Lawrence High vs. Blue Valley West
It's really difficult judging a team outside of the Sunflower League as my personal information is very limited outside of the team's records from the previous year. Fortunately, we now have a game against each team this week to look at and research.
|Photo by LJWorld, 2014|
The Blue Valley West Jaguars dominated all facets of last year's opener but squeaked out a winning record by going 5-4 on the year and 3-4 against EKL teams. I doubt this year's outcome will come even close to the 37-13 shellacking we witnessed last year. The Lions welcome BVW into their own stadium this time and Senior RB J.D. Woods is arguably one of the best players in the state and he is just the headliner for a team that should be very talented this year.
I'm not sold on the idea that Lawrence is a championship-caliber team, but I'm sold that they can beat this team.
Lawrence runs all over the 5A Jaguars and we get a good look at how much work J.D. Woods will be putting in this season. Their game is pretty one-dimensional, but nobody is complaining as the Lions redeem themselves.
Winner: Lawrence 28-14
Lawrence Free State vs. SM West
This is probably the toughest game to pick out of the few games involving two Sunflower League teams. Both teams should be really good, but I'd rather take a proven Free State with a beast of a QB (Jr. Bryce Torneden) against a Viking squad that barely got away with a 6-5 record last year. This is a similar situation as with Lawrence where I just don't see the hype and this will be a game that really lets me know how SMW will play this season.
The Vikings show the same fight as last year but burn out in the 4th and give away to Free State's speed. Bryce Torneden takes a few quarters to heat up but he really kicks into gear and runs and throws over the defense late in the game.
Winner: Free State 35-24
Leavenworth @ Great Bend
|Photo by Joey Bahr Photography, 2013|
The Pioneers made a good choice in picking a 5A school to start the season. As much as it stinks, the Sunflower League games aren't as important this year thanks to their drop to Class 5A. Last year's match-up was interesting but Leavenworth has both experience and confidence against this type of opponent so an even greater score differential than last year's 19-0 shutout win should be expected.
Note: I am aware they are practically driving to a whole new world in Great Bend.
The Pioneers do what they do best and run all over the place and finding the end-zone a few times along the way. They find it a bit more than usual on their way to a true rout in Great Bend.
Winner: Leavenworth 35-7
Olathe East @ Garden City
To be honest... I had no idea where Garden City was. I looked it up and good god is it far away. That won't really effect my prediction but I thought it warranted a comment. Olathe East struggled a lot last year, but so did Garden City who went 4-5 against a schedule half full of teams under Class 6A.
I think Olathe East had a young team and a lot of chaos in the background. With a new head coach and some experience on the field, this team should hopefully be able to come back. People I talk to about the Hawks last year like to forget that they were actually 3-1 before their huge collapse. I think this team is good when they're not surrounded by a bad breakup with a former coach and the chances of a new system might spice things up a bit.
Things go about as well as last year. Garden City dukes it out and prove that they won't just lie down against the big bad Sunflower League and take things down to the wire. Time suddenly becomes the biggest enemy as they rush through their final possession and some mistakes end up giving away the ball. Olathe East kneels to kill the clock and leave with a tight win that feels good at the moment, but leaves a lot of questions unanswered.
Winner: Olathe East 20-14
Olathe Northwest @ Hays
|Photo by Kansas City Star, 2014|
Hays isn't as far as Garden City but it's still pretty damn far.
Anyways, I still wonder if Olathe Northwest is as good as I hope they will be. I didn't really know anything about Hays except that they fell to 4A-I last year, so you could say I was shocked that ONW was on the losing end of their opener. I'm now aware that Hays is an above average team so I can see why the game was close. Ravens coach Chip Sherman is a proven winner and I wouldn't doubt that he has a plan for his squad. I'll put my faith in that plan this time around.
If Leavenworth has taught us anything... It's that it's hard to become competitive overnight. Olathe Northwest has already been through the ringer last year and they should be a lot tougher than their first year under Sherman. They show off that toughness immediately out the gate and manage three scores in the first half and manage to hold off Hays for one touchdown. Things close up late in the second half but the Indians finally learn what it's like to face real 6A East competition.
Winner: Olathe Northwest 31-21