|Lawrence running back Trey Moore has|
been one of the league's pleasant surprises
through four weeks. Photo LJWorld.
**Week four was kind of an anticlimactic week in the Sunflower League. Sure, Leavenworth had a nice showing in Lawrence, SM East captured consecutive Nut Cups, and Olathe North might have finally woken up, but it wasn't the wildest Friday we've ever had. We know district play will be exciting (it always is) but hopefully things pick up in the two weeks before then.
**Olathe North linebacker Marcel Spears had an eventful week. After an outstanding effort against SM South -- where he helped his team to a 49-0 victory, adding a touchdown on a 40-yard interception return for a touchdown -- the talented linebacker took an official visit to Nebraska on Saturday to watch the Huskers take on Illinois. Spears is an Iowa State commit, of course, but the visit would suggest he's evaluating his options.
**SM East has 20 rushing touchdowns through four weeks, which is really kind of absurd when you consider no other team in the league has scored more than 16 touchdowns total.
**Last week I noted how surprising it was that we hadn't seen a kick or punt return for a touchdown. There were four return touchdowns on Friday by three teams (Leavenworth's Juwann Potts (2), Olathe North's Venus Triplett and Lawrence's Nyle Anderson all had return scores). All three of their teams won. Special teams are the great equalizer, and it can win games just as easily as it can lose them.
**In Major League Baseball, a common gauge for a team's recent performance is how they've played in the previous 10 games. Now obviously in baseball they're playing about a game a day. In football, it's quite different, and a 10-game look back often encompasses more than one season. However, if you study the trends of the teams in the Sunflower League, you'll find that a 10-game snapshot can be pretty eye-opening, and brutally honest. Here's a snapshot of the record for each team in their last 10 games dating back to last season.
Best Records (last 10 games)
1. SM East (9-1)
2. Olathe North (8-2)
3t. Free State (7-3)
3t. Olathe East (7-3)
Worst Records (last 10 games)
1. SM North (0-10)
2. SM West (2-8)
3t. SM Northwest (3-7)
3t. SM South (3-7)
Leavenworth: The Pioneers had a huge breakthrough victory on Friday, taking down Free State comfortably, 35-21. These big wins for the Pioneers are becoming less and less of a surprise. Their next two opponents couldn't be more difficult (Olathe North and SM East), and those might also be the top teams in 6A. Win or lose, Leavenworth will be well-prepped for the 5A district and playoff tilt.
Olathe South: There was some talk the Falcons were primed to be upset as they journeyed to CBAC this past week, but they crushed that notion with a 21-point victory. I've said this before, but the real key for the Falcons will be preserving the health of running back Collin Fischer. If the Falcons can stay healthy there's no reason they can't finish 8-1 or 7-2, which seemed like a longshot (to me, at least) in the preseason.
Olathe football: The top football town in Kansas has a combined record of 12-4. What's even more impressive is that only one of those losses has come against a non-Olathe opponent (Olathe Northwest lost to Hays, 12-10, in week one, and Hays has been impressive at 4-0). I'm expecting the domination to continue throughout the season and maybe, just maybe, we'll get one of those ballyhooed Olathe X vs. Olathe Z matchups in Sectionals or Sub-State.
Lawrence Free State: Losing a home game to Leavenworth stings (especially after the Firebirds look pretty solid through the better part of the first three weeks). But things will look even worse if SM East comes to Lawrence this Friday and does to the Firebirds what they've done to their last four opponents. The Firebirds could find themselves at 2-3 if they don't bring their best effort this week.
SM Northwest: The Cougars are fortunate their neighbor SM North has been so terrible through the past four years, or else SM Northwest would be catching more of the microscope. The Cougars are just 10-23 since the start of 2011 and they've looked lifeless this year -- especially when they don't have their star running back Duron Lowe who can't seem to get healthy.
SMSD football: The Sunflower League is cyclical, and right now, it's not treating the Shawnee Mission School District very well (aside from SM East who is on fire). The four non-SM East schools are a combined 3-13. But that doesn't tell the entire story. All three of those wins have come against SM North (0-4). Hopefully the SMSD can make some headway for the league in district play.
Week Five Power Rankings
1. SM East (4-0): The Lancers continue to roll, having outscored their opponents 171-35 through four games. They face what will probably be their most difficult matchup of the regular season this Friday, when they visit Lawrence Free State.
2. Olathe North (4-0): A (mostly) healthy Cole Murphy is making a world of difference for the Eagles. But that's the benefit of having a three-year starter at your most important position. As long as the defense continues to do its part, Olathe North isn't going to be stopped anytime soon.
3. Olathe South (3-1): The Falcons are in a good position here at the No. 3 slot. While SM East and Olathe North will field the pressure of being the league's top teams as it's only remaining undefeateds, Olathe South can quietly go about their business, gaining steam every week.
4. Olathe East (3-1): A strong running game and a steady defense. The formula doesn't sound incredibly robust, but it's always worked for the Hawks. This fall is no exception. Don't be surprised if Olathe East wins their next two games setting up a great week seven matchup with Olathe North.
5. Lawrence Free State (2-2): I felt like we had a good handle on the Firebirds a week ago, but their Homecoming loss to Leavenworth raised some questions. Can they score in crunch time? Will their special teams hold up? A win against SM East would pretty much eliminate those questions.
6. Olathe Northwest (2-2): At a certain point you have to take a step back and ask yourself, will Olathe Northwest ever be able to compete with their Olathe counterparts? Season No. 11 in this league and they still look like the Olathe ragdoll. Maybe that changes come district play.
7. Lawrence (2-2): JD Woods and Trey Moore might be the most entertaining offensive duo in the league. But entertaining doesn't always translate to wins like it did this past week. Lawrence has the potential, but the Chesties need to solidify things the next two weeks leading up to a tough district.
8. Leavenworth (2-2): Five years ago there would have been no way the Pioneers could have gone on the road and beat Free State. But hey, Mark Littrell knows how to coach. Their next two opponents (SM East and Olathe North) are tough, but Leavenworth isn't afraid of anyone.
9. SM South (1-3): Well, the Raiders are limping, and it's obvious they miss the strong senior class they graduated this past spring. SM South finished 0-3 in their tumultuous three-game stretch (against teams a combined 11-1) and it's safe to say they really need another victory before districts.
10. SM West (1-3): It's been a rough season for the Vikings and it doesn't get any easier with Olathe South and Olathe East on tap the next two weeks. SM West's district opponents are a combined 2-10, which offers hope, but they need to get some things together these next two weeks.
11. SM Northwest (1-3): Like SM West and SM South, district play offers new hope for the Cougars. But in the meantime, SM Northwest has an aggregate score deficit of 142-64, or 78 points, which is the worst in the league. They're lucky Jonathan Killeen saved them against SM North.
12. SM North (0-4): For what it's worth, SM North actually led Olathe East 14-13 in the third quarter of Friday's game. I know, morale victories don't count for much in this league, but they do show progress, and SM North will take any positive mojo they can find.