High school football practice got under way in Kansas on Monday. While football teams won’t don pads until Thursday because of an archaic Kansas State High School Activities Association rule that predates summer weight training, year-long conditioning and mid-summer team camps, there’s still plenty of reason for excitement.
The games won’t start until Aug. 30 at the earliest for schools in Johnson County, but the hype starts right now.
While the Sunflower and East Kansas leagues remain run-heavy operations for the most part, there has been a colossal shift from the days when Lawrence and Olathe North ruled the roost — and would frequently wage battles during which one team controlled the ball for an entire quarter with a single drive.
Passing has become an essential part of winning at the high school level now. Some teams, like Shawnee Mission East, have even had great success in recent seasons relying on an aerial assault.
Sure, there are still some top-tier running backs in both leagues, including early-season Simone Award front-runners Gardner Edgerton junior Traevohn Wrench and SM South senior Gabe Guild, but both leagues probably will be better known this season for the quarterbacks.
Start with Olathe South, which won its first Kansas 6A state football championship last season.
The Falcons are led by senior Frankie Seurer Jr., whose father played at Kansas and with the Chiefs. His 99-yard touchdown pass in the title game last season sparked South’s fourth-quarter rally.
Seurer, who might see time on defense as well this season, put up staggering numbers for a Wing-T quarterback. He completed 69 of 111 passes for 1,598 yards and 12 touchdowns with one interception, but he is merely the tip of the quarterback iceberg.
Lawrence senior Brad Strauss might be the best of the bunch. A two-way star who totaled more than 4,000 yards with 37 touchdowns passing and rushing last season, Strauss also was a special teams contributor.
SM East has another budding star at the position in Jordan Darling, who already has committed to Kansas.
The well-traveled Darling, who is from an Army family, spent the last three seasons in Ohio and Texas before returning to the area. A 6-foot-4, 230-pound prospect, he is expected to keep the Lancers on the climb.
Of course, none of the above was the Kansas Gatorade Player of the Year last season, a distinction that belongs to Bishop Miege senior Montell Cozart. He also has committed to the Jayhawks, where his former Stags coach, Tim Grunhard, has taken over as offensive line coach. Cozart racked up more than 3,000 yards and 30 touchdowns as a junior.
The EKL has produced sterling quarterbacks in recent seasons – Trailblazers three-sport star Bubba Starling, Blue Valley’s Kyle Zimmerman and BV Northwest’s Garrett Fugate – among them.
Cozart adds to that recent rich tradition.
To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/todpalmer.