|Olathe North's Josh Moore (with the ball) committed|
to Kansas on Thursday, then helped Olathe North
beat Lawrence on Friday. Photo LJWorld.
**On the recruiting trail, this past Thursday Olathe North tight end Josh Moore decommitted from Ohio State, and subsequently committed to Kansas. According to sources, the decommitment was a mutual decision between Moore and the Ohio State coaching staff. Moore had originally selected Ohio State over an offer list that included Auburn, Florida State and Oklahoma, among others.
**In week eight we saw five Sunflower League teams punch their playoff tickets: Free State, Leavenworth, Olathe North, SM East and SM North. On the flip side, one team -- Olathe East -- was eliminated from playoff contention.
**We knew the Blue Valley was for real (they always are) but their 49-0 thrashing of Olathe South firmly implanted that notion. On paper, it appears there are three favorites to advance to the state title game from 6A East: Blue Valley, Olathe North, and SM East. What's really amazing is that despite there only being 16 teams in East 6A, none of those three have played one another this fall.
**Has the Royals' playoff run impacted game attendance around the league? Absolutely. But I don't think anybody's complaining about it. The hope is that it means we see an influx in attendance throughout the playoffs, as students, fans, etc., try to make up for lost time.
Lawrence Free State: Life in 6A West hasn't been too bad for the Firebirds so far. They traveled to a completely unknown environment (Manhattan) last week and took down a formidable opponent, and did so in dominating fashion. There's no telling where in Kansas they could end up in their playoff journey, but we know it's going to be an exciting setting. Is this team capable of running through the playoffs to the state title game and becoming the first ever Sunflower League team to represent 6A West? It seems a bit premature at this point, but a big victory against Topeka this week could probably put them among the favorites in the west.
SM West: When SM West was 1-4 they had the look of a team that might go 2-7 if they didn't find their groove. Well, they found it alright -- and it's come on the defensive side of the football. The Vikings forced seven turnovers on Friday, six the week before, and four the week before that. They now lead the league in turnovers by a comfortable margin with 24. The offense still isn't anything to write home about (how do you force seven turnovers and only win by four points?) but I think the program has got to be pleased with the strides they've made since week five.
Olathe North: When I think of the great Olathe North teams of the past the first players that come to mind are the Simone winners. Names like Bruce, Brewer, Sproles, Mack, Bouknight and Franklin. While some of those guys played defense, each won the Simone because of their prowess on the offensive side of the football. The Eagles' have a great legacy of outstanding defense (you don't win eight state titles without it), but it's a muted legacy. This season, however, the attention is finally being drawn to the guys on the defensive side of the football. The Eagles pitched a shutout against LHS on Friday, and limited the Chesty Lions to just 123 rushing yards on 45 carries, and zero passing yards. If a team ever wins a state title because of its defense, it will be this one.
Olathe South: I'm confident the Falcons will bounce back, and play like their 49-point shutout loss to Blue Valley never happened, but it does make you question whether this team can actually win a state title. More than likely, assuming the Falcons handle Gardner-Edgerton Friday, Olathe South would have to beat two undefeated teams to make it to the state title game. They've shown when they're clicking they're capable of beating anybody, but Friday was a stark reminder this team probably doesn't have the horses of their 2011 club.
Quarterback touchdown-to-interception ratios: I don't know if the secondaries are just that much better in 2014, but the league's quarterbacks have had a penchant for tossing picks this fall. The league's top 12 passers have combined to throw 73 interceptions, which is an average of six interceptions per quarterback. The overall touchdown-to-interception ratio among those 12 players stands at 83:73. Compared to previous years, that's a terrible ratio. And we still have week of regular season play to go.
Boring regular season play: To have a compelling regular season you have to have dominant teams, and intriguing matchups. After all, the games don't have legitimate implications until week six. There's been a bit of a lag to date this fall. Part of that's because Olathe North and SM East never matched up. Part of it has to do with seven teams being .500 or worse after eight weeks. But it all gets very real this Friday, and I wouldn't be surprised if we're on the brink of some of the most exciting 6A East playoffs we've seen in years.
