|SM West defeated SM East 30-25 last year. PVPost.com
SM East (6-1) at SM West (6-1) at SM South District Stadium
The annual battle for the Nut Cup has produced some sensational games in the past few seasons. The 2010 game saw the two programs square off with 6-1 records. SM East pulled ahead in the third quarter and came away with a 21-10 victory, the Lancers' first win in the rivalry in over 15 years. Last season they both met with 4-3 records, and SM West took back the Nut Cup with a strong 30-25 victory. This time around, the teams are once again meeting with 6-1 records, but much more in terms of playoff implications could be on the line.
The winner will almost certainly win out and claim either the first or second seed in 6A East. This is huge, because it ensures a first round matchup against the seventh or eighth seed in the bracket, which should be a fairly manageable Regional Round victory. The loser will likely enter the playoffs as the fifth or sixth seed. Based on the way things are playing out, the most likely opponent for the sixth seed will be the red-hot club from Gardner-Edgerton, someone who could run the table in the playoffs. While there's alot that could happen to change that, it will very likely be the first round matchup of the loser of this game (especially if Free State wins out).
In terms of the game itself, I'm looking foward to seeing how SM West's line is able to do against SM East's linebacking core. The Stewart Twins, Sam and David, Patrick Blackburn, Kyle Ball and Ryan Carter have made life miserable for opposing running backs all season. Can they do the same when they face SM West's offensive attack, led by running back Brett Sterbach? That aspect of the game will likely swing the pendulum in favor of the winning club. Another, less obvious but perhaps just as important matchup will be seeing how Jordan Darling is able to do passing against the SM West secondary. The Vikings lost safety Robert Rice to a season-ending tibia injury last week, so they'll have to replace him. Their bookend corners, Andre Maloney and Kez Demby have played very well this season, but they struggled in week two against Free State and Kyle McFarland. How they perform against Darling will be a great insight into how much they've developed at the corner position, and also the kind of impact not having Rice will make on the secondary. Losing Rice certainly won't help the Vikings, but it might be a rallying cry for the remainder of their season.
Olathe East (3-4) at Blue Valley Northwest (4-3) (Thursday Night Game) at BVDAC
This is another one of our "Student vs. Mentor" games this season. Blue Valley Northwest head coach Mike Zegunis served as an assistant on Jeff Meyers' staff at Olathe East for years before taking the head coaching job with Blue Valley Northwest in 2005. But in terms of style offensively, these two teams couldn't be any more different. Olathe East has been relying heavily on their three-back Power-I formation all season, staying away from the pass as much as possible. Blue Valley Northwest features a high-octane spread offense with plenty of speed at every position. It should be an interesting clash of styles, to say the least.
Blue Valley North (1-6) at SM South (3-4) (Thursday Night Game) at SM South District Stadium
This year's Blue Valley North club isn't nearly as bad as the team they put on the field last year. And for that, SM South better be prepared. There hasn't been an official report on the status of the Raider's running back Gabe Guild, but it would be surprising if he's anywhere near 100% the way he was limping towards the end of the team's game with Blue Valley Northwest. That being said, Guild is one of the toughest players in the league and unless it's broken I fully expect him to be suited up and carrying the ball 20+ times. After all, a loss here, for either team, spells an end to playoff hopes. That alone should make this a highly intense game throughout.
Lawrence Free State (6-1) at Leavenworth (3-4) at Leavenworth Stadium
The Pioneers are in a tough position. Not only are they faced with an elimination game (from the playoffs) but they also happen to be facing arguable the league's best team (a week after playing another one of the league's best teams). Leavenworth has accomplished a ton this year in terms of momentum for their program, but I can assure you they're not satisfied just yet. Hopefully they let their top skill position players like Isaiah Ross and Jason Randall touch the ball as many times as possible to help neutralize the speed advantage of Free State and potentially make this a competitive game. For the Firebirds a victory here would likely seal a playoff berth if their crosstown rival Lawrence wins. Funny how that works.
Lawrence (6-1) at Wyandotte (5-2) at Wyandotte
If I were LHS the one thing I would be most concerned about with playing at Wyandotte would be the distractions of a completely different playing environment. First there's the long bus ride, which will probably take over and hour. They'll be playing at a field and stadium that they've never experienced before and they'll be playing an unfamiliar opponent on top of that. But based on the way Free State handled Wyandotte last week I don't expect LHS to have any problems coming away with a W in this one. LHS will probably be working vigorously to build a big first half lead so that they can rest their starters for the second half. This will help in avoiding as much wear and tear as possible leading up to their week nine showdown with Free State.
Gardner-Edgerton (4-3) at Olathe North (2-5) at ODAC
Something makes me think Gene Wier may have something up his sleeve in this game. Whatever the outcome, it's not going to be pretty for the Eagles if they can't slow down Traevohn Wrench, who just last week rushed for over 300 yards against Olathe South. Stopping Wrench will be the Eagles' first, second and probably third priority in this game. Wrench is key to everything Gardner-Edgerton does, so how well or poorly he performs will almost guarantee the outcome of the game. This isn't an elimination or playoff clinching battle for either team, but it should be a fun matchup of coaching legends in Wier and Gardner-Edgertons' head man, Marvin Diener.
Olathe South (4-3) at Olathe Northwest (2-5) at CBAC
With both teams sitting at 0-1 in district play this more or less becomes a do-or-die kind of matchup. On one hand the district could play out that one team finishes 3-0 while the three others finish 1-2. In that case the district runner-up would come down to point differentials. I don't think either of these teams wants to be in that predicament, especially defending state champ Olathe South. The Falcons have been pretty disappointing in their past four games, losing three. A victory here could be what they need to get back on track and potentially make a playoff run (something I think they're more than capable of). Olathe Northwest is going to come out guns blazing, and I'm anxious to see just how competitive (if at all) this game turns out to be.
SM Northwest (1-6) at SM North (0-7) at SM North District Stadium
The Hula Bowl peaked in the early 2000s when SM North was led by current SM East Athletic Director Sam Brown, and SM Northwest by current SM West assistant coach Scott Diebold. SM North has really fallen off the map in the last decade and SM Northwest (albeit a successful run in the late 2000s) finds themselves with just one win to date in the 2012 season. By all means these teams have been disappointing. But, a rivalry victory can change all of that. The winner can at least head into the offseason saying they defeated the despicable school they share a border with. Also, the winner will keep their playoff hopes alive. Neither team has an easy week nine game (SM Northwest plays SM West and SM North plays SM East) but hope is a good thing, especially late in the season with the Kansas district formats.