Monday, November 3, 2014

Sunflower League Final Power Rankings, News & Notes

Wyatt Edmisten (right) and his SM East teammates
have gone 20-2 since the beginning of the 2013 season.
On Friday they secured the record for the most points
scored in a regular season in league history. Photo
courtesy Allison Stockwell, SME Harbinger.
Eli's News & Notes

**SM East's 455 regular season points smashed the league's previous record of 407, set by Lawrence Free State's 2006 unit. The Lancers -- who are averaging just under 51 points per game -- scored 40 or more points in every game this season, and also set the league's single game record in week seven scoring 83 points against Harmon. Granted, their opponents finished a paltry 23-58 (.284), but the records are impressive nonetheless.

**Lawrence junior running back JD Woods had another stellar performance in his team's 66-28 defeat of Olathe East Friday, rushing for 262 yards and five touchdowns on 25 carries. On the season, Woods has rushed for 1,497 yards and 19 touchdowns. Unless he goes All-American in the next week(s), he probably won't place more than a blip on the Simone Award radar. However, Woods and the Chesty Lions have really gelled this year, and Woods will enter 2015 as a preseason Simone hopeful.

**Olathe Northwest was eliminated from playoff contention Friday night, and finished the season with a 5-4 record overall. The interesting thing to note is that the Ravens became just the eighth Sunflower League team since the playoff expansion in 2002 to finish with a winning record and not make the playoffs. The playoff expansion was designed to prevent this from happening, but as you can see in the list below, it still occurs from time to time.

2004: SM North (5-4)
2007: SM West (5-4)
2009: SM Northwest (5-4)
2011: Lawrence Free State (6-3), Olathe North (5-4)
2012: Olathe South (5-4)
2013: Olathe South (5-4)
2014: Olathe Northwest (5-4)

Trending Up

Olathe North: There's probably never been such a well-known group of players who have had such a no-name type of season. Statistically, the only number that stands out about Olathe North is how dominant their defense has been, giving up just nine points per game and ranking atop the league in total defense. Aside from that, nothing they really do jumps out at you. I should mention, however, building on that undefeated record is really all that's come to matter to the club this fall.

Lawrence Free State: The madness of having an All-Sunflower League 6A state title game rests on two things -- somebody knocking off Blue Valley in 6A East, and the Firebirds continuing their magical late season run. Okay, I probably shouldn't call anything Free State did in districts magical until they've at least won a playoff game, but the point remains the Firebirds are playing their best football of the season. Head coach Bob Lisher has advanced his teams to the Sub-State round or further on three occasions, so he knows how to put together that run.

SM East: There's grumblings about how the Lancers drew the most difficult Regional draw of any of the "Big Three" (Blue Valley, Olathe North and SM East), despite being the top overall seed. And this is true. But, SM East lucked out avoiding a potential Sectional matchup with Blue Valley or Olathe North. Now, if the Lancers can take down Lawrence on Friday, they certainly won't face a slouch in either Olathe South or SM West in Sectionals, but it's much better draw than Blue Valley or Olathe North.

Trending Down

Olathe East: There have been expectations for some time that every year will be the year the Hawks finally get it done and take a 6A state title, but it never seems to happen. And lately, Olathe East has been more weary than dominant. Take for instance the greatest three seasons in program history, which weren't too long ago. From 2003 to 2005, the Hawks went 31-4, with two Sectional berths and a state title runner-up. And who could forget the 2010 and 2011 seasons, where they went 19-5 with two Sub-State appearances? But in the last three years, from 2012-2014, the Hawks have gone just 16-15. Clearly Olathe East has slipped to a point they do not want to be in as a program.

SM Northwest: The Cougars never gave up in their 27-20 loss to SM South on Friday, which effectively ended their season, but I don't think effort has been a problem with the club the past few years. Really, it's come down to execution, or lack thereof. The Cougars ranked last in the league in total defense for the better part of the regular season, and they turned the ball over like nobody's business on offense. At the end of the day, they did beat rival SM North to stay out of the league cellar, but that's one of the few positives (on paper) you can take away from their 2-7 campaign.

Non-Con Foes: Sure, Blue Valley (who sits at 8-1 through nine weeks) is as good as any team in the Sunflower League -- but the Tigers have been for years. Aside from Blue Valley (who's gone 2-0 against the Sunflower League), when push came to shove, the league dubbed the "SEC of Kansas high school football" -- the Sunflower League -- did very well. The league's record against non-conference foes was 19-5 (.792) and that winning percentage has a chance to really jump (or plummet) here in the next couple weeks.

Final Power Rankings

1. SM East (9-0): The Lancers may have been rewarded with an easy regular season schedule, but that schtick will be forgotten if they can make it through 6A East and into a second consecutive state title game. Alternatively, if they lose early in the playoffs, most outside of the SM East community will write off the undefeated regular season and attribute the success to an easy schedule.

