Eli Underwood's musings on high school football in the Sunflower League
Well, last recap from me this year.Let me start off with positives. Although the score wouldn't show it, I think this may be by far the best I've seen the SMS defense play (I didn't see the Leavenworth Game). SMS was constantly stopping OE. Unfortunately, on at least 2 times, SMS fumbled the punt and OE Got the ball back inside the SMS 20. On another time, SMS fumbled on the 25 on the first play after a kick off. OE scored 3 TD's on drives that started inside the SMS 30. OE also picked off a pass in the 4th quarter and returned it 81 yards for a TD. So 4 of the 5 OE TD's were off SMS gifts -- common theme in the SMS losses. OE did have one decent 60 yardish drive. Other than that, SMS D really played above expectations. The SMS D were on the field most of the night.Positive 2 -- I don't believe there was one center/QB exchange tonight which I believe was a first this season.Positive 3 -- SMS effort was there all game. Down 27-3 in the fourth, SMS fumbled the kick off. OE got the ball down to the 1. OE went for it on fourth and 1 and SMS stuffed Blazevick.Gabe Guild wasn't himself. It was obvious his ankle was bothering him and he couldn't make cuts or accelerate like I've become accustomed to him doing for the last 2 years (Didn't watch the games 3 years ago when my son was a Freshman). I feel sorry that that's the way he had to end his stellar career at South. South ran wildcat and passed a lot more than normal. They moved the ball fairly well passing in the first 3 quarters. A couple drops that probably should have been touchdowns hurt.I'll end this saying I was very impressed by SMS's effort this year (as opposed to week 9 last year where it looked like they didn't want to be there). SMS has a lot of starters returning next year. I hope they work hard and get their winning season next year.
Sooooo:(1) LFS (8-1)ON (3-6)(2) SMW (8-1)BVNW (5-4)(3) GE (6-3)LAW (7-2)(4) OE (5-4)SME (7-2)LOVE the matchups! LAW/GE should be very intersting...and I hope the smeasters just kick the living crap out of the Hawks. Almost hope GE wins so Vikes get at least two home games otherwise they would probably be in Lawrence two weeks in a row. Oh, and time for a little revenge on the Huskies for 2008. Hopefully Sterbach is not going to be suspended for the game......
Hey Congrats SMW -- Sole Sunflower League Champions -- right?
Oh, dear, I was right...Wichita North at 1-8 is in the playoffs. SURELY something has to be done now? Really?
Thanks, watcher...yes solo League champs. Sorry about the Raiders, they were so close this year. Next year may be a rebuilding year but you're got a good coach, they will continue to improve.
I don't really think next year will be rebuilding. Yes, Guild is maybe a once in a lifetime talent. SMS will loose a QB, FB, a couple of guards, MLB,OLB, and a couple of corners and receivers. But, the OL should get one of the twins who started as a sophomore back along with 3 returning starters (including the other twin -- and another player who started against BVN. Really, 4 "returning" starters on the OL and the TE are back. I think there are 6 returning starters on offense and 7 returning defensive starters.Definitely need to work on taking care of the ball. IF only . . .
And in the West (this is ludicrous):(1) Derby (9-0)Wichita North (108)(2) Hutchinson (7-2)Wichita Heights (7-2)(3) Wichita Northwest (6-3)Topeka High (8-1)(4) Manhattan (6-3)Dodge City (4-5)This is just a quick calculation on scratch paper but I think it's right..there's a lot of three way ties.
SMW solo Sunflower League Champs???? Why??? Law Free State has same record as SMW.
Only the last 7 league games of the season count for league championships. LFS is 6-1, SMW is 7-0
SM South seemed to fumble the ball more than any team I saw in the SL this season. I think under Lonergan they've really improved in terms of technique, strength, conditioning, playcalling, and getting the ball in the hands of their best players, but it's the little things that held them back this season. SM South isn't going anywhere--but up.
