Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Sectional Round Playoff Previews

Quarterback Brad Strauss, left, and
receiver Erick Mayo have been one of
the league's most dangerous duos this
season. LJWorld.
SM West (9-1) at Lawrence (8-2)
Where: Lawrence High Stadium
Last Meeting: SM West defeated LHS, 20-14, in week one.
Computer Spread: SM West + 7.1

SM West
The Vikings, who've won eight straight games, are looking for the program's first Sub-State berth since 2006.  A victory would also mark the program's first 10-win season since that Sub-State run as well.  When you watch the Vikings play keep an eye on the Bully Bros., a.k.a. middle linebackers Marquan Osbey (86 tackles), Max Bullard (85 tackles) and Rashaun Owens (78 tackles).  SM West's defense is set up to funnel all running plays to those three, as well as blitz with those guys anytime the quarterback breaks the pocket.  Their ability to stop the run this week won't be nearly as important as putting pressure on LHS when the Chesty Lions pass the football.  Coverage will also be key.  The Vikings will most likely rely on their top corner, Andre Maloney, to cover the Chesty Lions' biggest receiving threat, Erick Mayo.  Other members of the secondary, including Ben Lake, Kez Demby and outside linebackers Cooper Arner and Joel Spiller will also have to play a great game to slow down LHS' constant crossing routes and quick screens.  Offensively, you can't talk about the Vikings without mentioning running back Brett Sterbach.  He now leads the league in rushing with 1,702 yards and he's a pain to tackle because he's hard to see behind the line (he stands 5-foot-7) and he has a very low center of gravity.  Quarterback AJ Verdini will be key.  He must complete his intermediate to long passes to keep the LHS defense from loading up the box. 

With a combined 37 passing and rushing touchdowns this year, LHS quarterback Brad Strauss will have the full attention of the Viking defense.  Strauss' dual-threat ability is so tough for the oppositions to handle because he can chuck the ball with the best but he's also among the league's fastest players.  Top receivers Erick Mayo and Drake Hofer will be used on most of the outside routes, while Will Thompson has become the league's premier slot receiver and he's great at finding holes in a secondary.  There's also the constant threat of running back Tyrone Jenkins taking a draw handoff and busting loose for 15 yards the way he so often does.  The Chesty Lions' defense, which is headed up by the ferocious defensive tackle Kharon Brown and run-stuffing linebackers Asaph Jewsome and Hunter Haralson, did well against all-everything running back Traevohn Wrench last week.  Granted, Wrench rushed for over 300 yards, but it was on 50 carries and his six-yard per carry average was quite pedestrian compared to what he'd previously done.  The Chesty Lions' defense undoubtedly has the confidence to stop Sterbach this week and it will be their main point of emphasis all game.  In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if they completed crowded the box from the get-go, hoping to make the Vikings beat them with Verdini's arm. 

Historical Stat
One name.  Dick Purdy.  The legendary coach spent time at both SM West and LHS, winning state titles with both schools.  Purdy, who last coached at LHS in 1998, won a state title at SM West in 1972, and state titles at LHS in 1991, 1992, 1993 and 1995.  When he retired, Purdy had accumulated a record of 270-138-5 in 40 seasons of being a head coach at the high school level.   

What to Expect 
This game went down the wire in week one, with SM West making three redzone stands in a row to keep LHS off the scoreboard at the end of the game.  Despite the hurricane conditions in that one, Strauss still managed to pass for 195 yards on the Vikes' defense.  He hasn't been shut down all season and I wouldn't expect that to suddenly change--he's going to get his yards and his touchdowns, it's more a matter of whether or not SM West can limit LHS' offensive possessions.  SM West has developed more of an identity over that time period, mixing in a solid passing game with powerful rushing attack.  The Vikings will stick to their M.O. in this game, hoping to keep the ball out of Strauss' hands while wearing down the LHS defense.  Third down conversions will be key to whether or not that happens.  Another noteworthy stat: these teams are a combined 16-2 since their week one battle.

