Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Sunflower League Sectional Round Review

SM East's Charley White (right) intercepted his fifth pass
of the season on Friday night, which ties him for the league
lead with Olathe North's Isaiah Simmons, who also picked
off a pass on Friday. Photo KC Star.
The Good

**SM East is advancing to their first Sub-State game in 12 years; their 10 wins are the most they've ever had in a single season, and they claimed a share of the Sunflower League title during the regular season. And this is all happening under a new head coach in Dustin Delaney.

**Olathe North's defense has forced 11 turnovers in the last two games, against teams with a combined record of 16-5. The Eagles are winning games with their defense, but they would be lethal if their offense could get rolling.

The Bad

**Free State outgained Olathe North 393 to 224, had 25 first downs to Olathe North's five, and led 18-7 at halftime, but still lost. The real kicker (no pun intended) might have been the fact they failed to convert any extra points, because had they been 3/3 on those, regulation might have ended in a 21-all tie.

**In the first half of the Olathe East and SM East game, SM East ran 44 plays to Olathe East's 11. What's more, if you take out Jalen Branson's touchdown on the opening play from scrimmage, Olathe East was outgained 227-74 in the half.

The Ugly

** Free State's Joe Dineen turned the ball over six times (four interceptions, two fumbles) in his final game as a Firebird. In the previous 10 games he'd only turned the ball over four times.

**Olathe East has had 14-straight winning seasons and made the playoffs in 12 consecutive years, but in all that time they've never managed to come away with a state title. The Hawks came close in 2005, losing to Hutchinson 24-7 in the state title game, but for another offseason the program will be title-less.

Sectional Round Players of the Week

Gunnar Englund, SM East: The Lancers junior quarterback had no trouble filling in for injured senior Christian Blessen for a second week. On Friday he casually rallied SM East from a 7-0 deficit, tossing two touchdown passes and helping the team to a 10th victory.

Chaz Burgess, Olathe North: One of the many outstanding juniors for Olathe North, Burgess intercepted a first half pass, caught a 23-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter to pull the Eagles to within three points of Free State, then iced the game late in the fourth quarter intercepting his second Dineen pass, with under 10 seconds remaining.

Down and Out

Lawrence Free State (9-2): The Firebirds came into the season with big expectations -- and I think they lived up to those expectations as much as anyone could have asked. Had a few plays gone their way late on Friday they could just as easily be playing in Sub-State this Friday, but one loss won't diminish what they were able to accomplish -- especially without the services of Northwestern-bound defensive tackle Fred Wyatt who was lost in the offseason to an ACL tear. The Firebirds will likely slide Bryce Torneden into their heralded quarterback position, and frankly I don't see any reason why the program won't be among the league's best again next fall.

Olathe East (7-4): Nobody's complaining about a 7-4 record and a Sectional berth, but at a certain point you've got to ask, what's it going to take for Olathe East to get back to truly dominating the Sunflower League? I will continue to pencil Olathe East in for a top four finish in the league and seven or eight wins, because the program is just that steady. But it makes you wonder if the Hawks will ever kick down the door and take a state title under Jeff Meyers?

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