Week Nine Power Rankings
1. SM East (8-0): It basically became a formality the Lancers would make the playoffs the next two years when their district was announced last offseason. But as we enter week nine, there's actually one thing they can prove -- that they're the highest scoring regular season offense in Sunflower League history. They need 15 points to tie the all-time record, and 16 to set it. Also, a win would mark the first undefeated regular season in Lancer history.
2. Olathe North (8-0): If Olathe North can close out the regular season with a victory against Olathe Northwest -- which doesn't look as simple as it did early in the season -- it would mark the eighth time Olathe North has finished the regular season undefeated in Gene Wier's 25 seasons as head coach. The Eagles won a state title in five of those previous occasions.
3. Olathe South (6-2): Week eight was a bit of a reality check for the Falcons, something which nobody could have predicted with how well they had been playing. It was an uncharacteristically bad loss and really, probably more of an enigma than anything. Olathe South will be expected to roll Gardner-Edgerton (0-8) this Friday, and clinch a playoff berth.
4. Lawrence Free State (5-3): It would have been easy to write off the Firebirds after week five. They were 2-3 at that time, coming off a 42-14 loss to SM East. But, through some magic (probably Bob Lisher) they made midseason adjustments and have gone 3-0 since. Their comfortable road win against a 6-1 Manhattan team (in their first ever trip out west) was a thing of beauty.
5. Olathe Northwest (5-3): You can look at moral victories in many different ways, but regardless of how week nine turns outs (Olathe Northwest very likely needs to beat Olathe North to make the playoffs, which is a tall order) the Ravens have had a successful second season under Chip Sherman. Win Friday and you can declare it the best season in Olathe Northwest history.
6. Lawrence (4-4): A wild playoff run not withstanding, it's become pretty clear the Chesty Lions are still a season away from being in the league's upper echelon. Fortunately for LHS, they won their most important game of the season two weeks ago against Olathe Northwest, and need to beat a seemingly lifeless Olathe East club on Friday to make it into the playoffs.
7. Leavenworth (4-4): The Pioneers have always struggled in the Sunflower League, so it's nice seeing them having some success by dropping down to Class 5A (they've gone 3-0 against 5A opponents, but just 1-4 against league competition) for districts and playoffs. Their matchup with Lansing this Friday might be the most hyped game in program history.
8. SM West (4-4): SM West's 11-game stretch between week four of the 2013 season and the week five of 2014 campaign, where they went 2-9, seemed to last forever. But they're now on a three-game winning streak and can finish the regular season with a winning record, and ensure a playoff berth with a victory against BV North this week -- two things we've grown to expect from the program.
9. SM South (2-6): It's win-or-go-home time for the Raiders. They've battled inexperience, injuries, and a lack of true playmaker(s) all year, but the fortuitous district draw mans they can probably clinch a playoff berth with a victory against SM Northwest Friday. The Raiders basically need to win by four points or more to ensure the playoff berth.
10. Olathe East (3-5): There's not much left to say about Olathe East's 2014 season. They've been eliminated from playoff contention and are basically playing for pride in this final week of the regular season. I've alluded to this on multiple occasions, but after watching them defeat Garden City in week one, there's no way I would have believed they would have finished so poorly at 4-5 or 3-6.
11. SM Northwest (2-6): The Cougars showed up offensively against BV North as they have in many of their games this season, but a complete lack of defense did them in, as they allowed 45 points. SM Northwest should be thankful two losses and a 31-point deficit hasn't eliminated them from the playoffs. To get in, for instance, in one scenario they need to beat SM South by at least 20 points, and have BV North lose by 9+ points.
12. SM North (2-6): Lose 25-straight games, then win two in a row. Winning in high school football can be a funny thing at times. The Indians face a stiff test against SM East this week, but they've already qualified for the playoffs and the game will be an excellent gauge for where the team's at as they conclude the regular season.