My takeaways from the game last night, Eli since you were there, I'm interested in what you saw also.1. An ugly win is better than no win. FS seemed to make its biggest plays on broken plays. Two touchdown drives were assisted on long 3rd and 4th down conversions that had obvious holds in the backfield where McFarland (who played well) ran for 20+ yards both times. One of those drives also assisted by the non interception by Thompson that took what seemed like 5-6 minutes to overturn. I had never seen it take so long to make a call in a High School game. The batted in the air pick 6 in the 4th quarter is what it is. At the end of the day Free State overcame, played very hard and probably benefitted from really knowing the LHS players well and their coaching staff did a great job getting them ready.2. If we're picking teams and I get to pick first, I am always taking Brad Strauss first, without question. Best player I have seen since Moomau ( not as good but best since)3. With that being said, Eric Mayo was clearly the best athlete on the field last night. His closing speed on D was his best this year and he had McFarland beat deep but the play went incomplete, a yard or two more in the air that was probably a TD, not to mention that bone jarring hit he put on the FS receiver who looked to be pulling in a long completion.4. Size matters. FS has it, LH doesn't. I fear playing both ways which many LH players do, is going to be difficult for LH to sustain stamina to win 4 straight games against teams that every week are going to be bigger than they are. Colder weather is going to call for more ground and pound, they will see that against GE, SMW and FS not to mention Hutch or Derby.5.The horrid kicking game is ultimately going to be LH's demise. Unreal to me a school of 1600 can not find 1 kid who can kick off, punt or make and extra point, especially when your soccer team is making a deep playoff run also. If every drive has to end with 6, you are going to leave alot on the table. Field position in the playoffs is paramount. This is their achilles heel without doubt.6. At the end of the day it was a highly entertaining game, both teams played hard and kudos to FS for earning the dub. I wouldn't be shocked by a rematch with different results but there are a couple of long weeks before that can happen.On a side note, congrats to SMW for winning the Sunflower League. Something our coaches down play "we only count State Championships" an attitude that makes smoke come out of my ears everytime I hear it, but winning the Sunflower League is a tremendous accomplishment. Good luck to all the SL teams in the playoffs.
Nice post Mr. Carnahan, I couldn't agree more. One thing I would add is our Offensive Line was dominated last night...need a tough week of practice to get there attention. Brad was sacked more last night than all year. Hat's off to LFS, we'll meet again.To KHSAA, please instruct your officials on what holding is, might be helpful to know, blatant blown calls last night
Speaking of holding... the clinic the d-line of FS put on the o-line of LAW was in a word... beholding. Fred Wyatt, in particular, was held repeatedly as he ran through, around and by the left side of the LAW o-line all night. LAW had 44 rushing yards for the game (Straus 35, most of which came on one run in the 1st possession) and totally had to abandon the run - which was Wedd's halftime speech to the TV crew as his key to the game in order to win. Eight sacks, a forced fumble, a pick six. They did it all. After the first LAW drive, it was 28-8 FS the rest of the way. As I mentioned, it would be the FS D that would make the most stops and win the game. I LOVE THE FS DEFENSE and yes, it may not be as glamorous to speak defense with all the offense number junkies around, but D still wins championships. I do not love the first 7, last 7 format to determine a league champ. Congrats to SMW for winning the last 7, but lest we forget the two 8-1 overall teams did meet head-to-head and FS won that one. Can someone please influence KSHSAA to adopt a 4-league, 8-team district format so all leagues can do a true round-robin and stop the madness? Way to go, 'Birds!
Just have to get this off my chest. I am so disappointed in Olathe South's season. Going from 6A State Champions to not even making the playoffs? Really? With all that returning talent? The wheels definitely came off the bus. I have a few theories as to why this came to be if you will indulge me:1. Lack of team leadership by the seniors. Yes, there were many talented individuals on that team, but nobody stepped up to assume a leadership role; they did not come together as a team. 2. Lack of emotion. Didn't see much passion out there or for that matter even seeming to care at all...Didn't see anyone getting fired up on the field or on the sidelines. The student body did their best to be supportive and for the most part they were great. But it's hard to have much to cheer about when your team is not doing well or making plays.3. Predictability. However, this was also the case last year. The team ran the same offensive and defensive schemes basically and yet was able to earn a state title with them last year. I think the difference hinges on the offensive and defensive lines in large part. Frankie and the running backs didn't have a lot of time or a lot of holes, it seemed like. And the linebackers couldn't be as productive when the defensive line wasn't doing their part well.I guess my main point is this: There are a lot of folks out there who might point blame at the coaching staff, but I would like to say that much of the blame for a lackluster season belongs with the boys. It's such a shame and a waste of talent. You've got to want it! Guess that make's last year's state championship that much sweeter. Still, I'm sad that the South boys will not be experiencing the Friday Night Lights any more.
I think you're right southsider...you can excuse the losses to SME, LAW and GE, they're all pretty good teams but to lose the last week against a mediocre ON team in a do or die game speaks to a lack of desire/want to. Not to dog any individual kids but as a team the emtional level just was not there this year. Certainly they had the talent to do better than they did.
To Southsider. I would agree our boys did not play with the passion needed for a rivalry, winner is in type game. But I will tell you the team has lost confidence in their coach and what he is trying to do as a whole for many games now. He has no idea how to coach to the talent he has or an ability to adjust to what the defense is doing to him. He has been outcoached in most games this year, even some they have won. At 5-4, the Falcons easily could have been 2-7. every team knew exactly what we were doing and how to stop us, but we refused to make adjustments to give the kids a chance. As fun as it was to win state last year, it may have been the worst thing for the future of OS football unless changes are made. Sad for the boys, disappointed in the coach!
