|SM West is hoping their 18-7 victory against Olathe East will carry over to districts, while the Hawks are
searching for answers after losing a second game in a row and falling to 3-3. Photo courtesy David Compton.
**With their Thursday and Friday victories, Olathe North and SM East, respectively, each claimed a share of the Sunflower League title. It was Olathe North's 13th league title, and their 10th under Gene Wier. For SM East, it was the sixth of its kind in program history, and the third in the last five years.
Sunflower League Championships
Olathe North: 1991, '95, '96, '97, '98, '99, '00, '01, '02, '04, '09, '10, '14
SM East: 1961, '64, '66, '10, '13, '14
**With the completion of non-district play, two league teams -- Lawrence Free State and Leavenworth -- will more or less drop off the league scene for the remainder of the year. Leavenworth, the league's lone 5A program, if off to their outside district, and depending on those results, the 5A state playoffs. Meanwhile, due to the attendance influx in several East 6A schools which were formerly 5A, Free State is being shipped out to 6A West for districts and, (if they qualify) the playoffs. The only chance we see the Firebirds in a league contest again is if they make it to the 6A state title game, as the 6A West representative, and match up with a league team representing 6A East. Hey, we can dream, can't we? That being said, coverage of both programs will continue as normal.
**If you're not completely in-tune with the world of Twitter, you might have missed the incredible week Lawrence defensive tackle Amani Bledsoe had on the recruiting trail. In the course of 24 hours, Nebraska, Ohio State, Oklahoma and Texas Tech all offered the talented 6-4, 275-pound junior. And then today Missouri threw their hat into the ring. Bledsoe previously held offers from Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State and NC State. He was held out of Friday's loss to Olathe South with a sprained MCL, but he's expected to rejoin the starting lineup for districts.
**To touch on last week's league discrepancy comments, the league's top four teams (Olathe North, Olathe Northwest, Olathe South and SM East), based on record, are a combined 21-3, and two of those losses have come from within. The league's remaining eight teams are a combined 16-32.
SM West: Sure, Olathe East may be a lame duck at this point, but the Vikings needed a victory against a marquee opponent, and their 18-7 outcome on Friday was right on point. Despite a poor season overall to date, if you look ahead to their district, the Vikes actually have a decent shot at finishing the regular season above the .500 mark. SM West's current seniors were sophomores during the program's 2012 state title run -- so you know they know how to win. The question is more can they win (out?).
Olathe Northwest: In all my time of conducting regular season weekly Power Rankings (51 weeks to be exact) the Ravens have never been ranked above the No. 6 slot. Until now. Olathe Northwest doesn't have a signature win on the season, but they've done the single most important thing to being competitive in the Sunflower League -- they've defeated all of their lesser opponents. I know, sounds simple. But it's not an easy practice (Olathe East has written the book on how to do this), especially when you don't have a roster dotted with FBS recruits or many returning All-Sunflower League honorees. This week's game against LHS loom enormous. Beat LHS and then defeat one or both of Olathe East and Olathe North and it may be a sign the program has finally arrived.
Competitive Districts: It's do-or-die time across the league and some of the district matchups will be quite compelling. In District No. 2, you have BV North (1-5), SM Northwest (2-4), SM South (1-5), and SM West (2-4) singing hallelujah they still have a shot at making the playoffs. We'll find out real quick who's ready to hand in the pads versus who wants to make something of their season. District No. 4 offers Lawrence (3-3), Olathe North (6-0), Olathe Northwest (4-2), and Olathe East (3-3). Olathe East is searching for air, Olathe North is seeking supremacy, Olathe Northwest wants to gain respect among the Olathes, and LHS is trying to see if they can smash-mouth their way into the playoffs. And don't forget District No. 3, where Olathe South (5-1) will try to end a two-year playoff drought in a district that includes Blue Valley (5-1) and Blue Valley Northwest (4-2).
Olathe East: I typically don't put team on the "Trending Down" list more than one week in a row, but it's almost impossible to overlook the Hawks' woes at this time. They can't pass the football, they can't score the football, and they've completely lost their sense of team. Who knows -- maybe they'll simply use their rushing attack and bully their way into the playoffs like they seemingly do every year. But you sort of get the impression that's looking like a long-shot, especially considering they've been outscored 45-14 the past two weeks against teams who are a combined 4-8.
