|Stan Skwarlo and Free State won last year's Battle for
Lawrence, 28-14. This year's game result will play a
critical role in the outcome of District 1. Photo LJWorld.
Lawrence (3-5) at Lawrence Free State (7-1) at Free State Athletic Stadium
Last fall these teams had both qualified for the playoffs when they met in week nine, but their combined 14-2 record overall made it one of the most hyped Battles of Lawrence we've ever seen from this great rivalry. This year the circumstances are different -- and more dire. Lawrence dropped their first district game to Leavenworth by six points, but won last week by 21, to push their district point total to +15. Free State meanwhile stands at 2-0, with a +24 margin, but things aren't as clear cut as they look. A Leavenworth win against Wyandotte, combined with a Lawrence win of six or more points would keep the Firebirds out of the playoffs. Lawrence is coming off scoring 81 points, while the jury's still out on Joe Dineen's health in this game considering he missed almost all of the Leavenworth game. Needless to say, this one has the potential to be one of the most intriguing matchups we've had all season.
Olathe East (5-3) at SM South (4-4) at SM South District Stadium (Thursday game)
We'll "go out on a limb" and assume BV Northwest beats BV North by 21 points, finishes 3-0 in this district and makes the playoffs. SM South sits with a point margin of 0 and a 1-1 record, while Olathe East stands at +11 with a 1-1 record. But the points totals are meaningless at this point, as the winner will have the better record and will automatically advance to the postseason. Olathe East always seems to deliver in these situations, but their loss to BV Northwest last week (which would have sealed a berth) was an uncharacteristic district performance from the Hawks. SM South will carry the underdog banner to this game. A loss for the Raiders would mean the season would end in a virtual carbon copy of their 2012 campaign, while a win would mean the program's first regular winning season since 2000 and playoff berth.
Leavenworth (3-5) at Wyandotte (3-5) at Wyandotte
Let me break this down in the most simple terms possible -- if Leavenworth beats Wyandotte by 13 points or more then the Pioneers will for sure the playoffs. A Free State win against Lawrence would also solidify the playoff berth, if Leavenworth beats Wyandotte by any margin. The scenario where things could get tricky is if Lawrence beats Free State by just six points. In that case, you would have three teams tied at 2-1 in the district, with each team 1-1 against the other two -- with Lawrence at +19 and Free State at +18. If this were to happen, Leavenworth (who currently sits at +6) would need a win of 13 or more points to make the playoffs. If LHS were to beat Free State by more than six, then that number would go down, and an LHS win by less than six would also bring the margin of victory needed by Leavenworth down. If none of that made sense, don't sweat it -- not much about the Kansas district systems make sense in the first place. The key takeaway for Leavenworth is the first sentence.
SM Northwest (2-6) at SM West (4-4) at SM South District Stadium
This game, like the Olathe East and SM South matchup, is as simple as they come. Win and you advance, lose and you go home. If only things were that simple on the field. Quite frankly it's hard to say which teams will show up in this game. SM Northwest has been the Sunflower League's best team at losing closing game (they lost three games by seven points or less, not to mention a nine-point loss to Lawrence, and a 17-3 loss for Free State after leading at the half). SM West on the other hand has struggled to find an identity all fall, especially the last month where they've dropped four of five. We say this alot, and it's basically a cliche, but this truly will be a battle of who wants it more. These two clubs look close to identical on paper through nine weeks, performance wise, and the team that truly wants to make the playoffs the most will make the playoffs.
Olathe South (5-3) at Olathe North (5-3) at ODAC
In the third of the winner-take-all district finales this week, a classic Olathe rivalry will deliver the second playoff qualifier from 6A District 4. Last season these two teams met under similar circumstances. Olathe South was 5-3 and favored over the 2-6 Olathe North. However, the Eagles pulled the upset and sent Olathe South packing. You'd be crazy to thing that game result hasn't been one of the Olathe South coaching staff's primary rallying cries this week in practice. Olathe North appears to be the superior team on paper but that doesn't mean much in this type of game. And here's something else to keep in mind: each of Olathe North's three losses have basically been decided in the fourth quarter by a touchdown or less. If Olathe South can simply keep things close, there's no reason they can't surge ahead late in the game to claim a victory.
Garder-Edgerton (7-1) at Olathe Northwest (3-5) at CBAC
There's not a whole heck of alot to take away from this one. Gardner-Edgerton is in the playoffs, while Olathe Northwest has been eliminated from playoff contention. There's always a chance Gardner-Edgerton overlooks Olathe Northwest and has a letdown type peformance, but with the talented stable of skill position players on the Trailblazers' roster, a "letdown" could still be a 21-point victory. Olathe Northwest has the dubious task of playing their final game, and knowing it's their final game, but against a talented unit like Gardner-Edgerton, that's all the more reason to dig deep into the bad of tricks in the hopes of pulling out an upset.
SM East (7-1) at SM North (0-8) at SM North District Stadium
The other Nut Cup game has lost its luster over the last decade, what with SM East making a rapid ascendance as a program while SM North has basically become the league's bottom feeder. Don't expect SM East to show much if anything Friday night. They will trot out their most vanilla offensive and defensive schemes possible (for opponent film purposes in the playoffs), make quick work of the game and get their starters to the sidelines, all in the hopes of planting the seed for a lengthy playoff run.