Friday, November 23, 2012

6A State Championship Game Preview

AJ Verdini. KC Star.
Hutchinson (10-2) vs.
SM West (11-1)
Where:Yager Stadium, Topeka
When: 1 p.m., Saturday
Radio: Sports Radio 810 WHB
TV: KC Metro Sports (TWC channel 30)
Computer Spread: Hutchinson +6.3
Last Meeting: Hutchinson won, 21-14, in the 6A state title game in 2006.

What's at Stake
There's always a ton on the line in state title games but this one truly has history riding on it.  For Hutchinson a win would be their eighth state title in nine seasons.  By comparison, Olathe North's dynasty of the late 1990s and early 2000s brandished seven titles in eight seasons (they lost the effort for an eighth against Salina South in 2004).  Lawrence High's dynasty is still the benchmark--10 state titles in 17 seasons--but a Hutchinson win would leave them just two titles away from LHS' mark in a much shorter time period.

SM West's last state championship came in 1985 when they defeated Dodge City 24-0.  Since that time the Vikings have appeared in the title game once, in 2006, where they lost to Hutchinson by a touchdown.  The '85 title was not only the last time SM West claimed a football championship, but also the last of its kind for the Shawnee Mission School District.  A win for the Vikings would not only erase the title droughts but also provide some hope that Hutchinson is perhaps mortal.  As it stands now the Hutchinson dynasty isn't going anywhere.  The only way to slow it is to line up and beat them--a tall order that very few teams have been able to accomplish over the last decade.

Championship History

Obviously Hutchinson's history in the state championship game is well documented.  The Salthawks won 6A titles in 2004, '05, '06 and '07, and 5A titles in '08, '09 and '11.  Their lone runner-up finish came against Olathe North in the 2003 6A title game.  SM West has previously appeared in seven state titles--four in the 1970s, two in the 1980s, and one in 2006--winning twice in 1972 and 1985.

The 2006 title game between these two was one of the hardest fought state championship games of the last decade, and it really wasn't over until SM West fumbled inside the Hutchinson 10-yard line with just under a minute left.  You can bet the mistakes from that game have been replaying in SM West head coach Tim Callaghan's mind off and on for the last six years and this game will be all about a chance at redemption.  The Salthawks play as hard and with as much confidence as any team in the Midwest.  How else do you explain their run of state titles?  

What to Expect 

Keep an eye on two things--big plays and turnovers.  When these two met in 2006 SM West turned the ball over three times, twice on fumbles and once on an interception.  Hutchinson did a better job, only giving the ball away once on an interception on a long third down try that proved to be more like a punt.  In terms of big plays SM West managed one lengthy kick return but little else.  Hutchinson had three plays of over 40 yards.  That adds up to Hutchinson +2, SM West -2.  It showed as the Salthawks won 21-14.

It will be the difference on Saturday.  SM West linebackers Max Bullard, Marquan Osbey and Rashaun Owens will have their toughest assignment of the season trying to slow the Salthawks' fullback gives while also supporting outside runs.  SM West screwed up one play in particular against Hutchinson in 2006--the first play of the second half--where one of their linebackers line up incorrectly allowing a gaping whole for an 80-yard touchdown run by Hutchinson.  SM West's linebackers will have to be calculated in their efforts.

Hutchinson doesn't pass the ball very often but when they do it goes for big chunks of yardage.  Quarterback Trevor Turner averages over 20 yards per pass completion.  Many secondaries get lulled to sleep and then miss it when the Salthawks' swing a wing back out of the backfield on a wheel route or toss a long pass to top receiver Evan Gaines-Grissom.  It's essential that SM West's starting corners,  Andre Maloney and Ben Lake, maintain their discipline to the pass first before helping out in the run game.

Special teams will obviously play a major role and if the game is close it could be the difference.  You only have to look as far as SM West's Sub-State game with Free State this past week to gauge the impact errors (Free State's self-inflicted blocked punts) or big plays (Joey Reed's two long field goals and the Maloney return for a touchdown) can have on a football game between two relatively even matched opponents.

Offensively the Vikings will need to use their passing game to loosen up the Hutchinson defense.  In 2006 it was SM West's passing game that had the most success against a stiff Salthawk opposition.  This time around it could be much of the same.  Hutchinson will load the box, regardless of how the Vikings are doing through the air.  Quarterback AJ Verdini must come up with big completions.  It will be interesting to see the attention the Salthawks pay to Maloney given how well he's done on big play the throughout the season.

Lastly, Brett Sterbach needs to run the ball well.  Half of that will be dependent on the offensive line but his own efforts will be paramount.  In he 2006 game SM West's running back JD Steffen only averaged 3.1 yards on his 16 carries and his fourth quarter fumble in Hutchinson territory killed the Vikings' momentum.  Sterbach must play one of his best games of the season.  I'm not saying he needs to rush for 300 yards for the Vikings to have a shot at winning, but he needs to protect the football and break a few long runs to keep things honest.


TheImpaler said...

TheImp's Week 13 pick. Last week: 1-1 Season: 51-17

SM WEST (11-1) vs. HUTCHINSON (10-2) I like the Vikes. I think West's 3-5 defensive scheme is perfect to contain the flex bone and will be the best defense Hutch has seen this year, with all due respect to Derby who played a very weak schedule. Meanwhile Sterbach will get his yards and Verdini and Maloney will pose real problems for the Salthawk D. Was surprised we didn't see the Maloney/Sterbinator wildcat at all against LFS, I think you'll see it in this game to mix things up. West is in peak form heading into this grudge match. SWM 35 HUTCH 24

Eli Underwood said...

