Olathe North (0-1, 0-0 SL) at SM East (1-0, 0-0 SL)
7 p.m. Thursday at SM North District Stadium
Outlook: The road doesn’t get any easier for coach Gene Wier and his inexperienced team, which includes sophomore quarterback Cole Murphy and sophomore running back Venus Triplett. The Eagles have a short week to prepare for an SM East squad that gained confidence with its shutout of SM South and, weather permitting, still has yet to unleash quarterback Jordan Darling, a transfer from Texas who has committed to Kansas.
About Olathe North: It’s a league game for the Eagles, but not for the Lancers, because of the Sunflower League’s quirky schedule in even years. If there is a bright side to the season-opening loss, it’s two-fold: First, it didn’t count in the league standings and, second, a young team got its feet wet (quite literally) and should be more settled for the battle with the Lancers. Limiting turnovers will be absolutely critical if the Eagles – now in the rare position of underdog – are going to level the season record.
About SM East: Darling scored on a 1-yard touchdown run for the Lancers’ first points of the season, but he didn’t have to pass much in his Sunflower League debut. We’ll probably see what the buzz was about in greater detail against Olathe North. Quite frankly, given the hype and weight of expectations, playing the opener in sloppy conditions and allowing Darling to ease into his role with the Lancers probably didn’t hurt. If he’s half as good as expected, look for big numbers from wide receiver Connor Relihan and David Sosna.
Prediction: SM East 28, Olathe North 14
Lawrence (0-1, 0-0 SL) at SM Northwest (1-0, 0-0 SL)
7 p.m. Friday at SM North District Stadium
Outlook: If SM Northwest can claim another victim, it might be time to anoint first-year coach Linn Hibbs’ squad as one of the Sunflower League’s elite. Meanwhile, Lawrence didn’t play poorly but lost nonetheless against SM West and will be eager to avoid an 0-2 start. Both teams have something to prove.
About Lawrence: It’s a league game for the Chesty Lions, but not for the Cougars thanks to the Sunflower League’s quirky schedule in even years. Despite atrocious conditions, quarterback Brad Strauss completed 17 of 33 passes for 195 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed 17 times for 45 yards with another score and had a long punt return in the fourth quarter, which put Lawrence in position for the game-winning touchdown. The Lions need more production from running back Tyrone Jenkins, who had 11 carries for 35 yards, but seem set at receiver with Will Thompson, who caught five passes for 103 yards, joining returning starters Drake Hofer and Erick Mayo.
About SM Northwest: Coming off a disappointing campaign and breaking in a new coach, who brought new schemes to a team with precious few returning starters, the season couldn’t have started much better for the Cougars. An opportunistic defense snacked on Olathe North’s inexperienced ball carriers, and the offense made it hurt, especially during a 19-point second quarter. Of course, SM Northwest can’t count on a bounty of turnovers every game and needs to be more consistent and lethal on offense. Twice in the second period, the Cougars settled for short field goals.
Prediction: Lawrence 31, SM Northwest 20
Lawrence Free State (1-0, 0-0 SL) at SM West (1-0, 0-0 SL)
7 p.m. Friday at SM South District Stadium
Outlook: Two of the top teams in the Sunflower League are set for a week-two showdown — and it promises to be a defensive battle (at least on paper). The Firebirds shut out Olathe Northwest, but they will be tested more severely by SM West, which survived a showdown at Lawrence, thanks to a series of fourth-quarter defensive stands.
About Lawrence Free State: It’s a league game for the Firebirds, but not for the Vikings thanks to the Sunflower League’s quirky schedule in even years. That makes it a more important game for coach Bob Lisher’s squad in some respects. Quarterback Kyle McFarland and his backup Joe Dineen, who also sees time at wide receiver and running back, each scored two touchdowns for a rushing attack that generated 219 yards on 34 carries. Running back T.J. Cobbs – six carries for 79 yards – also had a solid performance, but more will be required from McFarland, who completed one of three passes for nine yards, and the passing game to beat the Vikings.
About SM West: Speaking of needing more through the air, SM West didn’t complete a single pass in squeaking past Lawrence. That says a lot about the defense and the Vikings’ ball-control running. But coach Tim Callgahan’s squad, which got 115 yards and three touchdowns on 27 carries from Brett Sterbach, needs to find some balance to keep the Firebirds honest and give the run game room to operate.
