Thursday, December 27, 2012

Sunflower League 10-Year Report Cards: Part II

Ryan Murphy
Free State Player Face
of the Decade.
Ryan Murphy. Rivals.
Lawrence Free State
Record: 69-38 
League Titles: 2006
State Titles: None
Bob Lisher (2003-2012): 69-38

Best Teams
1.) 2006, 11-1, Sub-State
Perhaps the most talented skill-position team the Sunflower League has ever seen, the Brian Murphy led Firebirds blazed to an 11-0 record before falling to undefeated SM West in Sub-State.

2.) 2008, 9-4, State Runner-Up
This team came out of nowhere after an 0-2 start.  The spark was 5-6, 170-pound dynamo quarterback Camren Torneden who was nearly untouchable in open field.

3.) 2012, 10-2, Sub-State
A seasoned group with speed to burn at nearly every position, this team gave Free State its third Sub-State berth in six years.

"What If ?" Moment
What if Free State hadn't begun the 2008 season 0-2, mandating a switch at the quarterback position from the hobbled Cameron Schmidt to the quarterback in waiting, Camren Torneden?  The rest, as they say, is history.  Torneden helped carry the Firebirds on his shoulders for two seasons, going 17-5 as a starter including a state championship appearance in 2008. He proved to be one of the league's most dynamic athletes over the past decade and none of that would have happened had Free State not had such a rough start in 2008.

"What was that?" Moment
This is a recent one.  In this year's Sub-State game against SM West, Free State opened with a walloping 16-play, 89-yard drive that ended in a touchdown and successful PAT.  The crazy thing was that all 16 plays were runs.  SM West answered with a touchdown.  When Free State got the ball back common sense would tell you they stuck with the running game.  But that's quite the opposite.  The Firebirds seemed to go into a panic mode, throwing the football time after time despite limited success.  And they never went back to the run game.  SM West cashed in, scoring 17 straight points to go to halftime up 24-7.  All told, the Firebirds completed just 4-of-18 passes on the night.

Olathe North Player Face
of the Decade
James Franklin
Olathe North
Record: 82-32
League Titles: 2004, '09, 2010
State Titles: 2003, '09
John McCall (2003-2004): 22-4
Dave Bassore (2005): 6-5
Pete Flood (2006-2011): 51-16
Gene Wier (2012): 3-7

Best Teams
1.) 2004, 12-1, State Runner-Up
 I still haven't seen a team who was as physically imposing or athletically gifted as this group of Eagles who fell in overtime in the 5A state title game.

2.) 2009, 13-0, State Champions
Led by Simone-winner James Franklin, this unit had no trouble capturing the 6A state title and closing out an impressive 31-5 three-year stretch.

3.) 2003, 10-3, State Champions
After a less-than-impressive 4-3 beginning the season, this gritty bunch rolled off six straight victories to claim a fourth-straight 6A title.

"What If ?" Moment
What if John McCall had stayed on as head coach following the 2004 season? Certainly he showed he could carry on the Olathe North tradition that had been established by his predecessor, Gene Wier, by going 22-4 with a state title in 2003 and a runner-up trophy in 2004.  Instead the program endured what I would call a tumultuous couple of years, all but killing the momentum of their dynasty years.

"What was that?" Moment
Olathe North's 2011 season is shrouded in mystery.  Let's take a look at the facts: a 5-0 start to 2011 gave the Eagles a 29-2 record over their previous 31 games.  The program was rolling.  Then out of nowhere the wheels came off.  The team finished the year with four straight losses, including a major upset to Olathe Northwest.  What's more, their roster was loaded with talent and experience and they didn't suffer any major injuries.  Players like Orange Mooney, Treshawn Root and Tanner Gentry were some of the best in the league.  Even more befuddling was head coach Pete Flood's resignation immediately following the close of week nine.  Flood  had more or less resurrected the program, taking over in 2006 and doing extremely well in his six-year tenure.

SM North Player Face
of the Decade
Mack Brown. Rivals.
SM North
Record: 24-68 
League Titles: None
State Titles: None
Sam Brown (2003-2004): 11-8
Ryan Majors (2005-2009): 9-36
Dennis Grayless (2010-2012): 4-24 

Best Teams
1.) 2003, 6-4, Regionals
The Indians might have been able to advance deep into the playoffs had they not run into the previously mentioned red-hot Blue Valley North team that made it to Sub-State.

2.) 2004, 5-4, no playoffs
Led by quarterback Mack Brown, the Indians fell short of the playoffs after losing to Blue Valley Northwest (7-3) and SM West (9-3) in district play.

