stands at 3-1, the district has been awful. Olathe East, a perennial power, has only managed to win one game (against winless Olathe Northwest) and now sits at 1-3. Olathe North and the aforementioned Olathe Northwest are both 0-4 and struggling mightily. This is shocking because after all the Olathe School District has more or less dominated the Sunflower League football scene for the past 15 seasons. It's interesting to see a shift from that dominance this year.
2. Simone Candidates, anyone?
|Brad Strauss. Lawrence Journal World.|
Regarding Strauss, the kid is a flat out baller. He's on pace to pass for over 2,000 yards and rush for over 1,000. He's also recorded 14 combined passing and rushing touchdowns through four games, which means if he keeps up at that pace he'll combine for around 31 in the nine-game regular season. The last quarterback to score more than 30 touchdowns in a season was SM West's Blake Lawrence, who in 2006 passed for 16 touchdowns and rushed for another 15, in a 13-game season. If Strauss was to keep up the touchdown pace he's at and play a 13-game season he would record 45 touchdowns.
3. How bad is SM North this season?
There's no need to worry, Indians. While you haven't come out on the winning side yet, you've fought hard and have actually put up decent offensive numbers. So far this year SM North has been outscored 198-77. That's hardly anything to be down about from a historical perspective. By far and away the worst team on modern record in Sunflower League history was the 2009 Leavenworth Pioneers. Through their first four games they were outscored 195-6. They finished 0-9 that year, and were outscored 413-21 (they recorded three touchdowns and one field goal on the season, including going 0/3 on extra point tries). The amazing thing? Leavenworth's freshman that year are now their seniors. See point #4.
4. Leavenworth Football
It's just the second time in the past 15 seasons that the Pioneers have surpassed the two-win mark. And they have a great shot at finishing with a record that's better than the 4-5 campaign they had in 2004.
5. Strength of Schedules
On papers, the Pioneers have played the easiest schedule through four games (their opponents have a combined record of 4-12) while SM North has played the most difficult schedule (their opponents have a combined record of 12-4).
6. How is the "Year of the Quarterback" turning out in the Sunflower League?
So far the league's signal callers have performed well when they've been given the opportunity to. Strauss, Free State's Kyle McFarland and SM East's Jordan Darling have all stood out the most. The three have combined to go 10-2 this year, and they rank 1, 4 and 3, respectively, in passing yards so far. Olathe South's Frank Seurer has led the Falcons well, but he hasn't had the opportunity to pass the ball the way he did last season. He's probably made more of an impact on defense where he's recorded two interceptions, including one which he returned for a touchdown. Needless to say, he's the only guy in the league with more than 20 wins under his belt so that speaks for itself.
Olathe East's John Blazevic has been a non-factor. The defending 6A state champ in the javelin hasn't been able to show off his arm much this season, and when he has thrown the ball he's tossed some crucial interceptions (see his redzone pick against Olathe South in week one or his interceptions last night against SM West). SM South's Jon Prueter, Olathe Northwest's Holdyn Halperin and Leavenworth's Judson Cole have all emerged as capable signal callers who could pick up production as the season goes along. The wildcard is SM West's AJ Verdini, who has a rocket for an arm and throws a great ball when he focuses on his mechanics and sets his feet in the pocket. When he doesn't he's been less than average.
7. Who are the league's most versatile athletes this year?
|Tye Hughes. Lawrence Journal World.|
All four play offense and defense and contribute on special teams. I would venture to say they all rank among the league's 15 fastest players as well, and that's part of what makes them all so special. Put them all on one team and that club's on the fast track to the state title game, I would guarantee it. All would rank on my Elite Eleven team if I released it tomorrow, and that's saying something. Their most impressive plays that I've witnessed:
Rellihan: In week two against Olathe North he ran a jaw-dropping comeback route that basically broke the game open. He ran the route at a depth of about 12 yards (for all we know it could have been an out route or a fade route gone bad), planted and turned to Darling, caught a poorly timed pass, turned to face the cornerback, juked right to the sideline, then proceeded to outsprint Olathe North's entire secondary 68 yards for a touchdown.
