Friday, December 21, 2012

Sunflower League 10-Year Report Cards: Part I

Here's a three-part segment looking back on the last 10 years of football in the Sunflower League.  This report stretches from the 2003 season through this past season.  The next installment will include Free State, Olathe North, SM North and SM Northwest.  The final installment will include Olathe Northwest, Olathe South, SM South and SM West.

Adam Booth
Leavenworth Player Face
of the Decade.
Adam Booth. Rivals.
Record: 15-76
League Titles: None
State Titles: None
Eddie Minor (2003): 1-8
Tom Young (2004-2005): 4-14
Rick Pollard (2006): 0-9
Chad Speer (2007-2009): 3-24
Kevin Kopecky (2010-2012): 7-21

Best Teams
1.) 2004, 4-5, no playoffs
Led by quarterback/linebacker Adam Booth, the Pioneers managed their best season in decades and played some top teams pretty close.

2.) 2012, 4-5, no playoffs
Year-three of Kevin Kopecky's tenure displayed a well-rounded, fast and physical team that missed a playoff berth because of a tough district.

3.) 2011, 2-8, Regionals
The Pioneers' only playoff berth of the past decade came on the heels of an easy district set up.

"What If ?" Moment
What if Kopeky had never left St. Thomas Aquinas? In his three years at the helm the former STA coach has given Leavenworth a new identity, and facing the Pioneers is no longer an easy victory.  The program is definitely on the rise thanks to Kopecky's efforts.

"What was that?" Moment
In week five of the 2007 season, Leavenworth hosted SM West for its homecoming game.  The Pioneers unveiled two new defensive lineman who looked to be around 6-foot-2, 280-pounds a pop.  And they were good.  Really good.  Neither player had appeared on Leavenworth's game film from earlier in the season, and neither made a blip on any film footage for the rest of the year.  It remains a mystery in my circle of friends to this day.

Lawrence Player Face
of the Decade.
Brad Strauss.
Record: 53-49
League Titles: None
State Titles: None
Dirk Wedd (2003-2012): 53-49

Best Teams
1.) 2005, 10-2, Sub-State
Tough, hard-nosed and physical, this LHS team punched you in the mouth and played great defense.  A late Sub-State comeback kept them out of the state game.

2.) 2012, 8-3, Sectionals
The Chesty Lions' heralded class of 2013, led by do everything quarterback Brad Strauss, featured one of the most prominent spread attacks in league history.

3.) 2011, 6-4, Regionals
An injury late in the season to Strauss kept LHS from reaching their full potential come playoff time, but they still did well for the year.

"What If ?" Moment
What if the Chesty Lions had beat Olathe East in the 2005 Sub-State game and faced Hutchinson in the title game?  If you haven't followed the Sunflower League for very long here's a quick history lesson: LHS used to run an unblanced line, featuring a center, two guards, three tackles and a tight end, in front of an I-Formation.  Basically the definition of smash-mouth football.  Personally, I think they would have matched up much better with Hutchinson than the Pro-Style Olathe East.

"What was that?" Moment
Up until the 2006 season, LHS players weren't allowed to wear football gloves.  And they certainly weren't allowed to wear wristbands or any other flare.  The Chesty Lions have come a long way since then, with players now wearing gloves, visors and sleeves and they even added a triple-stripe to their pants design this year.  Not to mention an offense that is a complete 180 from what they used to run.

Olathe East Player Face
 of the Decade.
Derek Miller. Rivals.
Olathe East
Record: 88-34
League Titles: 2003, '05, '08, 2010
State Titles: None
Jeff Meyers (2003-2012): 88-34

Best Teams
1.) 2005, 12-1, State Runner-Up
Fate seemed to be on the Hawks' side as they made their way to the title game undefeated. When Derek Miller tossed four first half interceptions in the title game I knew that fate was over.

2.) 2003, 10-1, Sectionals
Led by Miller, Andre Jones, Anthony Parks and Todd Haselhorst, the Hawks' loss in Sectionals to a 5-5 Blue Valley North team is arguably the biggest league upset of the last decade.

3.) 2010, 10-2, Sub-State
A two-headed rushing attack led by Brandon Willingham and Austin Fulson wasn't enough to earn a shot at game No. 13.

"What If ?" Moment
What if Olathe East had taken care of business and defeated Blue Valley North in Sectionals in 2003? The win would have created a matchup with Olathe North in Sub-State, a team Olathe East had beaten 28-27 earlier that year.  It would have also been a rematch of the 2002 Sub-State game that Olathe East lost on a botched field goal snap late in the game.  You can't tell me Olathe East wouldn't have been fired up and ready to go in the same situation a year later.

"What was that?" Moment
Miller managed to go 31-4 as the starting quarterback from 2003-2005.  How Olathe East didn't win a state title in one of those three years remains an unknown. Upset playoff losses to Blue Valley North in 2003 and SM West in 2004 didn't help.

John Schrock
SM East Player Face
of the Decade.
John Schrock. Rivals.
SM East
Record: 47-51
League Titles: 2010
State Titles: None
John Stonner (2003-2008): 22-35
Chip Sherman (2009-2012): 25-16

Best Teams
1.) 2010, 8-2, Regionals
Had quarterback John Schrock not broken his collar bone late in the season the Lancers might have been the favorite to represent East Class 6A in the title game.

2.) 2012, 7-3, Regionals
The Lancers boasted a physical defense with a solid core of skill position players on offense. A late-season funk saw them lose three of five.

3.) 2005, 6-4, Regionals
A solid core led by players like the Condie Twins, Brett and Bryant, and Kelly Zumbehl came up just short of beating Olathe South in Regionals.

"What If ?" Moment
What if Schrock hadn't busted up his collar bone against SM West in week eight of the 2010 regular season?  There's no guarantee the Lancers would have advanced past Olathe South in Regionals, but Schrock was a dominant quarterback and it would have been nice to see him play in that game.

"What was that?" Moment
One name.  Terrance Thomas.  One of the best athletes to go through the Shawnee Mission School District--he ran a 10.4 in the 100 meters in 2006 to claim the invidual 6A title as a sophomore--Thomas was more myth than anything.  The unsubstantiated claim was that he was two years older than the class of 2008 and that he turned 20 a week after his senior football season ended.  He never dominated in football (or basketball) in high school the way you would have expected him to.  He will forever remain an unsolved puzzle in Sunflower League lore.

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