Saturday, December 6, 2014

Underwood's Sunflower League Elite Eleven Teams

Andre Maloney Award
Sunflower League Most Valuable Player
Kyle Ball (6-2, 235) - 2X Elite Eleven
Senior, SM East
Defensive End

Defense: 118 tackles (37 for loss), 10 sacks

Arguably the league's most dominant defender since Mike Rivera, Ball was the centerpiece of SM East's 24-2 record the past two seasons, which is something you don't often hear about a defensive end. For his career, Ball recorded 272 tackles and more than 20 sacks. In the past two seasons alone he had 65 tackles for loss. With an offer in hand from Kansas, expect the defensive specimen to add to his legacy in the FBS ranks.

Coach's comment: "His motor never stopped and he raised everyone's level of play."

Mike Rivera Award
Sunflower League Defensive Player of the Year
Amani Bledsoe (6-5, 275)
Junior, Lawrence
Defensive End/Offensive Tackle

Defense: 70 tackles (14 for loss), 13 sacks, 1 f. fum.
Offense: Team rushed for 2,900+ yards

Entering the season with four FBS offers placed a sizeable target on Bledsoe's back. The exposure certainly didn't hurt the junior's production, as he led the league in sacks and in the process claimed another five offers. Bledsoe was just as valuable on offense, as he was one of just two league players to earn first-team honors on both offense and defense.

Coach's comment: "No one in the KC metro has the offers he has at the end of his junior year."

Darren Sproles Award
Sunflower League Offensive Player of the Year
JD Woods (5-8, 180)
Junior, Lawrence
Running Back/Cornerback

Offense: 205 carries, 1,667 yards, 20 TDs
Defense: 48 tackles, 2 interceptions

Nobody in east Kansas had anything close to Woods' explosiveness out of the backfield. He tallied 12 carries that went for 40 yards or more, with three touchdown runs of more than 75 yards. He was also a starting cornerback for the Chesty Lions, meaning he rarely had a chance to catch to his breath. Woods looks more than capable of eclipsing 2,000 rushing yards as a senior.

Coach's comment: "I've never politicked, but he played defense and still had 1,600 yards."

Gunnar Englund (6-2, 180)
Senior, SM East

Offense: 47-of-98 passing, 1,249 yards, 21 TDs (4 ints); 82 carries, 710 rushing yards, 6 TDs

Englund became the first, and only (for now) quarterback in SM East's 57-year history to lead the Lancers to a state title victory. Think about that for a moment. Englund managed SM East's intricate flexbone offense for a total of 17 starts between his junior and senior seasons, and finished with a 16-1 record (.941), which is the highest winning percentage of any league quarterback with at least 15 starts in the modern era. Needless to say, the bar has been set very high for SM East's future signal-callers.

Scott Frantz (6-6, 290)
Senior, Free State
Offensive Tackle

Offense: Team had 4,000+ yards of total offense

Thanks to players like Braden Smith, Austin Chambers, and Frantz, the league is developing a reputation for top flight offensive lineman worthy of FBS offers. In June, Frantz committed to K-State over eight other offers from schools in the ACC, Big 12, and B1G. With an undeniable combination of sound fundamentals and a capable nasty streak, Frantz was the league's most dominant offensive lineman from the start of the season to its conclusion. Recruitniks feel the talented Firebird will have a chance to compete for early playing time in Manhattan.

Nick Perez (6-1, 180)
Senior, SM North
Wide Receiver/Safety

Offense: 46 receptions, 949 yards, 13 TDs
Defense: 98 tackles, 3 forced fumbles, 2 interceptions, 1 fumble recovery

Perez' team might have only won two games, but the senior would have started for any team in the league -- and done well. Offensively he had 446 more receiving yards and five more receiving touchdowns than the league's second best statistical receiver. Defensively, he had a knack for creating turnovers and his near 100 tackles spoke to his ability to play just as well against the run as the pass in the secondary.

