Friday, January 4, 2013

Sunflower League 10-Year Report Card: Part III

Olathe Northwest Player
Face of the Decade
Rodney Kenner. Rivals.
Olathe Northwest
Record: 27-57*
League Titles: None
State Titles: None
Todd Dain (2004-2012): 27-57

Best Teams
1.) 2011, 5-5, Regionals
It's not everyday you have a 6-foot-10, blue-chip basketball recruit on your football roster--but Olathe Northwest utilized Willie Cauley well and made the playoffs.

2.) 2006, 3-7, Regionals
Bruising running back Rodney Kenner powered the Ravens through the season, including a big-time upset of Olathe North in districts--the school's first win against an Olathe opponent.

3.) 2009, 4-6, Regionals
This Devon Boyce led club wasn't necessarily impressive in historic terms, but they took care of the games they needed to to make the playoffs.

"What If?" Moment
What if Olathe Northwest had selected Tim Callaghan over Dain for the head coaching position in 2003? It was rumored that Callaghan was the other finalist for the gig.  Had that happened, just imagine how different the league would look today: likely, Callaghan would be the head coach at Olathe Northwest, Dain would still be the head coach at SM East and most of us wouldn't know who Chip Sherman is.

"What was that?" Moment
The Jarard Milo Experiment went horribly.  Milo, who was a starting defensive back for K-State this season, transferred to Olathe Northwest after a stellar sophomore season at Olathe North.  The transfer mandated an 18-week varsity ineligibility period (KSHSAA rules) which meant Milo did not play varsity football as a junior.  As a senior he spent most of the season on the Ravens' sidelines with injuries, and he ended up transferring back to Olathe North for the spring semester of his senior year.  The story is outlined in this article from a few years back.

*Olathe Northwest has only had varsity football since the 2004 season.

Braden Smith
Olathe South Player
Face of the Decade
Braden Smith. Rivals.
Olathe South
Record: 67-40
League Titles: 2011
State Titles: 2011
Mark Littrell (2003-2007): 36-20
Jeff Gourley (2008-2012): 31-20

Best Teams
1.) 2011, 12-1, 6A State Champions
The Falcons went 11-0 against Sunflower League foes, fighting their way to the school's first state title victory in four chances.

2.) 2004, 10-3, State Runner-Up
The running back tandem of Tony Bryant and Devin Cummings was absolutely phenomenal, helping the Falcons to an eight-win improvement from 2003.

3.) 2007, 9-4, State Runner-Up
The 6-3 finish to the regular season was a disappointment based on preseason expectations, but this team stepped it up and fought to the state title.

"What If" Moment
What if Littrell had come away victorious in the 2007 state title game.  The loss, his third state championship defeat as head coach at Olathe South, proved to be his last game as the head coach of the Falcons.  He left after the season to join Gene Wier's staff in Texas, and he remains an assistant in the Lone Star State to this day.  If Littrell had come away with a state title in 2007 I think there's a good chance he would have stayed on at Olathe South.  But the third title loss proved to be too much.

"What was that?" Moment
Olathe South is strangely cyclical as a program.  For instance, after going a combined 16-2 from 2000 to 2001, the program went 4-14 from 2002 though 2003.   From 2004 through 2007 they went 34-13, before going 14-15 from 2008 to 2010.  They won a state title in 2011 going 12-1, and then followed the title up with a 5-4 season in 2012.  Based on this analysis, the numbers point to a successful 2013 campaign for the Falcons.  Right?

Gabe Guild
SM South Player Face
of the Decade
Gabe Guild. Rivals.
SM South
Record: 26-68
League Titles: None
State Titles: None
Don Hanna (2003-2005): 10-20
Brandon Claypool (2006-2010): 10-36
Ryan Lonergan (2011-2012): 6-12

Best Teams
1.) 2012, 4-5, no playoffs
A late-season ankle injury sabotaged what could have been the Gabe Guild-led Raiders' first winning record in over 15 years.

2.) 2004, 4-6, Regionals
The Raiders had a gunslinger at quarterback in Connor McKay and one of the league's top athletes in Eric Monroe, which was good enough for a Regional berth.

3.) 2009, 3-6, no playoffs
Through six games SM South was sitting at 3-3--and they'd looked decent.  But they weren't able to continue the momentum in a tough district.

"What If?" Moment
September 3, 2004 might have been one of the more influential days of the last decade for SM South.  The Raiders were projected to have a very good year, led by McKay and an impressive offensive line.  Two years previously, in 2002, they had come within an overtime score of defeating Olathe North, who went on to win the state title. In 2003 they went 3-6 but most of the losses were by small margins.  In the opening game of 2004 they played SM West who was being slotted as one of the league's lower-tier teams.  SM South scored on their opening drive and SM West committed six turnovers--but somehow the Vikings snuck out a win.  What happened after that? SM South finished a largely disappointing 4-6. They were a better team that their record indicated, but the early loss completely shifted away their momentum for the season.

