Six years ago, the last time Shawnee Mission West played for the Kansas 6A state championship, Hutchinson stood in the way.
It’s no wonder Vikings coach Tim Callaghan has a mild case of déjà vu as he prepares his team for another crack at the 6A crown.
Once again, it’s the Salthawks, 10-2, blocking SM West’s path to its first state title since 1985.
“We played them back in 2006, and to be honest, we’re excited to play them again,” Callaghan said.
Hutchinson has won seven state championships in the last eight years, including four 6A titles in a row from 2004-2007 as well as 5A titles in 2008, 2009 and 2011.
The Salthawks now return to the 6A title game in their first season back in the highest classification in Kansas.
Despite Hutchinson’s glossy dynasty, there is no angst about facing the Salthawks for the Vikings, 11-1, whose 1985 championship is the most recent for any football program in the Shawnee Mission district.
“They’re about as relaxed as they were last week,” Callaghan said when asked about his team’s mood. “It’s a loose group, and they don’t seem to get frazzled too much about anything.”
Besides, Hutchinson isn’t as dominant as it once was.
Yes, the Salthawks are a very good program, but the Vikings also are confident that they are an equally good program – and remarkably healthy at this stage of the season to boot.
“They’re as much the team that’s won state in the last eight years as we are the team that played for the title in 2006, if that makes sense,” Callaghan said. “I know our kids have improved. I put on the 2006 film, and this team stacks up favorably. It will be another donnybrook.”
There’s no mystery to the matchup.
Both teams want to control the line of scrimmage and devour the clock with sustained, ball-control marches.
Both defenses will do anything to stop the run and hope to make the opposing offense scratch and claw for anything it gets.
Protecting the football will be critical for both the Vikings and Salthawks.
“We have to establish ball control and make sure we take care of the ball,” Callaghan said. “That game six years ago, we fumbled three times in the second half. We can’t do that, so we have to take care of the ball and play our style. If our special teams can come up big like last week, that would help too.”
SM West scored on a blocked punt and a kickoff return in its 48-21 semifinal victory over Lawrence Free State, who pinned the only loss of the season on the Vikings on Sept. 7.
To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/todpalmer.