Olathe East safety Al Smith, center, nearly decapitated
a SM East receiver last week. KC Star.
Olathe East (6-4) at Free State (9-1)
Where: Free State Athletic Stadium
Last Meeting: These two teams last played on November 5, 2010, also known as The Comeback game.
Computer Spread: Free State + 9.6

Olathe East
Believe it or not, Olathe East is one win away from making Sub-State for the third consecutive season.  This after the team began the year 1-4, with losses to Olathe South, SM West, SM East and Lawrence (those losses don't look so bad now).  The Hawks' offensive approach is simple: Run the football.  Against SM East last week running back Hayden Frazier toted the rock 37 times for 156 yards and a touchdown.  Frazier, combined with bruising fullback Ryan Woodson, made life miserable for the SM East defense.  And the Hawks just continued running the football, over and over again, until the clock ran out and they'd picked up a nice 10-point victory.  Quarterback John Blazevic has the ability to pass the ball well, but given the fact that Olathe East hasn't let him loose in the passing game all season I don't see that changing this late.  Defensively the Hawks two standouts are safety Al Smith and linebacker Ryan Ahlgren.  Besides that the defense is made up of relative "unknowns," but they played great together as a unit and they have all year.  Last thing--keep an eye on Olathe East's Jalen Branson.  He's really emerged as one of the league's top sophomores in the latter portion of the season and he has the ability to make a big play at any moment.

Free State
The Firebirds are playing with as much confidence as any team in the state.  Olathe North came out firing and laying some big hits last week, but it didn't even momentarily faze Free State.  They kept on rolling and by halftime the game was virtually over.  This confidence all begins with their quarterback/cornerback Kyle McFarland.  It seems like over 80% of his passes are rollouts--when I saw this earlier in the year I thought it might come back to hurt the team offensively.  But as the year has progressed it seems like it's actually been very effective in that McFarland can use his speed to get closer to the line of scrimmage for passes or use it to gain quick yardage if nobody is open or the pass rush is heavy.  Running back TJ Cobbs, probably one of the more underrated skill position players in the league, had a big game against Olathe North and his improved play has made Free State even more dangerous.  And, as always, keep an eye on the Firebirds' assortment of big-play threats not named McFarland or Cobbs, ranging from Tye Hughes to Blake Winslow to Khadre Lane

Historical Stat
My article earlier in the week basically outlined the recent playoff history between these two teams.  One thing we know is that whenever they match up it seems like we get to see a great game.  Interestingly enough, the head coaches of both teams, Jeff Meyers for Olathe East and Bob Lisher for Free State, are the two longest tenured head coaches in the Sunflower League.  Meyers has been the had man at Olathe East since 1992 (21 seasons) while Lisher has been with Free State since 1997 (16 seasons).  Both were named head football coach at their respective schools when the schools opened, and both have remained head coach ever since.

What to Expect
For the second week in a row Olathe East will be facing a team that likes the pass the football, and for the eleventh week in a row the Hawks will stick to their bread and butter of running the football, avoiding giving up big plays on defense, draining the clock and keeping the score low.  Free State, for all intents and purposes, will be doing everything in their power to break the game open.  Olathe East won't be able to keep up with the Firebirds if it becomes a scoring battle.  But keep in mind, Free State's possessions will be limited.  If they turn the ball over in crucial situations (like SM East did against Olathe East) there's no guarantee they'll have the time to score and make up for the mistakes.  Obviously the Firebirds are the favorite to win, but this is an angry Olathe East team that's come out with a chip on their shoulder the past five weeks. 


TheImpaler said...

TheImp’s week 11 picks. Last week 3-1 Season 48-16.