Elliott: In week one the Falcons were holding on to a 6-0 lead when Olathe East put together a nice drive into Olathe South's redzone. Blazevic dropped back and fired a ball to the middle of the endzone where Elliott seemingly came out of nowhere to jump in front of the receiver and intercepted the pass, returning it roughly 50 yards, and ultimately solidifying the victory.
Maloney: In a week four game against Olathe East I saw Maloney A.) Catch a five-yard slant route for a touchdown in which he was absolutely laid out, yet still managed to hang on for the score, B.) Outrun the Olathe East secondary with ease and make a tip-toe catch in the back of the endzone for a 29-yard touchdown, and C.) Intercept a fade route over his shoulders, while sprinting, at the five-yard line to prevent the Hawks from scoring just before the half.
Hughes: In week three against Olathe South Hughes ran a fade route that should be shown in football instructional videos for years to come. The pass (which was thrown on time by McFarland) hit Hughes perfectly in stride just as he had burned the Olathe South defender. The play was the the definition of perfection.
8. Etc., etc. Through Four Weeks.
The league's strongest player: Olathe South's Braden Smith.
The league's most pleasant surprise lineman: SM East's Dominique Atkinson.
The league's most pleasant surprise skill-position player: Lawrence's Will Thompson.
The league's feistiest player: Olathe South's Graham Farris.
The league's best quarterback: Lawrence's Brad Strauss.
The league's best power running back: SM East's Patrick Blackburn.
The league's most complete running back: SM South's Gabe Guild.
The league's toughest running back: SM West's Brett Sterbach.
The league's fastest straight-line running back: Olathe East's Hayden Frazier.
The league's best all-purpose back (running/receiving): Leavenworth's Jason Randall.
The league's best wide receiver: SM East's Connor Rellihan.
The league's best offensive lineman: Olathe South's Braden Smith.
The league's best defensive lineman: Olathe South's Braden Smith.
The league's best linebacker(s): OS's Remington Whitley and SME's David Stewart.
The league's best defensive back: Free State's Kyle McFarland.
The league's most dominant sophomore: SM East's Kyle Ball.
The league's best returner: SM South's Ra'Keim Abdul.
The league's best all purpose player: Olathe South's Matt Elliott.
The league's best kept secrets: LEAV's Josh Ammel and ONW's Nathan Power.
The league's potential dark horses: ON's Venus Triplett and SMW's AJ Verdini.
The league's biggest grinder: SM North's Henry Bell.
The league's best offense: Lawrence.
The league's best defense: SM East.
The league's sleeper team: Free State.
The league's most skilled team: Olathe South.
The league's dark horses: SM West and Lawrence.
The league's most-improved teams: Leavenworth and SM South.
9. Coaching Landmarks
**Lawrence head coach Dirk Wedd recorded his 70th career win last night as head coach of the Chesty Lions. Wedd is in his 13th season as head coach at LHS.
**SM West head coach Tim Callaghan recorded his 70th career win in week three when his Vikings defeated Olathe North. He now has 71 all-time wins in roughly 9 and a half seasons at SM West.
**Olathe East's Jeff Meyers is sitting at 148 wins, two wins short of 150 all-time, while Olathe North's Gene Wier needs 12 wins to reach his 200th victory with the Eagles.
**SM South head coach Ryan Lonergan and his Raiders recorded their third win of the season through last night. That's more wins that SM South had in nine games last season. Meanwhile, Leavenworth head coach Kevin Kopecky has coached the Pioneers to a 3-1 record. The three wins are the same amount Kopecky and Leavenworth won the past two years combined.
10. Looking Ahead
Here's a look at the games I would highlight over the course of the next five weeks that remain in the regular season.
Week 5: SM South at SM West, Olathe South at Lawrence
Week 6: SM East at Lawrence Free State, Olathe North at Olathe East
Week 7: SM South at Blue Valley Northwest, Olathe South at Gardner-Edgerton, Olathe Northwest at Olathe North.
Week 8: SM East at SM West, SM Northwest at SM North, Olathe East at Blue Valley Northwest
Week 9: Lawrence Free State at Lawrence, Olathe East at SM South, Leavenworth at Wyandotte
I'm out. Enjoy the weekend!