3.) 2008, 3-6, no playoffs
Some thought this was going to be the prelude to a turnaround of the program under Ryan Majors. Instead they slipped and only won two games in 2009.

"What If ?" Moment
What if then head coach and current SM East athletic director Sam Brown hadn't stepped down as head coach of the Indians following the graduation of his son Mack after the 2004 season? My guess: SM North would still be a pretty competitive ballclub in the Sunflower League.  The Indians had gone a very respectable 30-19 under Brown from 2000 through 2004, including a 9-2 Sub-State berth in 2000.  It's interesting to think about how different things would be if SM North was actually a decent squad year in and year out, unlike their current status, coming off an 0-9 season.

"What was that?" Moment 
For SM North it's not such much a moment as a period of time.  For those who followed the league in the early 2000s, SM North was always a quality team with good athletes. When I entered high school in 2004 it was still like this, and the freshman class the school inherited that year was a talented group.  But things went sour after Brown's departure.  Perhaps the first bad omen was when James McFadden transferred to Rockhurst after his dominant freshman year at SM North.  McFadden went on to lead the Hawklets to a Missouri state title as a senior, garnering all-metro honors and in the process claiming an offer to attend FCS Southern Illinois.  Who knows what kind of impact he could have had with the right coaching in place at SM North.

SM Northwest Player
 Face of the Decade
Mike Rivera. Rivals.
SM Northwest
Record: 49-49
League Titles: 2007
State Titles: None
Scott Diebold (2003-2005): 12-17
Aaron Barnett (2006-2011): 35-25
Linn Hibbs (2012): 2-7

Best Teams
1.) 2003, 9-2, Sectionals
Led by current New England Patriots linebacker Mike Rivera and former Washington Redskins running back Ryan Torain, this team was loaded.

2.) 2007, 9-2, Sectionals
The combination of talents like Alex Carder, Bryce Atagi, Mark Fancher and Alex Murray made for the school's best run during the Aaron Barnett years.

3.) 2010, 6-5, Sectionals
Players like Drew Goodger and Kenny Mings helped the Cougars to a late-season run where they almost knocked off Olathe East in a rainy Sectional matchup.

"What If ?" Moment
What if stud running back and defender Bryce Atagi hadn't been dismissed from the program in week nine of 2008?  The Cougars had been impressive that year, sitting at 6-2 when he was dismissed and finishing the regular season at 7-2.  They went on to lose in Regionals to Lawrence Free State (who put together a nice run to the state title game) but the outcome could have been drastically different had Atagi still been on the roster.

"What was that?" Moment
The supposed forced resignation of former head coach Scott Diebold following the 2005 season is still laced with controversy.  What my sources have told me over the years is that the then parents of the SM Northwest sophomore class basically forced an in-house mutiny.  There appeared to be quite a bit of pressure on the athletic director to force the resignation.  How else do you justify firing a coach with 20 years of coaching experience at the school, two seasons removed from a 9-2 campaign, whose son was going to be a senior the following year? You don't.  The story is briefly outlined in this article. Diebold has served as the varsity linebackers coach at SM West since his resignation.


4cornerstones said...

Always a great read. Do you think that SM west will adapt their offense next year? maybe more pass oriented?

Bird Hunter said...

Very good read Eli, I see that five players from the SFL made the Kansas East vs West Shrine Bowl.

Hopefuly we'll see a story on here about the players from the league who'll be playing in the game.

The players from the SFL are Gabe Guild - SM South, Jordan Johnson - Olathe Northwest, Cody Stanclift - Lawrence Free state, Brett Sterbach - SM West and Brad Strauss - Lawrence High.

Eli Underwood said...

SM West's run/pass yardage ratio was 74/26 in 2012. I would expect something more in the neighborhood of 65/35 in 2013. A few reasons: Sterbach doesn't return and there's no clear-cut replacement at RB, and the passing game returns three receivers (Maloney, Wade and Hobbs) not to mention Verdini who'll have a season under his belt at quarterback.

MahValley said...

I am really enjoying the 10 year report. Did not know about the smnw politics of the past. Looks like the more things change the they stay the same.;)

TheImpaler said...

KC Star all metro team out. Lots of Vikes. Chambers, Sterbach, Bullard first team, Callaghan coach of the year. Demby second team. Maloney only got Honorable Mention and only on defense, clearly slanted towards seniors. I guess that's fair. Hard to bitch with that many guys but suprised Joey Reed and Lee Spight not mentioned.

Bird Hunter said...

Anyway you could post a link to the All Metro Teams? All I'm finding is first teams.

TheImpaler said...

Here's the second team and honorable mentions.