Isaiah Ross (5-11, 185)
Senior, Leavenworth
Safety/Wide Receiver

Offense: 98 carries, 583 yards, 6 TDs, 30 receptions, 478 yards, 5 TDs
Defense: 60 tackles, 6 interceptions (1 TD), 2 forced fumbles, 1 blocked kick

Ross is one of just a handful of four-year starters I can name off the top of my head from the league all-time. To put that in perspective, he was a starter against the Olathe South team that won a state title in 2011. Versatile as all get-out, Ross recorded more than 2,000 yards of total offense in his career, playing both running back and receiver. Defensively, he grabbed 15 interceptions in his four seasons.

Jake Seurer (5-10, 180) - 2X Elite Eleven
Senior, Olathe South

Offensive stats: 65-of-107 passing, 1,043 yards, 10 TDs (6 ints), 100 carries, 497 rushing yards, 11 TDs
Defensive stats: 85 tackles, 1 interception, 1 forced fumble

If you were looking for the league's most steady player the past couple seasons, look no further than Seurer. As a junior he led the league in tackles with 136, while combining for over 1,000 yards of total offense and adding 10 touchdowns. His efforts this fall helped Olathe South to a 7-3 record, and the program's first playoff berth since 2011. While Seurer didn't carry the clout of some of the league's more well-known players, he was as solid as they come.

Bryce Torneden (5-10, 175)
Junior, Free State

Offensive stats: 75-of-143 passing, 1,064 yards, 10 TDs (8 ints); 217 carries, 1,277 rushing yards, 15 TDs
Defensive stats: 67 tackles, 2 interceptions (1 TD), 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery

The Sunflower League has had some great legacies. The Bowens, the Gores, the Lawrences, etc. But perhaps no family has brought as much excitement to the league as the Tornedens. Bryce lived up to the legacy set by his older brother, Camren (2007-2009), this year, joining the 1,000/1000 Club, leading Free State to a Sub-State berth, and setting the tone as the league's most dynamic quarterback.

Venus Triplett (5-8, 190) - 2X Elite Eleven
Senior, Olathe North
Running Back

Offensive stats: 259 carries, 1,284 yards, 23 TDs, 11 receptions, 252 yards, 2 TDs
Special teams stats: 2 punt return TDs

While he never won a state title or a Simone, Triplett was the heart and soul of the Eagles' offensive efforts over the last three years -- especially this fall, with Cole Murphy hobbled and defenses keying on the senior running back. Triplett also had that unique gamebreaking ability that you so rarely see at the high school level. His 83-yard touchdown reception against Blue Valley in Sectionals epitomized three years of dominance in one play.

James Wooldridge (6-0, 210) 
Senior, SM East
Offensive Tackle

Offensive stats: Team had 5,500+ yards of total offense

It's not often you see a starting offensive tackle around the league who barely stands six-foot tall and needs a five-course meal to hit the 210-pound mark. It's even more rare when a kid of that stature is a First Team All-League selection by the coaches in back-to-back seasons. Wooldridge wasn't a behemoth, but his performance suggested otherwise. The Lancers' top offensive lineman, Wooldridge helped carve up defensive ends and linebackers in the team's flexbone scheme, and was highly instrumental in the club's 24-2 record the past few years.

Dick Purdy Coaching Award
Sunflower League Coach of the Year
Mark Littrell, Leavenworth
6-5, District & Regional Champions

The second-year Leavenworth head coach and his club were aided by the drop to 5A, a classification whose foes they finished 5-1 against, but it would be doing Littrell and Co. an injustice to not mention all they accomplished. In 2014, the Pioneers won their first playoff game in program history. In 2014, the Pioneers won their district for the first time in program history. And in 2014, the Pioneers won more than four games for the first time on record. Their six wins were the same amount of wins they tallied in the seven seasons from 2005 to 2011. Any one of those stats could have won Littrell the Coach of the Year award. 

Second Eleven

Wyatt Edmisten (5-9, 180)
Junior, SM East

For a kid who was basically an unknown entering 2014, Edmisten had a legendary season. The talented junior -- playing the vaunted fullback role in SM East's flexbone offense -- carried the ball 260 times for 1,523 yards and 32 touchdowns. With those efforts he became just the ninth league player since 2000 to score 30 or more touchdowns in a single season.

