Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Sunflower League Week Nine Game Previews

An infamous picture from the inaugural game between Free
State and Lawrence High in 1997.  Lawrence Journal World.
Game of the Week
Lawrence Free State (7-1) at Lawrence (7-1) at Lawrence High Stadium

The Battle for Lawrence has arrived.  The thin red line separating the schools (also known as 15th Street) has grown especially thick this week leading up to the rivalry game.  You could make the argument that it's the best regular season game of the year in the Sunflower League and it's undoubtedly a tremendous segue from the regular season into the Kansas 6A playoffs.

If you're looking for positional battles this game has them all.  LHS quarterback Brad Strauss is one of the leading contenders for the Simone Award, boasting 31 combined touchdowns and 2,232 yards of total offense.  Free State's quarterback, Kyle McFarland, has been dominant as well on offense (18 combined touchdowns and 1,642 yards of total offense) but he's also made a huge mark leading the Free State secondary.  McFarland leads the league in interceptions with four, amidst a secondary that has combined for 10 interceptions.  It's also important to note that Strauss plays defense as well, and he's totaled two defensive interceptions of his own.

There's not much of an offensive drop off outside of the quarterbacks.  Free State features four of the league's best skill position players in Tye Hughes, Demarko Bobo, TJ Cobbs and Joe Dineen, all four of whom can take the ball the distance anytime they get their hands on it.  Those four have combined for 32 touchdowns on offense, defense and special teams.

LHS probably has the most talented receiving core in the league, led by Will Thompson (509 yards and three touchdowns), Erick Mayo (438 yards and eight touchdowns) and Drake Hofer (409 yards and five touchdowns).  In addition, LHS brings Tyrone Jenkins out of the backfield, and he's rushed for seven touchdowns and just under 500 yards to compliment Strauss' rushing efforts.

Free State has two of the league's leaders in tackles in Corban Schmidt (84) and Keith Loneker (65), while LHS' relatively balanced defense is led by two of their top tacklers, Hunter Harrelson (63) and Asaph Jewsome (55).  And you can't forget to talk about their lineman.  LHS' Kharon Brown has a motor like the Tasmanian Devil on the defensive side of the ball, while Free State is bolstered by the presence of their two most outstanding lineman, Cody Stanclift and Fred Wyatt.  

It's going to be a great game, maybe the best ever between the two teams.  A Free State victory would earn the Firebirds the top overall seed in Kansas 6A East.  An LHS victory would mean the number two overall seed and at least a share of the Sunflower League championship for the first time since 1993.  Plenty is at stake, regardless of the fact that they've both qualified for the playoffs.

SM South (4-4) at Olathe East (4-4) at CBAC

If it weren't for the Battle in Lawrence this would be the game of the week.  Olathe East has secured a playoff spot, but this game is huge for them in terms of building momentum heading into the playoffs.  For SM South this is a win or go home situation.  The Raiders sit at -5 in the district standings with a 1-1 record.  That's one point ahead of Blue Valley Northwest, also 1-1, who sits at -6.  Basically SM South can guarantee themselves a playoff berth if they beat Olathe East by 13 or more points.  Any win margin below that and they won't be guaranteed a playoff berth because Blue Valley Northwest has the head-to-head advantage and would be selected if there is a tie in point margin, or obviously a Blue Valley Northwest point advantage.  SM South isn't known as a big-time scoring offense so it's going to be like watching a chess match as they attempt to gain a lead and then potentially a 13-point lead.  Perhaps the biggest wildcard is the health of SM South running back Gabe Guild.  If he's not fully healthy it's going to be very difficult for the Raiders to do much offensively, let alone win by 13 points.

Olathe North (2-6) at Olathe South (5-3) at ODAC

This is also a win or go home situation.  The only difference between this one and the aforementioned game is that neither team has secured anything.  They both need to obtain a victory to advance and point differentials will have no impact.  Gardner-Edgerton (2-0) has sealed a playoff berth and their opponent Olathe Northwest (0-2) has been eliminated from playoff contention.  So the winner of this game will be the second team in the district with two wins, guaranteeing a playoff berth.  What to watch out for? Keep an eye on the intensity level Olathe South comes to play with.  The Falcons haven't played at a high level the past five weeks and if they expect to get through this game and suddenly flip the switch on in the playoffs they may be in for a rude awakening.  With a roster led by players like Remington Whitley, Frank Seurer, Matt Elliott and Braden Smith there's really no reason they should have lost three games this year.  On the other side of the ball, Gene Wier has his Olathe North club in a position where they can make the playoffs despite a pretty up-and-down campaign the previous eight weeks.  The Eagles rely heavily on their running backs Venus Triplett and Elbert Johnson, and if those guys can break some big runs early watch out.  If you remember, this game was a very touchy subject in the early 2000s.  In 2000 and 2001, Olathe South and Olathe North met with undefeated records, and on both occasions the Falcons lost and were left out of the playoffs (back then only one team advanced out of district).  We'll see if this game builds on that history in any way--for either team.