Prediction: Lawrence Free State 27, SM West 20
Olathe Northwest (0-1, 0-0 SL) at Olathe East (0-1, 0-1 SL)
7 p.m. Friday at the College Boulevard Activity Center
Outlook: It’s a league game for both teams, and both offensive units have something to prove after getting blanked in the season’s opening week. On paper, however, it’s a mismatch weighted heavily toward Olathe East.
About Olathe Northwest: The temptation is to dismiss the Ravens’ lopsided loss to Lawrence Free State as entirely wretched, but that would be a mistake. The 10 fumbles, including two that were recovered by the Firebirds, were tough to stomach. Still, when Olathe Northwest held on to the football it was productive in fits and starts. Running backs Alex Pruss (19 carries for 88 yards) and Adam Harter (19 carries for 78 yards), give the Ravens a strong running combination.
About Olathe East: Were it not for a missed field goal, running back Hayden Frazier getting stopped an inch from the end zone and another interception in the end zone, the Hawks might be viewed very differently entering week two. Coach Jeff Meyers’ squad might have leapfrogged to the head of the Sunflower League class. Aside from one busted play, the Hawks’ defense corralled Olathe South. Look for a strong bounce-back performance from Frazier, senior fullback Ryan Woodson and senior quarterback John Blazevic.
Prediction: Olathe East 35, Olathe Northwest 14
SM North (0-1, 0-0 SL) at Olathe South (1-0, 0-0 SL)
7 p.m. Friday at the Olathe District Activity Center
Outlook: Hey, that first one is out of the way for Olathe South. The reigning Kansas 6A state champions, who claimed their first crown in school history last season, survived a tough opening-week test against rival Olathe East. The win had to come as a relief for a Falcons team hoping to start a dynasty rather than go down in history as a flash in the pan.
About SM North: Under coach Dennis Grayless, SM North had made gains as far as competitiveness and toughness, but that hasn’t translated into wins. Topping the Falcons is going to be a monumental task, especially for a team without depth. Trailing only 22-16 at halftime, Grayless lost five players, including three linemen, for the second half in a 41-16 loss to Leavenworth.
About Olathe South: It’s a league game for the Falcons, but not for SM North thanks to the Sunflower League’s quirky schedule in even years. That means Olathe South officially begins defending its first-ever outright league crown now. That should provide some incentive for quarterback Frankie Seurer Jr. and running back Russell White to get the offense cranked up, while linebacker Remington Whitley and safeties Dylan DeVries and Chase Hanson hope to keep the defense locked down. Two-way lineman Braden Smith and two-way playmaker Matt Elliott, a running back/cornerback, are among the Sunflower League’s top players.
Prediction: Olathe South 45, SM North 6
SM South (0-1, 0-1 SL) at Leavenworth (1-0, 0-0 SL)
7 p.m. Friday at Leavenworth High School
Outlook: It’s a league game for both teams and a chance for both to make a statement. SM South,, which moved the ball somewhat effectively against SM East, had nothing to show for all its effort on the scoreboard. The Pioneers — emboldened by a spirited player-led halftime pep talk — roughed up SM North and want to show that it was no accident.
About SM South: A year ago, running back Gabe Guild led the Sunflower League in rushing. On Friday, in his first game as a senior, he racked up 139 yards on 27 carries against a stout SM East defense led by linebackers Patrick Blackburn and the Stewart twins, David and Sam. Trouble with the center-quarterback exchange short-circuited SM South’s offense, however, a problem that must be resolved for the Raiders to have any chance at upending the Pioneers.
About Leavenworth: The Pioneers coughed up 177 yards rushing in the first half before the squad’s captains delivered an impassioned halftime plea. Things turned around rapidly on defense after that with SM North managing only 27 yards rushing in the second half, but Leavenworth needs to find a way to bring that same intensity from the opening whistle. The talent is there. Running back Jason Randall gashed SM North for 227 yards on only 12 carries, including touchdown runs of 50, 36 and 57 yards. Quarterback Judson Cole added three touchdowns passes and provides experience and athleticism under center. Those two – coupled with a stout offensive line and a defense that is more athletic than it gets credit for being – are bound to present problems for the Raiders.
Prediction: Leavenworth 34, SM South 20
| Tod Palmer, email@example.com