"What was that?" Moment
Obviously SM South appears to be on the right track with second-year head coach Ryan Lonergan, who's a Tim Callaghan and Gene Wier disciple.  But the question remains, why has the program struggled so much in football?  A few culprits stand out.  For one, the school has one of the smallest enrollments in the league.  The Raiders have dropped to Class 5A in all non-football sports and they'll likely do the same in football starting in 2014.  Some of it has to do with the 95th St. boundary they share with SM East. Many students who live along the border line are allowed to choose to attend SM East or SM South, and East has been the trendy choice for the better part of a decade.  Other issues include a rapidly aging population in the South area, with no new residential developments (SM West and SM Northwest have newly built neighborhood communities, while SM East has wealth pockets like Mission Hills). 
Blake Lawrence
SM West Player Face
of the Decade
Blake Lawrence. Rivals.

SM West
Record: 80-28
League Titles: 2005, '06, '08, 2010, '12
State Titles: 2012
Tim Callaghan (2003-2012): 80-28

Best Teams
1.) 2006, 12-1, State Runner-Up
This club ranks up there with Olathe North's 2004 unit as one of the best Sunflower League teams to not win a state title.

2.) 2012, 12-1, 6A State Champions
The Vikings started 1-1, then reeled off 11 straight wins to claim the program's third state title and end Hutchinson's string of title game victories.

3.) 2004, 9-3, Sub-State
DJ Barnett rushed for over 1,900 yards in leading SM West to a breakout year and the school's first winning season since 1999.

"What If?" Moment
What if Callaghan had accepted a rumored head coaching offer to return to Olathe North following the 2004 season?  John McCall had just bailed for Texas and the obvious choice for Olathe North was to bring back Callaghan who had been an assistant with the program from the mid-1990s through 2002.  Callaghan said thanks, but no thanks to his previous school--which had spurned him from the head gig following the 2002 season--and stayed with SM West.

"What was that?" Moment
The suspension of running back Darron Harvey for the Regional playoff game in 2008 might have cost SM West a state title.  Harvey had rushed for 1,600 yards (178 ypg) through the regular season, helping the Vikings to a 9-0 record.  Harvey's sudden and untimely suspension--which stemmed from a summer related incident--kept the league's top back off the field and the Vikings suffered a major upset at the hands of a 2-7 Blue Valley Northwest club.


E said...

That South vs. West game in 2004 was one of the weirdest of all time.

TheImpaler said...

2013 Schedules?

Eli Underwood said...

My understanding is that the ADs have the schedules worked out but there hasn't been an official release yet. If anyone knows otherwise, please let me know and I'll get them posted.

TheImpaler said...

On the SFL website hey have SMNW's schedule posted for the season but no one else's. Maybe the Cougs are the only team playing next season? I belive LV also has posted their schedule on their football website but that's all I've found. Not enough to piece together anything.

Eli Underwood said...

Schedules are in, I'll be in the process of updating them over the next few days.

TheImpaler said...

Wow, Vikes, it's almost too easy. Definitely some make-up for the last two years going on here. EIGHT games in SM stadiums and no ON or OE. The only road game is @LFS. I smell 9-0 again baby....
Mr. Thomas get the band ready...5 home marching games and 3 'road' pep band games at SM stadiums...gonna be a busy year.

Eli Underwood said...

Yeah, looks like the schedule-maker(s) did the defending state champ SM West some favors with the scheduling--as opposed to the treatment Olathe South had last year as defending state champs (remember their three week road stretch of @LFS, @SME and @LHS?).

The week four tilt between SM West and Free State, in Lawrence, could be a battle of league favorites. It should be a dandy.

Govannon Grey said...

It looks like Don Simmons officially was named SM north head coach. Now I may be mistaken, but didn't he leave BV North under controversial circumstances?

Eli Underwood said...

I know Blue Valley North has had a rough go of it with head coaches throughout their history.

As far as a controversy with Simmons goes, I remember hearing something along those lines but I can't quite recall what it was, if anything. I do find it odd that he went 9-1 in his last season with the school before leaving and going to a school in Class 4A. Seems like a step down (no offense, Chanute), especially considering the success he had at BVN.

MahValley said...

There is usually a lot less politics at small class schools.

Govannon Grey said...

Yeah, I'm not making any hardcore claims or anything, but I seem to remember around that time maybe some budgetary miscues that may have lead to his departure. You're right, leaving a 6A school in Johnson County with that kind of success for Chanute is not really a common move. His skill as a football coach is undeniable though.