The Sunflower League is known county, and state wide for having great rivalries. For our readers who date back a little further "Sun Country" who miss our daily dose of Prep sports of the former Sunflower Publications!
2015 is no different than seasons past. Raiders vs Lancers, Eagles vs Falcons, Indians vs Cougars, and Chesty Lions vs Firebirds.
These headliners make for great competitive games from start to finish, if it is a Fall, Winter, or Spring Varsity sport. The Football season helps these rivalries begin their rise throughout the course of the school year.
SM East (1958-59) vs SM South (1966-67)
To date, the Lancers and Raiders rivalry began in 1966, in which a host of Lancer families south of 95th street were lost to the new attendance areas to College broadening and expanding the layout of southern Overland Park. For nearly four decades the Raiders dominated the Football series with the likeness’ of Steve Little, transfer Rodney Peete of AZ, and our own Rob Riggle who all donned the Raiders Varsity Football uniform both past and present. Today, the Lancers find themselves in the midst of a streak themselves against mighty SM South. The last 16 games, the Lancers are 11-5 since the 2000 season. Notables like former QB Christian Blessen, Adam Lowe, Connor Rellihan, and todays Lancers of Sky Tate, Wyatt Edmisten, and Mike Bamford are now staking claim to reclaiming streak of losses from those past decades of often horrid Lancer Football. It was not good in those days for those of us who remember them!
Olathe North (1920-21) vs Olathe South (1981-82)
In the Fall of 1981 the second (of eventually five) Olathe schools opened to the City of Olathe. The Eagles, and Falcons have been known for both some great barnburners of games of seasons past. These two name sake schools can’t go without giving credit to the legends on the gridiron that made these two Football programs household names. At the conclusion of the 80-81 school year, Bud Wheeler, who helped bring the Olathe Eagles out of the EKL doldrums of nearly six decades left to open the new Olathe South after seven years in charge of the Eagles. For weeks leading up to the High School Football season, the old Olathe Daily News wrote some great articles about this new rivalry. Former Eagles Sophomore Football Coach Gene Weir (hired by Bud Wheeler) now led the new Olathe North Eagles, while Bud Wheeler’s Falcons began to take shape and begin a great history of its own.
Although these two schools would both see numerous classes of great Student-athletes, and Head Coaches cycle through their hallways over the last three decades, one constant has always been the meeting of the minds on Friday nights at ODAC. Notable names to have dominated on the Olathe gridiron many of us can recall are: Darren Sproles (Philadelphia Eagles), Maurice Mack Jr (Washington Wildcats/KCAL Head Coach), James Franklin (of Olathe North), QB Zack Dyer of (OS) and of the present days Venus Triplett, Vinnie Shabazz, Cole Murphy (of Olathe North), the Seurer’s, Remington Whitely, and Braden Smith of (OS). Long after many of these athletes have gone off to college, the pros, and the day to day life post-HS Football career more Eagles, and Falcons will follow in many of these shoes that once patrolled the field, and sidelines of ODAC.
SM North (1922-23) vs SM Northwest (1969-70)
The Hula Bowl as it is also known as, has been a feature of these two Football teams since the inception of Northwest in ’69.
In more recent seasons, these two teams have been subject to many Coaching changes and a talent pool struggling to keep up with its fellow Sunflower members on the gridiron. Since the 2002 season, the Cougars have won the last 13 meetings, while the Indians won the 2000 and 2001 seasons under former Head Coach Sam Brown.
Look for great competitions ahead under Ben Bartlett and Bo Black throughout the rest of the current decade. For both teams, the progress already made is showing.
Lawrence (1891-92) vs Free State (1997-98)
Overcrowding. There is simply no better way of defining this great game until it became a reality during the 1997 season.
As the population began to exceed the hallway space and much more within the confines of Lawrence High, a new school was destined to open. As Dick Purdy was near the end of his legendary Teaching and Coaching career started to become a reality to the Lawrence community, a search had began after the end of the 1998-99 season. The Chesty Lions did not have far too look, choosing one of their own alumni, and Assistant's in Dirk Wedd. Dirk Wedd has led the Chesty Lions since 1999.
To the West, the Firebirds opened their doors in 97-98. Throughout their own search for a Football Coach, they brought in a former Chesty Lion alumni, and Blue Valley North Mustangs Head Coach during 1995-1995 Bob Lisher.
Bob Lisher has led the Firebirds since day one, and is one of only a handful of Head Coaches around in modern day SFL-EKL High Schools to do so. During the 2008 season, the Firebirds accomplished a dominating run winning the District Title, and defeating: SM Northwest, Olathe North, and Blue Valley (no easy task) for the right to play in the State Title game. Though the team fell short to the Junction City Bluejays, this run solidified the Firebirds as a powerhouse Football program within the Sunflower in only 12 seasons.