2. Olathe North (9-0): If you want to know how well Olathe North's defense is playing, just look at their matchup with LHS. Last week, Olathe North shut out the Chesty Lions, 27-0, and held them to 123 yards of total offense. This week, the Chesty Lions went and scored 66 points against Olathe East on 440 yards of total offense. That should tell you something. Also of note: Olathe North didn't allow a touchdown in district play.

3. Olathe South (7-2): The Falcons got back on track this past week, handling Gardner-Edgerton with ease. As good of a season as they've had, their success has kind of been overshadowed by 6A East's "Big Three" -- Blue Valley, Olathe North and SM East -- of whom the Falcons combined to go 0-2 against. Olathe South does have the potential to avenge those losses if they can go on a playoff run like they did in 2011.

4. Lawrence Free State (6-3): I tell you what, 6A East is lucky the Firebirds were shipped out west for districts and the playoffs. Nobody wants to play Free State at this time. The Firebirds have won four games in a row, and their offense has looked unstoppable under quarterback Bryce Torneden. Can they make a state title game run ala 2008? From what we've seen from 6A West, it seems well within the realm of possibilities.

5. Lawrence (5-4): The Chesty Lions ended the regular season with an exclamation point, hammering Olathe East by 38 points. The thing about LHS is they've lacked consistency all season, and only once did they follow up a victory with another victory. They will have a chance to atone for the inconsistency when they face an extremely talented but relatively untested SM East club on Friday.

6. Olathe Northwest (5-4): The Ravens became just the 12th Sunflower League team since 2000 to finish the regular season with a winning record and not qualify for the playoffs. It's a dubious list, but they can't lose sight of the forest for the trees. The program is moving in the right direction, and I think it's safe to say the Ravens have climbed out of the Olathe cellar.

7. Leavenworth (5-4): By defeating Lansing on Friday, the Pioneers claimed their first winning regular season record in years. The district sweep earned Leavenworth the top overall seed in 5A East, which is something nobody would have anticipated when they sat at 2-4 after week six. Leavenworth has never won a playoff game, so a victory against Topeka Seaman this Friday would be monumental.

8. SM West (5-4): The Vikings showed some grit against BV North, overcoming a 14-point second half deficit to win on a last-second field goal. The victory was the fourth in a row for the Vikings, who seem miles ahead of where they were several weeks back. That being said, it would take a colossal effort from the young team to pull an upset against Olathe South this week.

9. SM South (3-6): The Raiders probably had better teams the past two seasons (both years they finished 4-5), but this year's team became the first from the school to make the playoffs since 2007. SM South's Regional opponent, Blue Valley, is playing as well as anybody in the state. Naturally, you hope the Raiders pull out all the stops because they're basically playing with house money at this point.

10. Olathe East (3-6): I think most around the Olathe East program will be pleased to close the book on what was a tumultuous 2014. The program's streak of winning seasons (which stood at 14 entering the year) ended when the Hawks lost to Olathe Northwest in week eight, and they missed the playoffs for the first time since 2001. Aside from rallying around James McGinnis following his awful injury in week two, Olathe East didn't do anything well this fall.

11. SM Northwest (2-7): The Cougars weren't able to pull the rabbit out of the hat in week nine, as they lost and saw their season come to a close. SM Northwest has now recorded four straight losing seasons, which has come on the heels of the four straight winning seasons they had from 2007 to 2010. The program will continue to struggle if they can't figure out the quarterback position or field a halfway decent defensive unit.

12. SM North (2-7): Despite their two wins, the Indians are still holding down the cellar in week nine, as they lost to the No. 11 team, SM Northwest, in week two (although who knows how that game would turn out at this point in the year). Similar to SM South who will go up against Blue Valley, the Indians have nothing to lose when they face Olathe North this week. They might as well throw everything they've got at the Eagles (literally).


MahValley said...

Eli, not sure if you have given much thought to doing this segment at the end of the season(when last sfl team looses)or not but I would actually up smn ahead of smnw because Indians made playoffs.

On a side note smnw has had good athletes what they have needed is a staff that WILL develop players. They had one of the most athletic teams they have had in a long time but staff was unwilling/unable to adapt the sceam to fit players talents. They had guys playing both ways that were better fit to one side of ball and some others could not get on field. As far as qb goes they didn't even let Carder throw the ball early on in his SR year and he finished near the top(3-4 I think) in passing att/comp. They even had a good running game that year.

The Free Thinker said...

why isn't Leavenworth Trending up, they won 63-0 and snached a district title in the first time in forever...

8timestatechamps said...

They finished 5-4 and beat two KCK schools. I think they are differently moving in the right direction but don't compare them to ON and SME and what Freestate did the last 3 weeks.

Move the Chains said...

Concur w Carmen...LV deserves attention on first ever district championship. SME and ON solid seasons but favored each week.