Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Impact of Winning the Sunflower League Crown

Fritz Wilbur and Olathe South ran through their
2011 Sunflower League schedule undefeated
on the way to winning the 6A state title.
There's always discussion about the importance of winning a Sunflower League championship.  I took a look back at the last decade of Sunflower League champions to provide a more detailed basis for how these teams performed in the playoffs.

For those unfamiliar with Sunflower League standings, here is the rule: In even years (such as 2012) the last seven regular season games against Sunflower League opponents counts towards a team's Sunflower League record.  In odd years, the first seven regular season games against Sunflower League opponents count towards a team's Sunflower League record.  Prior to the 2008 season, only six games were counted.

What makes this tricky is that many schools will play out-of-league teams in districts, which makes league schedules variable from team to team.  For instance, through six weeks this year, two teams have played six league games, six teams have played five league games, and four teams have played four league games.

The breakdown of the 2012 season is listed below.  Each team's overall record is listed first, followed by their league records, to date.  Below that is a synopsis of past league champions.

Current Sunflower League Standings
1. Lawrence (5-1, 5-0)
2. SM West (5-1, 4-0) 
3. Free State (5-1, 4-1)
4. SM East (5-1, 3-1)
5. Olathe South (4-2, 3-2)
---teams below this line have been eliminated from winning a league title in 2012---
6. SM South (3-3, 3-3)
7. Leavenworth (3-3, 2-3)
8. Olathe Northwest (2-4, 2-3)
9. Olathe East (2-4, 2-4)
10. Olathe North (1-5, 1-4)
11. SM Northwest (1-5, 0-4)
12. SM North (0-6, 0-4) 

Champion: Olathe South (12-1, 7-0)
Results:  Including the playoffs, the Falcons finished 10-0 against league foes, and capped off a tremendous season by beating Wichita Heights 41-37 to win the 6A State Championship.  Their one loss came in week six on the road at Blue Valley Northwest.  But as far as league competition went, Olathe South dominated everyone they played including handing Olathe East (10-2) both of their losses, one in district play and one in the Sub-State.

Olathe East (10-2, 6-1)
Olathe North (11-2, 6-1)
SM East (8-2, 6-1)
SM West (7-3, 6-1)
Results: This was one of those weird years when four teams each claimed a share of the league title.  SM West and SM East both bowed out in Regionals.  Olathe North and Olathe East met in Sub-State, where Olathe North came away with a 13-6 victory.  The Eagles were hammered the next week in the 6A state title game, losing to Wichita Heights 48-14.

Champion: Olathe North (13-0, 7-0)
Results: Led by dynamic Simone Award-winning running back James Franklin, Olathe North steamrolled the rest of the league en route to the state championship game.  They defeated Wichita Heights 37-3 to claim the 6A title.  Olathe Norths' closest game of the season came in their Sub-State matchup with Blue Valley where a go-ahead field goal with 33 second left gave the Eagles a 16-14 victory.

SM West shared a league title with Olathe East
in 2008, much the help of All-State running
back Darron Harvey.
Olathe East (9-1, 7-0)
SM West (9-1, 7-0) 
Results: This was a strange turn of events.  Not only did the two best regular season teams in the league not face off during the regular season, but they also both lost in the first round of the playoffs.  Olathe East played poorly against rival Olathe North and dropped their Regional game. SM West inexplicably showed up to their Regional game without their 1,600-yard running back Darron Harvey suited up (Harvey's mysterious suspension, by all accounts, cost SM West a state title that year), and the Vikings fell to Blue Valley Northwest.

Champion: SM Northwest (9-2, 6-0)
Results: The Cougars were so excited about winning a league title that they lost sight of the greater goal of the season.  At least that's what I've always thought.  They lost in week nine to Olathe East, ruining their perfect regular season, then fell in the Sectional Round to Olathe North, a team they had trounced earlier in the year.

Lawrence Free State (11-1, 6-0)
SM West (12-1, 6-0)
Results: There couldn't have been two better teams to share a league title than these clubs six years ago.  Let's put it this way--everyone knew Free State and SM West were the best two teams in the league, it was just a matter of when they would finally meet up.  Since they weren't scheduled to play during the regular season, and since both were slated on opposite sides of the Kansas 6A East bracket, they didn't meet up until Sub-State.  The game that ensued was, in my opinion, the most hyped Sunflower League game of the 21st Century.  SM West won 31-14, but fell a week later to Hutchinson in the 6A title game, 21-14. 

Olathe East (12-1, 6-0)
Olathe South (9-2, 6-0)
SM West (9-2, 6-0)
Results: There were four teams who dominated the league in 2005--LHS, OE, OS and SMW--the latter three came away with shares of the league championship.  Olathe East defeated SM West in Sectionals while Olathe South lost to Lawrence in the round.  Olathe East beat Lawrence in Sub-State and advanced to the 6A title game where they lost to Hutchinson, 24-7.

Olathe North won the league crown outright in
2004.  How good were they?  They had a Gore
brother (Jason, above) on the team who didn't
even play running back, because his twin, Justin
was occupying the position.  Not to mention
little brother Josh, who saw little playing time
as a sophomore running back on the roster.
Champion: Olathe North (12-1, 6-0)
Results: It's a shame this Olathe North team didn't win a title.  I think they match up with Olathe North's 2000 unit as the best team I've ever seen play in the Sunflower League.  Nobody could touch Olathe North in 2004.  They were too big, too fast, too physical and too damn good to lose.  They were in 5A that season and played Salina South for the state title.  If the two teams played 100 times Olathe North would have won 95 of the games.  A fluke knee injury to Olathe North's quarterback Dustin Moomau basically resulted in 21-point swing in the second half, as the Eagles fell 21-14 in overtime.

Champion: Olathe East (10-1, 6-0)
Results: I remember watching the Hawks play in 2003 and marveling at how much talent they possessed--Andre Jones, Anthony Parks, Derek Miller, Todd Haselhorst--each a Sunflower League legend in their own right.  How this team lost to a 5-5 Blue Valley North club in Sectionals remains a mystery to this day.  I'll say this--Olathe East alumni from that team have told me that it wasn't the loss that hurt the most.  What hurt the most was seeing a three-loss Olathe North team go on to win the 6A state title two weeks later.  A team they had previously defeated.


TheImpaler said...

Still Curious if SMW and LAW win out and tie, would their "non-conference" head to head game be used as a tie-breaker or would they be co-champions?

The Biscuit said...

Don't think so bc if that were true than the first tie breaker would be best overall record then it would go to head to head... There'd be a lot of teams with out shared titles ie the 4 way in 2010. But it's kinda looking like that this year too if SME best SMW and LHS beats LFS.

Govannon Grey said...

There are no tie breakers for the Sunflower League Championship.

Eli Underwood said...

Like Govannon said, there are no tiebreakers--just league record given the constraints.

For instance, Olathe East defeated Olathe North in 2010 during a "league" game, but both teams finished the league slate 6-1 and both were given a share of the league title.