Olathe Northwest (2-6) at Gardner-Edgerton (5-3) at Gardner-Edgerton

As I mentioned earlier, I hope Olathe Northwest comes out guns blazing in this game and puts up a great final showing on their 2012 campaign.  The Ravens have been eliminated from playoff contention.  Gardner-Edgerton on the other hand has already claimed a playoff berth and a district championship.  A 13-point loss wouldn't even change that.  What I'm interested in is what the Trailblazers decide to do with their star running back, Traevohn Wrench.  His surge over the past five weeks has put him smack dab in the middle of the Simone Award talk and sitting him in this game (because the result has virtually no impact) could adversely impact his chances at the Simone Award.  My guess is that we see him for a half of work before he sits the second half, just to keep him fresh (and in the Simone talk).  Does Olathe Northweset have a funky defensive scheme to slow him down?  It's doubtful the way their defense has performed this year (and given that fact that Wrench has ripped two Sunflower League defenses to shreds already) but it's worth keeping an eye on.  The only opponent that's been able to slow Wrench this year was turf-toe.

SM North (0-8) at SM East (6-2) at SM South District Stadium

The only way this game turns out to be more than a blip on the district radar is if SM North can somehow pull out a victory and and get rid of the goose egg in their win column.  That seems unlikely at this point time, but if the Indians did win, and SM Northwest beats SM West, then SM East would be eliminated from making the playoffs.  I'll be interested to see if SM East works on establishing more of a running game in this one.  The Lancers ran the ball extremely well in the early portion of the season with running back Patrick Blackburn but they've moved away from the running game in recent weeks and it seems to be hurting them.  Look for SM East to spend much of the night touching up things here and there in the hopes of getting ready for what will be a challenging Regional Round playoff matchup.

SM West (7-1) at SM Northwest (2-6) at SM North District Stadium

As outlined in the previous game preview between SM North and SM East, it appears as though SM Northwest is close to being eliminated from playoff contention, unless they beat SM West and SM North pulls out a miracle victory over SM East.  But the hope is there, and those associated with both these schools know that their is a rivalry that exists, although it's not as formal as say SM West's game against SM East.  On the other sidelines, SM West has clinched a playoff spot.  Keep an eye on how many carries SM West running back Brett Sterbach has in the game.  I don't expect him to play much beyond the first half, assuming the Vikings can grab a comfortable lead.  Sterbach will be key to SM West's efforts in the playoffs and the wear and tear of running the football really begins to take its toll this time of year.

Leavenworth (3-5) at Wyandotte (5-3) a Wyandotte

We talk about moral victories and program-building seasons and why those may seem like cliche they really do hold true.  Leavenworth's playoff hopes have been eliminated but that shouldn't cloud up what has been one of the program's best seasons in years.  The Pioneers can improve on the final outcome when they face Wyandotte this Friday.  The game has no meaning beyond the final win/loss column, but a 4-5 record for Leavenworth would be a huge building point heading into the offseason.  The program has only had one season of four or more wins in the last 15 years that my archives date back to.

17 comments:

TheImpaler said...

TheImp’s week 9 picks. Last week 5-3 Season 38-14. Blah. All my upsets failed to pan out last week

LFS (2-0, 7-1) @ LAW (2-0, 7-1) The city championship and so much more…the loser goes on the road for the playoffs, the winner is a top 2 seed. Lawrence can also claim a share of the conference championship. Sacrilege, I know, but I still think from a high school perspective, McFarland is the better QB. Free State also has a better defense and a much better kicking game and they've played a tougher schedule. I’m just not seeing the plus side for the Lions in this one. LFS 33 LAW 24