SMW (9-1) @ LAW (8-2) Vikings have an unique opportunity to replay the first two games of the season the next two weeks at the same sites as before. West probably played their worst game of the year in week 1 but still came away with a 20-14 triumph over the Lions in the deluge. West has won 8 straight games and I expect the now nuclear West offense to shred the under sized Lion D and we've already seen West can shut down Strauss and the spread pretty well. Vikes are a heavy favorite in this one to my mind. SMW 35 LAW 20

OE (6-4) @ LFS (9-1) Has the Hawk defense really become one of the best in the league at forcing turnover or have they just been the beneficiaries of very sloppy play by their last three opponents? These teams did not play this year but I'm just not believing McFarland and crew will be as charitable to the Hawks as the Lancers, Raiders and Huskies have been. Firebirds soar over Hawks. LFS 30 OE 14

theRev_Carnahan said...


Where do you get your computer spreads? Just curious? It would seem OE to be a much larger under dog on the road V FS.

I accidentally erased our game notes that included all statsfrom the first SMW/LH game. It said Sterbach went like 24 carries for 127 yards (not a fact from memory) and that the Vikes threw for 0 yards.

The weather was certainly a factor and West's size and run first scheme benefitted from it, not saying they couldn't perform better, the conditions led to an advantage for them.

This week the weather calls for a HI of 73 and LO of 55 with a modest wind, I think this is a huge advantage for LH.

I like both Lawrence squads Friday night, FS by 20+ and Chesty in a close one (under 5). Taking care of the ball will be at a premium for both teams, it could come down to a turnover one way or the other.

Eli Underwood said...


The computer spreads are linked if you click on "Computer Spread."

The Topeka Capitol Journal has some computerized system in place and they've been doing it for years now.

TheImpaler said...

This is Tim Hostettler's prep power index rankings. It say LFS -20.3 and SMW -11.5. I've found these ranking to be pretty good over the years. Think SME might be a little low this year...

MahValley said...

TheImp,I have to concur with your picks this week.



What Do I Know? said...

Same picks

Wii Not Fit said...

Pretty quiet around the blog now that SMS, SME and OS are out.

Wii Not Fit said...

I'll go ahead and throw my 2 cents out about this Friday's games.

SMW has caught fire ever since their loss to Free State in week 2. Their defense has been solid and their ground and pound offensive rushing style has been successful but hasn't been putting up the massive numbers Lawrence High has. Should this game turn into a shootout, Lawrence High will have the upper hand purely due to their high powered offense. However, if SMW can control the clock and get pressure on Strauss like FS did, they could being the favorite. SMW has a clear size advantage, but what LHS lacks in size the make up for in speed, play making ability and hard nose, vicious guys on the defensive side of the ball. This game is honestly too close to call for me. That being said, I think the LHS offense will be able to pull out a VERY close victory. LHS 30 SMW 28

The match up across town will not be nearly as close in my opinion. Free State is the hottest and most confident team in the state. They have not scored less that 28 points all season and their 1st team defense has not given up a touchdown since Week 4 against ON. Every score against them since that game has either been on special teams or against the reserves. OE will come out and try to run that ball on 1st 2nd and 3rd down and then throw on 4th and long if the have to. Granted they have come a long way lately and that running attack has been relatively successful, but it won't come close to scoring enough to compete with FS. FS 41 OE 13

The State Championship goes through Lawrence in 2012!

Seth Nation said...

Wii....agree with your predictions, but LHS scored twice on the first team defense of FS, they have a tremendous defense, but your comment about the streak is incorrect

What Do I Know? said...

If anything the run game isn't getting the same numbers because verdini is hitting Maloney for a 50 yard td pass. You completely ignored the vikings passing game being a huge threat now. No way Lawrence will be able to put everybody in the box tonight unless they want aj throwing for 150 on them easily. The SMW offense is just as shifty as Lawrence's with rushing, passing, and wildcat (which I guess is mainly just rushing but with Andre and sterbach receiving the snap)

Wii Not Fit said...