I'm sure looking forward to it. Hopefully SM West can build on the Sunflower League momentum in the 6A title game that Olathe South established last year.

My hope is that the Vikes can come out and avoid the nervous errors that have plagued Sunflower League teams in the title game in the past. It's tough playing in a state title game when you haven't been before in your playing career! New surroundings, different feel--day game on a Saturday. It's a very different routine from what you're used to and it's an adjustment.

Looking back, especially in the Hutch era (and I would attribute much of this to Hutch's dominance), Sunflower League teams have performed uncharacteristically poorly in title games.

Olathe South only producing 25 rushing yards on 30 carries with Tony Bryant and Devin Cummings taking handoffs in 2004... really? And Derek Miller tossing four first half interceptions against Hutch in 2005. Didn't see either of those coming. Heck, even SM West committed a number of unforced errors and missed a chippy field goal against Hutch in 2006. Free State's offense going numb against Junction City in 2008... the list goes on.

SM West has nothing to lose in this game, but can gain everything. Hutch, on the other hand, has a alot riding on the outcome of the game. Mostly in the pride category. Anybody who goes to KU knows that former Hutchinson football players leave their decals as well as Salthawk license plates on their cars well into their college years. That town revolves around the football program, and their players never really get over their playing days.

Hopefully the Vikings come out with a chip on their shoulder and play tough with a nothing-to-lose type of attitude.

Wii Not Fit said...

Austin Chambers will be the key to success for SMW. If he can clog up the middle on defense and pave the road on offense like he did against FS, SMW will be successful. He was able to give a solid SMW line backing core good lanes to make tackles against FS and he will need to do the same against Hutch. SMW didn't play OS this year which would have been a good comparison, but I think they will be just fine. The SMW offense surprised the heck out of me last week with how balanced they were and the great play calling. SMW 35 Hutch 21.

Who's Your Daddy said...

Hey Fellas, First of all I graduated from West so I will be there rooting for the Vikes. I obviously want them to win. That being said you guys need to assess this game rationally and leave the homerville wishful thinking at the door. Imp your statement about defenses is unfounded. Derby had the best defense all year in points and yards allowed. Their schedule is insignificant. Hutch played arguably the toughest Schedule in Kansas. Derby twice, Rockhurst,Salina South, Topeka, and Wichita Heights.

As far as Eli's assessment of " the nervous errors that have plagued the Sunflower League". Come on Eli you can make that case on a small sample but not here. This team has created their dominance and has arguably the best Coach in KSHSAA history. They don't benefit from nerves they create them.

Both teams have the same thing riding on this game. The 6A State Championship. It doesn't get any bigger than that. The reason the Salt Hawks have been so dominant over the years is because the town revolves around the football program. Its a religion in Hutchison Kansas. That is the biggest obstacle for the Vikes to overcome.

Both teams have excellent athletes and team speed. The separation will be in the offensive sets. West has never seen this offense live. It is very difficult to understand and defend. On the other hand Hutch has seen the Proset and the Wildcat on several occasions this season. I truly doubt that Coach Callaghan will use the wildcat much in this game. Trying to use a new offense for the State Championship game could create bigger risk than reward.

The Vikes need to stay the course that got them here. Both teams benefit from ball control running games. This will limit possessions for both offenses.
Neither Coach will abandon the run game like Free State did last week. Look for the vikes to get exposed on playaction several times. Hopefully the Vikes can do the same. Sterbach is a great back and has had an incedible season. Unfortunately he has to be tired after a season with this many carries. Hutch has interchangeable backs that will be fresh.

I'm praying for a Vikings victory but you have to go with the pedigree in this one. Couldn't be any more evenly matched. Going with my Head instead of my Heart. Hutch 21- Vikes 20.

TheImpaler said...

Daddy, you may be the pick em champ but now reading your assessment of the game after the fact, I can only laugh. West was WAY faster then Hutch. Hutch's few pitiful passsing attempts were an umitigated disaster (2 picks, a 20 yard sack and one completion that may have been a lateral and went for 0 yards anyway. The wildcat dominated the second half and if AJ had been on target West wins this game by 21+. He missed several wide open receivers. The fact is West is simply a more balanced team than Hutch AND Dreiling was BADLY outcoached in this game. Hutch's only success only came on outside pitches and West even took that away in the second half. I bet Hutch didn't have more than 50 yards in the second half. Surely Sterbinator must have been near 200 all by himself for the game.

Who's Your Daddy said...

Imp, I'll eat crow for my post Thanksgiving dinner. I was at the game and must admit that the Vikes were a much better team athletically than Hutch. Frankly after watching them play I'm impressed that Dreiling got them this far. The Vikes dominated the line of scrimmage all day long. In my defense the game was going exactly the way I thought it would until two costly fumbles by Hutch in the second half. One of which the return man fumbled untouched on what looked like a long return. Congrats to my Vikes. They played fantastic defense in the second half. The half time adjustments were excellent going to more of a bunched formation. It's like I always say the team with the best mix of run and pass usually always wins the game. Way to go Vikes!! I would be the happiest guy in the city if the hardware came back to our region every year. West was the good news yesterday. I want to congratulate Miege,and Eudora for getting to the Championship games. Unfortunately they got there lunch handed to them.
I have to say that programs like Holton, Hutch, Wichita Heights, Olathe North, Salina Central when Deiner was there, Silver lake impress the hell out of me. Good Coaching is always the lynch pin that builds these dynasty's. If someone can find a way to get the Holton Coach over to Olathe East let me know. Lol!! I cant wait until next year. Olathe North will be back, Gardner, Free State, and the Vikes. It should be another great season of 6A football here in the metro.