LV (0-2, 3-5) @ WYAN (0-2, 5-3) The Pioneers really need this game to feel they made a step forward this season. 2-8 and a playoff blowout loss last year to 3-6 and no playoffs this year is not going to feel like moving ahead. 4-5 is a good step towards respectability. It’s going to be tougher on the road but I agree that Wyandotte can not play with any SFL team. LV 35 WYAN 16

SMW (2-0,7-1) @ SMNW (1-1,2-6) I hope the boys are focused on this game. Snooze through this one and everything you’ve work for this season can still slip away. I don’t think the Cougs will be any match for the Vikings and I’m sure Coach C kept the celebration to 1 day. SMW 48 SMNW 6

SME (1-1,6-2) @ SMN(0-2,0-8) You can bet the Lancers will have no trouble focusing on this game, it’s a must win and Coach Sherman had to have been unpleasant this week I’m sure. Indians just want to go home. SME 55 SMN 7

ON (1-1,2-6) @ OS(1-1,5-3) Falcons were glad to see GE put the Eagles down last week making this a simple win and get in game. If you look at the scores the last few weeks, one might feel North has pulled even or perhaps slightly ahead of the Falcons but I don’t think so. The Eagle D has been abysmal against good offenses this year and South still has a lot of speed going for them. I could see both teams scoring a lot of points here but still think the Falcons are better…for now. OS 41 ON 35

ONW (0-2,2-6) @ GE (2-0,5-3) G/E has already clinched this district so this game means only the difference between the 3 or 4 seed for them. Really not much to play for, one wonders how long Mr. Wrench will play. Tempting to take the upset but ONW just has not been able to get it done this year. GE 27 ONW 17

OE (2-0,4-4) @ SMS (1-1,4-4) The Dirty Orange Birds have NOT clinched this district in spite of what Eli posted. A Raider win and a Mustang win and the Raiders win this district. The Raiders are another team that has to win this week to feel like they’ve taken a step forward this year. A losing season will be a bitter disappointment after a 3-1 start. OE has looked pretty bad this year and got a lot of help from the weather and Husky mistakes last week. If Guild is good to go, this could be close and the Raiders are at home. I’m going to help them out and pick against them too so that should give them a boost. Go Raiders! OE 27 SMS 21

BVNW (1-1,4-4) @ BVN (0-2,1-7) The Huskies need help to make the playoffs but that help may be forthcoming. All they can do is shake off last week and take care of their own business this week. They’ve been up and down all season so this should be an up week especially against the hapless Mustangs. BVNW 31 BVN 17 [If you pick this game, I’ll count it even though it’s not a SFL game…if not, I won’t count it against you]

TheImpaler said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
TheImpaler said...

And G/E has not clinched the 3 seed. A G/E loss and an OE win would give the Hawks the 3 seed by better district record.

Eli Underwood said...

The KSHSAA manual states in section 2, that in the case of a three way tie, in which point spreads and head-to-head records are the same, the next factor in play is overall record. In which case SMW and SME would be selected over SMNW, if that were to happen.

TheImpaler said...

Also SMNW has definitely NOT been elimnated from playoff contention. A coug win and a Lancer loss and the cougs are in, in fact they would be district chammps by head ot head over West. If East wins, though, West is District champ and East is runner up regardless (Most overall wins/head to head West over East). So the Cougs need the Indians to win to get in. Good luck with that, Cougs.

SMS watcher said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SMS watcher said...

SMS-OE is at CBAC. Hopefully SMS is healthy and can put together a good effort. If SMS is healthy and can eliminate mistakes, they may be able to do what they need to do.

Free State Fan said...

Imp, the wise one - live long and prosper, my favorite blogger! I just love the defense of Free State and the offense has proven it can score on anyone with at least 28 points in every game - even against two, top SFL defenses (SME and SMW). Of course, I predict a FS win, I always do. I believe, as good as LAW is on offense, FS has faced many good offenses, forced lots of turnovers and made tons of stops against them all. That experience bodes very well in this game. The winner of this one will be the team that can hold onto the ball, stop the other one's offense and stay focused on football. In the end, I just don't think the LAW defense can stop FS enough times to win. That is what every game always comes down to... who can score the most. As great of a game as this will be, win or lose, both teams will have to set it aside and focus on prepping for the playoffs Saturday morning. Good Luck, 'Birds!

Wii Not Fit said...

