Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Sunflower League Week Five Game Previews

Olathe East and Connor Leach are looking
for a win against Olathe South after having
lost the last three matchups between the
two. Photo KC Star.

Game of the Week
Olathe South (3-1)
at Olathe East (2-2) at ODAC

If the Lawrence vs. Free State game is rivalry 1A in the Sunflower League, then this is 1B. These are two schools that absolutely despise one another for all the wrong reasons. And in the past couple of years this game has taken itself to a boiling point. In 2011, Olathe South not only beat Olathe East in the final game of the regular season (a playoff-clinching win that needed to be by 13 or more points), but they also took down the Hawks in Sub-State.  And who could forget last year's monsoon contest in week one, where Hurricane Isaac's remnants dropped over six inches of rain onto the field, with Olathe South sneaking out a 6-0 victory.

Going back even further, in 2007 Olathe East went 9-2 -- but both of those losses came to Olathe South who went on to appear in the state title game. In 2005, the two met up in week nine, both undefeated at 8-0. Dee Bell and Olathe East exposed the Falcons, 28-14, and Olathe South lost two weeks later in the playoffs, while Olathe East advanced to the state title game. The great games go back years and years.

This time around, the stakes are as high as ever. Olathe South, using a roster that's learning on the fly, is sitting at 3-1, and playing very well. Olathe East has looked solid all year, save two defensive lapses in the fourth quarters of their two losses. On paper this game could really go either way -- and what else would we expect from one of the Sunflower League's most compelling rivalries (on and off the gridiron)?

Lawrence Free State (4-0) at Olathe North (2-2) at ODAC (Thursday game)

Free State's focus had better been close to 100% this week. Coming off a homecoming victory over the #1 ranked team in the state, the Firebirds now find themselves as the ones with the big red target on their backs. What's more, a shortened week eliminated one day of prep work. This has the potential to be a letdown game. And don't forget, Olathe North lost its second heartbreaker of the season last week to SM East. You know they'll be geeked up after what was probably a brutal week of practice to take on the league's top team. Let's just put it this way -- if the Firebirds can come out and dominate the way they did with SM West, then they'll be prohibitive favorite to represent East 6A in the title game. If they flounder, or don't seem to play to their potential, the runaway expectations may be put on hold for awhile.

Leavenworth (1-3) at SM West (3-1) at SM South District Stadium (Thursday game)

Leavenworth is like a boxer that's been punched around and beaten up in the early rounds. If they leave the decision to chance, they're going to lose. Their best hope for coming out on top is delivering a knockout blow. Right now, that's what a Pioneer victory on the road at SM West would be equivalent to. It would bump Leavenworth to 2-3, and get them rolling after what has been a disappointing first half to the season. And with a district that consists of Wyandotte and Lawrence, in addition to Free State, it's looking like it's going to be a dogfight for the three teams not named Free State to make the playoffs. Meanwhile SM West will be playing their first "no-pressure" game of the season. I would argue the Vikes flew under the radar up until the moment the clock ran out in the fourth quarter last season against Hutchinson. With that guise back on, don't be shocked if SM West plays their best game of the year.

SM East (4-0) at SM South (2-2) at SM South District Stadium

As SM East historian Kevin Booker noted on Twitter, SM East has won seven of the last eight games between these two rivals, including winning by a combined score of 50-0 the past two years. SM East has played as well and with as much enthusiasm and effort as any team I've witnessed around the league this fall. It seems like everyone on their roster -- from the starters, to the back ups who play on special teams, to the sophomores who show up for the free Gatorade -- are completely revved up for each and every snap. Call it the Delaney Effect, if you will. For the guys in green, this game holds a ton of water going forward. A win would put them at 3-2, and they would be hard-pressed not to close the regular season at 2-2, giving the program it's first winning season in years. But they're not out for a winning record, they're out to make the playoffs. Beat SM East and the Raiders will see closing out the regular season at 5-0 to be not just an aspiration, but a potential reality.

Lawrence (1-3) at SM Northwest (1-3) at SM North District Stadium

Both these clubs began the year 0-3 before turning things around in week four. There couldn't be a better time for the two to face off than now, two weeks before we hits districts. LHS seems to have figured out their rushing attack, and many are calling their offensive line the best in the league. The last two weeks support this, as LHS has churned out 514 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns. SM Northwest has shown as much improvement across the board as any team since week one, and their week four victory against Leavenworth has the team feeling good about things moving forward. Don't be shocked if this game features a team that started the season 0-3 but ends up making some noise in the playoffs.

SM North (0-4) at Olathe Northwest (1-3) at CBAC

It's becoming a cliche, but for the last two seasons the best medicine for a loss has been playing SM North the next week. The Indians' losing streak now stands at 14 games, dating back to week nine of the 2011 season. The cellar dweller tag seems to be a cyclical one in the Sunflower League, and right now the onus is on SM North. For Olathe Northwest this is a must-win game. The Ravens could really use the victory to push their record to a respectable 2-3, before they face the hellacious stretch of SM West, Olathe North, Olathe South and Marvin Diener's fighting Traevohn Wrench's to close out the season.

1 comment:

Free State Fan said...

This is an important week for pretty much the whole league (fully realizing the stupidity of that statement) as teams are starting to look at the big picture/districts/playoffs, etc. That spells trouble for focus. Teams that win this week head into the last pre-district game with confidence. Teams that lose will be more in desperation mode to fix stuff before districts start. This is a gut-check week and I look forward to seeing how everyone plays. Stay safe out there everyone and good luck!