You're right Seth I apologize, my mind completely lapsed and forgot about the LHS game. VikingStudent, you make some good points and I will give credit when credit is due by saying that the SMW passing game has come a long way this season. But being honest I see those fade passes to Maloney as diversions to what SMW has tried to do all season which is run the football. Do I think the SMW offense is very talented and is capable of putting up points? Absolutely. But being able to hang with Strauss and the 4 stud receiving threats he has coupled with a decent rushing attack that can at least balance things out, I just don't see it. It will be a very close and entertaining game, but I stand by my previous prediction. Free State rolls tonight.

Seth Nation said...

Maloney can't cover 4 receivers If the LHS O line can give Brad the few seconds he needs he should hang his usual 3-4 touchdowns plus rush for one. Mayo vs Maloney on both sides of the ball will be a great battle. Sterbach will get his touches but it won't be enough to offset the LHS offense. LHS 32 SMW other local news FS will roll by at least two touchdowns. And will score at least one defensive touchdown.

Traffic in Lawrence will absolutely suck tonight and I have to drive to Lenexa after the game to work. Long drive for me and SMW tonight

Slugger said...

Slugger picks

SMW is the only team i havent seen play this year. Hope to make to L-ville tonight. Should be a great game. Even though I have not seen SMW play, I'm going to pick them in a close one. Strauss got lucky that his two fumbles didn't cost him the game last week. SMW is much better than G-E. SMW 35 - Law 30

LFS is susceptible to a power running game (their only loss to OS before the wheels came off)and OE is improving every week. OE has the emotional edge (State for Nate), but I just dont think it will be enough. LFS will pull away late. LFS 28 - OE 14.

Slugger said...

Someone started a discussion of O-Lines in a previous thread. As an old lineman, I'd love to see a discussion of O-lines and everyone's opinion of who has the best as well as who are some of the best o-lineman in the conf. Since there is no individual stats.
Maybe Eli can start a discussion following this weekend's games.

Bird Hunter said...

Slugger, I have a feeling you are like me in that when you watch a game you do it from the line of scrimmage out. Many times I have to ask someone what happened because I'm so focused on the line of scrimmage! :)

Bird Hunter said...

As someone who loves and watches a lot of High School football I would add that if Shawnee Mission East had Olathe Northwest's Offensive Line they would not only be still playing they would be favored to win State! jmo

Wii Not Fit said...

One of the keys to the success of Free State has been the offensive line. Looking at the roster they have 4 guys over 240lbs and the runt of the litter is 6' 220lbs. The two tackles both have D1 offers (Fred Wyatt and Cody Stanclift).

What Do I Know? said...

you act as if andre maloney is the only person who can guard a reciever. our safety kez demby is VERY good. and ben lake might be the fastest player in the sunflower league. there is a reason we only allow like 14 points a game.. and thats not because they can only stop the run and not the pass. our DB's and safety are good..

Bird Hunter said...

Wii Not Fit, I believe both of the players that you mentioned are being recruited on the Defensive side of the ball are they not? Both very good players none the less.

TheImpaler said...

And don't forget Lee Spight and Max Bullard, VS...should be in Strauss' lap all night long. I look for Spight to put up a multi-sack game.

SMS watcher said...

Spight is an excellent de. The only problem is Strauss does mostly really quick short passes and rollouts . Smw secondary coverage will have to be good to give smw line time to get there.

Free State Fan said...

Bird - I am sure you are right for the two FS offers. They are legit offers, but as defensive lineman. They are the main reason teams have had a really hard time running against FS and they introduce themselves to QB's and RB's in the backfield regularly. They both play both O and D line and I think they could both play college ball on either side of the ball. Wii has a good point for FS in that they have big guys that move well and know the system. As a unit, they may be the best in the league. All of them are really smart kids and STRONG! They are able to open holes and carry out the schemes very well. However, if you are talking o-lineman, the conversation has to start with Smith at OS. DUH - BEAST! There are several really good reasons why D-1 coaches are drooling and offering.

Wii Not Fit said...

Bird Hunter, you are correct, both of those guys are defensive end recruits but they are both also outstanding offensive tackles.