Mitch Holsinger (6-2, 240)
Senior, Olathe Northwest
Offensive Tackle/Defensive Tackle

The senior interior lineman was a dominant all-around force and had much to do with Olathe Northwest's improved rushing attack. Defensively he pulled down 74 tackles (24 for loss), four sacks, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. But he was probably most revered along the offensive line, where he helped the Ravens combine for over 3,000 yards of total offense.

Anthony Hunt (5-10, 200)
Senior, Leavenworth

No player embodied Leavenworth's culture change from league patsy to legitimate contender as much as Hunt. The senior linebacker, who led the league in tackles for the better portion of the season, finished as its leading tackler. For the year he tallied 137 tackles, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, and one defensive touchdown, helping Leavenworth to their first playoff victory in school history.

Dalton Lewallen (6-0, 190)
Senior, SM South
Linebacker/Running Back

A theme among Ryan Lonergan coached teams is a warrior type of player who simply produces. That guy was Lewallen this season. Offensively he carried the ball 110 times for 556 yards and six touchdowns, and he caught 12 passes for 196 yards and two touchdowns. Defensively he had 111 tackles, two interceptions, a sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.

Isaiah Macklin (5-9, 165)
Senior, SM West
Wide Receiver/Cornerback

It seemed like Macklin was in the league for 10 years. After solid sophomore and juniors seasons, he finally put it all together as a senior. As arguably the league's top cover corner, Macklin snagged six interceptions for a combined 162 return yards and a touchdown. Offensively he hauled in 12 catches for 205 yards, and in the return game he averaged 31.2 yards per kick return, and scored a touchdown.

Josh Moore (6-5, 255)
Senior, Olathe North
Tight End/Defensive End

Cocky, controversial, and colorful, the Eagle senior found a way to garner plenty of attention once again in his final season.  As a tight end he caught 17 passes for 264 yards and three touchdowns. On defense he logged 40 tackles, five sacks, two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and an interception. He'll take his talents to Kansas next fall where some project he'll make the move to the offensive line.

Price Morgan (6-2, 210)
Junior, Lawrence
Linebacker/Tight End

Morgan made headlines as a sophomore, and naturally, because of that, carried weighty expectations into 2014. The inside linebacker brought great effort and intensity every week, and recorded 120 tackles on defense, and seven catches for 135 yards on offense. LHS will need that kind of effort and more from Morgan in 2015 if they want to have a breakthrough season.

Carter Pembridge (6-4, 250)
Senior, SM West
Offensive Tackle/Defensive End

No player's had the ups and downs of Pembridge the last three years. He was a sophomore starter for SM West when they won the state title in 2012. In 2013, he and the program lost Andre Maloney, then later in the year Pembridge suffered a torn ACL. He bounced back to have a tremendous senior season, logging 50 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and a forced fumble, while leading the Vikings along the offensive line.

Marcel Spears (6-1, 215)
Senior, Olathe North
Linebacker/Wide Receiver

For the third year in a row the Iowa State bound Spears put together a well-rounded stat line on the defensive side of the football -- 86 tackles, two sacks, two interceptions, and one forced fumble. He also showed versatility on offense, carrying the ball 20 times for 206 yards and three touchdowns. All of which helped Olathe North to a second consecutive Sub-State berth.

DJ Turner (6-0, 190)
Junior, SM West

Turner quietly put together about as solid of a season as you can ask for from a defender. From his linebacker position he recorded 127 tackles, four sacks, three fumble recoveries, two interceptions, and one forced fumble, helping SM West to a 6-5 record and Sectional berth. Expect the junior to be a disruptive force around the league in his senior season next year for the Vikings.

Charley White (6-0, 165)
Senior, SM East
Wide Receiver/Safety

While he'll be remembered for his two touchdown receptions in the 6A state title game, White was known around the league for his defense and return abilities. He snagged five interceptions, in addition to forcing three fumbles and recording 58 tackles. In the return game he averaged 21.5 yards per punt return and had one touchdown. Offensively he had 194 receiving yards and four touchdowns.

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