Thursday, November 18, 2021

The Edge of Greatness: 2003 Kansas Class 6A State Championship Game

Codi Willard and Kellen Long celebrate
their win over Hutchinson in the 2003
Class 6A title game. Photo LJWorld.
A little over six years ago I turned in my unofficial sports writer badge, clicked off coverage of the 
Sunflower League, and moved on with my life. I was 25 then. I'm 32 now. In dog years that's a 49-year gap. Feels about right.

Before we get ahead of ourselves, I am not re-activating the Sunflower League Football Blog. But I do intend to embark on some new projects that may be of interest to former readers of the blog. The site continues to generate a surprising amount of residual traffic. So, if you happened to stumble in here, I do have new content for you.

The first project is below. The piece centers around the 2003 Kansas Class 6A state championship game between Olathe North and Hutchinson, unpacking the storylines of each program, their coaches, and the game itself. The two dynasties will forever be bookended against one another. The 2003 game was sort of Olathe North's "last hoorah" as the program before the changing of the guard to Hutchinson. Of course we didn't know that at the time. 

Some fun facts about this matchup: Olathe North passed the ball just one (1) time the entire game. Imagine a world where a team could run the ball 53 times, put it in the air once (an incompletion) and come away victorious in a state championship game. It may sound far-fetched, but that was peak Olathe North football. 

Another: this was Randy Dreiling's first state championship appearance as a head coach. In his 25-year coaching career (which is still ongoing), split between Hutchinson and St. Thomas Aquinas, his teams have appeared in 12 state championship games and captured eight state titles. He may not finish as the best coach in Kansas high school football history, but he'll certainly have an argument.

I also did my best to explore the character of John McCall, better known around the Sunflower League as the guy who replaced Gene Wier. He's an enigma of sorts. Some believe he left Olathe North high-and-dry when he exited for Texas once his star-studded 2004 team played its last game. Others insist McCall left plenty of talent in the pipeline, and that it wasn't his fault the dynasty more or less ended once he left.

In any case, that's enough from me for now. I'll let the video do the rest of the talking. And hopefully we don't go another six years before my next post.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Well-done compilation. I was on the sidelines when Randy Dreiling's team visited Rockhurst in 2009 and nearly won. The triple option was incredibly deceptive and demoralizing, especially when the defense would stop two consecutive run plays only to be gashed by a deep ball down the seam on third and long.