SM South: In baseball we talk about a pitcher's run support, or lack thereof. In football, for whatever reason, we tend to understate the toll a poor offense can have on what would be a solid defense. That's the case with SM South this year, as their offense has done little to compliment their defensive efforts. The defense has held four of their six opponents to 21 points or less, but the offense has only managed 13 touchdowns (side note: six of those came in a week one victory against SM North).
6A East District No. 1: Aside from powerful SM East, the district's three other teams (Harmon, SM North and Wyandotte) are a combined 1-17. This is unlikely to happen, but you could potentially see a team making the playoffs out of that district at 1-8. Obviously teams have no control over their district placements, but at a certain point you almost have to ask, why are we even using districts? How hard would it be to simply divide Kansas into East and West, then take the top eight teams (record wise) from each side, with head-to-head matchups serving as the tie-breaker? It would have to be slightly more complex than that, but you get the idea. We've seen enough 6-3 and 5-4 teams miss out on the playoffs in favor of 3-6 or 2-7 clubs to recognize the system is flawed.
Week Seven Power Rankings
1. SM East (6-0): The modern record for points scored by a league team in the regular season is 407 by Free State in 2006. SM East sits at 254 points through six games, which means they would need to average 51 the next three games to tie that record. But I think the Lancers have bigger goals than that.
2. Olathe North (6-0): When Olathe North flexes their muscles they're better than just about everyone. Sometimes they just need a punch in the gut to get going. After SM North tied the Eagles at 14 on Friday, Olathe North rattled off four unanswered touchdowns and cruised to victory No. 6.
3. Olathe South (5-1): The Falcons roared to a 29-0 halftime lead against LHS on Friday, and have outscored their opponents 134-32 in the first halves of their six games. Like solid special teams, big plays, and forcing turnovers, playing well in the opening quarters almost always equates to victories in this league.
4. Olathe Northwest (4-2): The Ravens are playing well and at the right time. They just dismantled a SM Northwest team that had a great deal of momentum heading into week six. The upcoming three district games can probably be dubbed the most important three games in Raven football history to date.
5. Lawrence Free State (3-3): Based on their performances so far, the Firebirds are either going to get shelled in districts and miss the playoffs altogether, or go on some sort of impressive run through 6A West. It's hard to tell which team Free State will show up, but that's life with a young roster.
6. Lawrence (3-3): What killed the Chesties this past week (aside from a terrible first half overall) was throwing three interceptions. At the end of the day, LHS is best when they place reliance on their talented running backs -- not when they have to open up their offense and try to attack defenses through the air.
7. Olathe East (3-3): This is sort of uncharted territory for Olathe East, and nobody would have imagined they would be sitting here after that impressive week one victory over Garden City. Push will really come to shove if they show up unprepared against district rival Olathe North this Friday.
8. Leavenworth (2-4): Farewell to the Pioneers, as far as league competition is concerned. They've had their ups and downs, but I think they've improved as much as anybody these past six weeks even though the results don't necessarily show that. It's time for the Pioneers to make some noise in 5A.
9. SM Northwest (2-4): So, that 27-7 victory against Olathe East -- was that fact or fluke? It's hard to say following the Cougs' 31-0 loss to Olathe Northwest. SM Northwest's biggest game of the season -- hands down -- comes this Friday against SM West. The winner will be primed to make the playoffs.
10. SM West (2-4): There's really no telling what the Vikings will do from here. They've settled in at the quarterback position, given their inexperienced juniors and sophomores ample playing time, and picked up a couple victories. But neither a 3-0 nor 0-3 finish to the season would come as a surprise.
11. SM South (1-5): The Raiders' woes have been well documented, but the problems begin and end with their offense, which has thrown 10 interceptions and scored a mere 39 points their last five games (5.8 ppg). Even with an evenly matched district, they stand no chance at the playoffs if those numbers continue.
12. SM North (0-6): The Indians are the league's most pass-happy team, so when it was pouring rain an hour before kickoff against Olathe North, it was safe to say their chances of a glorious upset had taken a hit. Their game against Wyandotte this week should end the thing which shall not be named