|Mitchell Tyler and SM East will take their
Lancer Magic to this week's tilt with Free
State, working towards a second Sunflower
League title in four years. Photo by
Marisa Walton, SME Harbinger.
Lawrence Free State (4-1) at
SM East (5-0) at SM North District Stadium
This is the second time this season we've seen the top two ranked teams in the Power Rankings face off -- consider it a pre-district treat. Free State suffered their first loss of the year last week when they traveled to ODAC, got down early against Olathe North, and didn't have enough in the tank to make a full fourth quarter comeback. For SM East, it was sort of the opposite. The Lancers jumped out to a sizable early lead on SM South, only to let the Raiders back in the game, before finishing things off with a victory in overtime. Free State will be hungry for a win, while thus far nobody has been able to touch the Lancer Magic. What's more, league implications will be on the line. If SM East wins, they'll claim their fifth Sunflower League title in school history. If Free State wins, and takes care of Wyandotte in two weeks, the Firebirds will at worst share the league crown with SM East.
SM South (2-3) at SM North (0-5) at SM North District Stadium (Thursday game)
Five teams (technically) have face SM North this year coming off of losses, and all five have won in dominating fashion. Can SM South become number six? The Raiders certainly could use the victory, having dropped their last two games after starting the season a respectable 2-1. But they've got to take care of things early to ensure things go their way late. While SM North hasn't done much this season, the quarterback to receiver combination of Will Schneider and Nick Perez has shown the ability to sneak up on teams quite a few times this year. SM South has the horses to take care of business, and they really need to in order to gain some momentum heading into a challenging district.
Olathe Northwest (2-3) at SM West (3-2) at SM South District Stadium
The Ravens are in a tough position here. The team had a nice bounce back victory against SM North last week, but now they're facing a SM West that is not only hungry after suffering two straight losses, but also extremely motivated to play for fallen teammate Andre Maloney. And they're going on the road... For SM West, in addition to those two items, they will really be focused on establishing more of an identity in the run game (the program's usual bread-and-butter) as they enter districts. Without Maloney, they won't have as much of the deep ball threat they've had all year, and defensively they'll be more susceptible to big plays because Maloney won't be out there to run down ballcarriers. This is a pre-district tune-up game for both teams, wrapped in perhaps more emotion than any game the league's seen all year.
Olathe North (3-2) at Lawrence (2-3) at Lawrence High Stadium
Time for two immovable forces to clash. Olathe North will be bringing arguably the league's best defensive front seven to 19th and Louisiana, while LHS will attempt to combat it with what's looked like the league's best rushing attack over the last three Fridays. If you like chess matches in smash mouth football, this will be the game for you. When the two teams trade possession, Olathe North will showcase running back Venus Triplett, who had a heyday against Free State's defense this past Thursday. But he'll have to get past a Lawrence defense led by Drew Green -- a unit which has been extremely stingy throughout the middle third of the year so far. If LHS wins, then the Chesty Lions are for real and we should be expecting a strong playoff run. If Olathe North takes this one, then there's no telling who'll be able to slow them down going forward.
Leavenworth (2-3) at Olathe East (3-2) at CBAC
This is one of these games where both teams legitimately feel they are going to win. Leavenworth had a dopamine boost following their upset win against SM West unseen in the town since a guy named Wayne Simien was at the school. Olathe East, like seemingly every Jeff Meyers team, has worked out the early kinks and looks to be on track to dominating their opponents through the remainder of the regular season and then some. The wildcard performer in this game will be Leavenworth tailback Isaiah Ross, who -- teamed with Jason Randall in the zone-read scheme last week -- gave SM West's defense fits. Ross and Randall make up one of the fastest combos in the league, but Olathe East's defense might have the best set of wheels. It should be a fun one, with plenty of speed to burn.
SM Northwest (1-4) at Olathe South (3-2) at ODAC
There are quite a few interesting facets to this game. The league's top two tacklers -- Jake Seurer from Olathe South and Devin Shockley from SM Northwest -- will be leading each respective defense, while two offenses that have struggled will look to get rolling before districts set in. SM Northwest hasn't played as poorly as their 1-4 record would indicate, but they just haven't had many things go their way so far. But that could all change this Friday. For Olathe South, a challenging district awaits, and as last season showed, there's not telling how a team will perform once they make it to those final three games -- especially in a loaded district. Bouncing back from the loss to Olathe East would be huge for the Falcons' team morale.