The Free State vs. Lawrence match up will be a match up between arguably the league's top defense (FS) and arguably the league's top offense (LHS). Not to mention that Free State has a very high powered offense that can contended with anyone and Lawrence has a defense that has done a good job of shutting down opposing offenses. In my opinion the downfall for Lawrence High is their lack of a kicking game. Special teams is 1/3 of the game too. That being said, I think both teams are incredibly solid, however I think Free State is the more complete team and will pull out the win in this one.

Seth said...

LHS vs LFS...Will be a great game with lots of terrific kids and talent on the field. With that said I look for Strauss to further set himself apart from the rest of the league. (Remember he did not play LFS last year due to injury}, Reading comments in the local paper, seems like a few kids at LFS are taking this as just another game, where LHS is looking to make a statement. I have no doubt this will be a classic, in the end I stand by what I've said all year this team is hands down the best team in the Sunflower League. A week one loss has kept them "with the pack" all year. Time for seperation. LHS 34 LFS 21

Slugger said...

Slugger picks week 9!

LFS @ LAW - I wish I could be there for this game. I think LFS will slip by with a win, but nothing would surprize me about this game. Two very good, evenly matched teams with the two best quarterbacks. It doesn't get any better than that. LFS 35 LAW 28

LV @ WYN - Rooting for the Pioneers but will they be able to get them selves back on track after two devestating losses? I say yes. LV 28 - Wyn 13

SMW @ SMNW - SMW in a route. SMW 49 - SMNW 6

SME @ SMN - SME in a route. SME 35 - SMN 0

ON @ OS - Maybe the second most intriguing game on the docket. Is ON improved? Can OS pull out of their funk? I call OS 33 - ON 14

ONW @ GE - Only worth paying attention to here is how long will T-Wrench play? I say he scores two touchdowns on the first two times he touches the ball. GE 44 - ONW 0

SMS @ OE - Without a healthy Guild, SMS is doomed. OE 21 - SMS 6

I'm not picking BVNW vs BVN cause I just don't care.

Peace out - RIP PITT 80

footballer21 said...

BVNW
OE
GE
OS
SME
SMW
LEAV
FS

MahValley said...

Don't have time to give a run down on each game so it is short and sweet again;

LFS
LV
SMW
SME
OS
GE
SMS
BVNW just to help pad the stats;)

Seth said...

I will add this to my argument. LFS has arguably the best defense in the league. And in many of there high scoring games they have had several defensive scores to add to that point total. Where LHS's point totals have come directly from there offense.

1. Strauss has 31 combined touchdowns 18 passing (2 interceptions), 13 rushing touchdowns (1 debated fumble)...Strauss will not give LFS the opportunity to score defensively.

2. LFS has not encountered an offense that has 4 legitimate Recievers, 3 of which are in the top seven in the league, and a workhorse of an RB who has 7 TD's in 5 games played with no fumbles, and who single handedly beat them 20-0 last year when Strauss was hurt.

3. Offensive lines are of about the exact same size...this will most likely be a wash. However out of all starters Kharon Brown and Stanclift stand out....great matchup

4. Achilles heel could be the kicking game which has been much improved the last two weeks albeit was against Leavenworth and Wyandotte.


LHS will not play to LFS strength and turnover the ball. With that said a few key stops here and there by both teams, and the LHS offense will prove to be the difference.

My main hope is for a physical tough game that sees no injuries, so both teams can represent Lawrence with deep runs in the playoffs...who knows maybe we get a part 2 game in sub-state!

Who's Your Daddy said...

Law vs LFS -I've been touting the Chesty's all year. Lawrence wins. Law 28 LFS 21

LV over WYANDOTTE

SMW Over SMNW

SME over SMN

GE Over ONW

BVNW over BVN

OE over SMS

ON vs OS If North uses Josh Moore like the weapon he could be they will pull off the win. What a compliment to have Triplett, and Moore on the play action. Upset special ON 27 OS 24

Who's Your Daddy said...

Law vs LFS -I've been touting the Chesty's all year. Lawrence wins. Law 28 LFS 21

LV over WYANDOTTE

SMW Over SMNW

SME over SMN

GE Over ONW

BVNW over BVN

OE over SMS

ON vs OS If North uses Josh Moore like the weapon he could be they will pull off the win. What a compliment to have Triplett, and Moore on the play action. Upset special ON 27 OS 24

The Biscuit said...

Pick Em
Chesty Lions
Hawks
Falcons
GE
Lancers
Vikings
Pioneers