At the start of the year I thought that there were no bad coaches in this league. I have to revise this opinion.Some coaches have their hands tied due to shear lack of numbers AND talent. Some coaches have kids playing both ways that should be playing only one way and they play kids one way that should be playing both.Then there are the coaches that have talent and come up with some real head scratching offensive/defensive game plans.Lastly, nearly every team has at least one player capable of playing at the next level for a 4 year type school, some teams have more than one. This league can be a gold mine for the Community College level.
As for O-South. There was a strong disconnect between the head coach and the players. It was clear that by mid way through the season, he had lost the team. I'm not sure why. Last year, Gourley went away from a two platoon system and played many players both ways including 3 of his offensive linemen. This year only one lineman played both ways. For whatever reason, he went away from that this year. Gourley has always been quick to take credit for the success last year. It would be interesting to hear his take on why they struggled this year with so much returning talent. I will say, South has some very fine assistant coaches. Good men and good coaches.
Great comments and observations by everyone. Let's keep this going through the playoffs and into the future.A few of my takes on the LHS vs. Free State game:1. Strauss is as fast in pads as any player in the league. I know LHS has limited his carries to preserve him through the year but I hope that leash comes off next week when they play GE. He had one run against Free State of 40 or so yards that had everybody in the stadium saying "did he just do that?" To beat GE he's going to need to have a couple of those. And to Rev's point, yes, he's probably the most dynamic player since Moomau.2. Free State has the best secondary in the league. Part of the reason? Their defensive line and linebackers do an excellent job of putting pressure on quarterbacks and forcing bad throws. It doesn't hurt that they have a 6-3 corner (McFarland) and a 6-2 safety (Dineen) not to mention the 5-11 Bobo who is true a blanket cover corner.3. Every seat in the house was full at Lawrence High Stadium and the standing room only crowd covered the entirety of the area past the north endzone. It was great to see two fanbases providing such great support for their respective teams, in a regular season game.4. Free State's Blake Winslow (6-0, 210) is the most deceptively fast player I've seen in a long time.5. LHS' Kharon Brown would be D1 bound if he was bigger (he's 5-10, 220). I know you could say that about many players in the league, but Brown is a complete animal on the field. He had a few hits on McFarland that echoed through the stadium. He's going to need to have a big game against Traevohn Wrench.
I think most if not all of the blame for what happened to South this season should be put on gourley, he was given Probly the most talented throwing quarterback in the league an a stable of unbelievably talented skill players but instead of using them he tried to ground and pound with an undersized offensive line that simply wasn't physically capable of running over defenses. This style worked last year because the offensive lines was massive an just overpowered defenses. Gourley just refused to change his system to the players he had. I think he got a big head after last year and refused to accept that his way wouldn't work with this group of players. If he opens up that offense and runs a LHS style spread South would probably be top of the league looking to repeat right now. I thought the falcon defense was solid all year and was really hurt by the offenses inability to move the ball. Sometimes coaches need to stop being stubborn about how their way always works an play with the cards they're dealt. Sad to see those talented kids play their hearts out just to be screwed over by their coach in the end.
I completely agree with all of your comments Eli, especially the last two. Kharon Brown probably has the best combination of strength and quickness in the league and as you said if he were 6'3 280 he could write his ticket to any D1 school he wanted. My observations from Friday night was that the combination of Fred Wyatt and Cody Stanclift might be the best defensive end combo in the state. Both of these guys have D1 offers (Fred from Northwestern and Cody from Army). Those two demand double teams and when they aren't getting double teamed the are making plays and when they are getting double teamed they free up Free State's stellar line backing core to make plays. And like you said, the secondary is incredible. I'm looking forward to a very possible LHS vs. FS round 2.
I'm looking forward to SMW-LFS round 2. We'll see.
SMW wont get past LHS
Strauss vs. Wrench should be a great battle. The winner will keep their name in Simone contention, although I feel both will be Simone finalists.
That's funny because I don't think you'll get past Gardner!
Footballer21 i think the coaching across most of the the sunflower league is guilty of the same thing; Using the same offense and defense they used the year before and the year before that, ETC. Olathe South had talent but not the same talent they had last year with their running game, so the same offense does not make sense. From the games I watched teams like OE, OS, ONW, BVNW, trying to force their kids to play away that did not fit their capabilities. The coaching staff on the most part is boring and they do not evaluate their players for the talent they truly have. What a disappointment at the high school level. FCCJC coaching was soooo much better!
I could not agree more, you don't see the patriots running the ball up the middle every play when they have tom brady at QB. But that was what gourley was doing this season
One exception to this is Coach Callaghan at SMW. He's gone in very different directions this year. A lot more passing as AJ has developed, gone to a LOT more blitzes instead of his usual read and react defensive style and it's really paid off in QB sacks. Onside kicks to start games and fake punts. He's like a wild man this year. Hopefully he won't take it so far as to jump to a 5 wide spread offense against BVNW like he did the last time we played them in the playoffs!
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