|Gardner Edgerton's Traevohn Wrench, left, and Olathe North's Venus|
Triplett will square off in one of the best running back battles we've
seen in the Kansas City area this season. Photos LJWorld.
Olathe North (5-2) at Gardner-Edgerton (6-1) at Gardner-Edgerton High School
Last season this matchup was a story of how the two head coaches (Gene Wier and Marvin Diener) had won a combined 12 state titles in the state of Kansas. This year the focus isn't on the sidelines, but on the field, where two of the best running backs in the Kansas City Metro will go head to head to see who comes out with the victory. Gardner-Edgerton's Traevohn Wrench is atop many Simone straw pools and his efforts have been reflected in the win column, where the Trailblazers have won six game in a row, outscoring their opponents 290-140 in that stretch. Olathe North has also been on fire in the latter portion of the regular season, and I suggest it's not a coincidence that Venus Triplett has been playing as well as anybody in the Sunflower League. If you want to see a true slugfest of elite talent, one of those games people talk about down the road and say remember that time Wrench and Triplett played against eachother? then this is the game for you.
SM West (4-3) at SM East (6-1) at SM South District Stadium
The Nut Cup has been one of the league's most fun series to watch the past few seasons, and that shouldn't change in 2013. SM East has been the talk of the Sunflower League this fall, debuting their new flexbone based offense, and a win against a big rival would only sweeten the pie. More importantly, it would keep the Lancers in contention for one of the top two seeds in the playoffs (with an even spread of competitive teams throughout districts this year, seeding will loom huge). For SM West, a victory here would go a long ways in making up for what has been a largely disappointing season (thus far) in defending the state title, while also helping their potential playoff seed. But here's the stat to keep an eye on: SM East ranks first in the league in rushing yards at 274 yards per game, while SM West ranks seventh in run defense allowing just over 200 yards per contest. If the Vikings struggle to defend the run the way they have all year, their chances of coming away with the victory will be slim.
Leavenworth (3-4) at Lawrence Free State (6-1) at Free State Athletic Stadium
Free State is certainly the favorite in this game, but they can't afford to overlook Leavenworth or the Pioneers may just sneak up and claim a playoff berth. After beginning the season 1-3, Leavenworth has come together to win two of their last three, including victories over SM West and Lawrence. Free State has played as well as anybody all season long, and this game is imperative for them to stay in contention for the top overall seed in East 6A. If they lose, their seeding would certainly drop -- and that's assuming they could take care of business next week against LHS, a rivalry no team wants to wager the playoffs on, if history is any indication.
Blue Valley Northwest (5-2) at Olathe East (5-2) at CBAC
This is another outstanding matchup between Sunflower League and EKL teams. One thing I will say about this game, Olathe East has a pension for bullying their former assistant, current BV Northwest head coach Mike Zegunis. The Hawks have gone 6-1 overall against the Huskies since Zegunis took over in 2005. Should we expect a similar result in this Friday? What we do know is that Olathe East might be playing as well as any team in the Sunflower League, and when Olathe East is rolling late in the season, watch out. The Hawks typically play as well as any team this time of year, evidenced by their three Sub-State appearances over the seven years they've been playing Zegunis and Co.
Olathe Northwest (3-4) at Olathe South (4-3) at ODAC
Considering both these teams are 0-1 in district play, this is a do-or-die type of game. The loser will be eliminated from playoff contention, and the winner will still face a steep week nine matchup to make the playoffs. Simply put, neither of these clubs are in the position they want to be in. Olathe South was playing very well through the mid portion of the season but their blowout loss last week was a major kick to the gut for the Falcons. Olathe Northwest had a nice victory against SM West two weeks back, but they got beat up pretty bad against Olathe North last Friday. Neither team has played their best of late, but if they're ever going to return to form, now would be the time to do it.
Wyandotte (3-4) at Lawrence (2-5) at Lawrence High Stadium
Not much to see here. The Chesty Lions need to win to keep their playoff hopes alive, and they should be able to run the ball -- their bread and butter -- effectively when they host Wyandotte. A win would keep things interesting through nine weeks, at the very least. Lawrence has had quite the up and down season, but managing three wins with a chance at four would be big for a program who lost nearly their entire starting roster to graduation last spring.
SM South (3-4) at Blue Valley North (0-7) at BVDAC
If SM South can't win this game by 21 points or more, then they probably don't deserve to make the playoffs in the first place. This is a must-win-by-21-points game for the Raiders. They'll also be rooting for a BV Northwest victory, because in that case they'll face a probable winner take all game against Olathe East in week nine, and they would much rather be in that position than relying on the outcome of the week nine BV North and BV Northwest matchup and having to beat Olathe East by 21.
SM North (0-7) at SM Northwest (1-6) at SM North District Stadium
If you're under 20 you might find it hard to believe, but a decade ago in 2003 these teams squared off in one of the league's most highly anticipate regular season games. SM Northwest was led by linebacker Mike Rivera and running back Ryan Torain (both of whom spent time in the NFL), while SM North had a gunslinger at quarterback named Mack Brown (currently a graduate assistant for Mizzou). SM Northwest won going away, but it's amazing to think that just 10 years later these two teams sit at a combined 1-13 through seven weeks of play. Is either team as bad as their record indicates? I don't think so. The Sunflower League has been pretty solid this fall and it's not as if either club has approached 2009 Leavenworth territory. But it it's a shame that this game doesn't have more luster, considering where the Hula Bowl rivalry used to be.