Saturday, December 5, 2015

The Withering Giants: Sunflower League's Dominance Waivers

It was bound to happen eventually, with multiple schools toeing the line of the 5A and 6A classifications, there was bound to be a team that could sneak up on the Sunflower League. Because of that, I'm not all that surprised to say that the Blue Valley Tigers have made history by becoming the first non-SFL team representing the 6A East in the state championship since the inception of the playoff system in 1969.

Up until now, SFL teams have shared the spot with some Blue Valley squads challenging in the Sub-State rounds but failing to get over the hump. The most notable one is the class Sub-State battle between Olathe North and Blue Valley in 2009, a game Olathe North survived after a last second field goal to win the game.

Since then, teams from the EKL have shown a lot of promise with 2012 featuring future SFL member Gardner-Edgerton sweeping their district that included Olathe North, Olathe South, and Olathe Northwest before falling to Lawrence in the first round of the playoffs. BV Northwest followed in 2013 by running through SM South and Olathe East on the way to a 7-2 record before failing to move the ball and eventually losing against Olathe North in the first round. Next up was Blue Valley in 2014 who showed the same dominance that the previous teams showed, and took the next step by defeating SM South in the opening round. That step was all she wrote though, as the Tigers fell in another close EKL/SFL bout against Olathe North.

As we all know, things are different this year, despite having a team in both Sub-State Rounds, the state championship will not hold an SFL team. While the Sunflower League isn't just going to die away or anything like that, what does this year tell us about the future of the league?

Gardner-Edgerton is set to join in 2017
First off, one of the better teams in the EKL a few years ago will now be joining in 2017 following reports that Gardner-Edgerton has been accepted to fill out the 13th spot before Olathe West joins to make things even again at 14 teams. So in terms of numbers, we don't have much to worry about even if schools like Leavenworth decided to leave at any point. However, we'll have to see how GE handles the current slump they are in before we can tell whether or not they will actually compete and become a competitor in the league. The Trailblazers are looking like they have a long way to go before they reach the levels of the squads that brandished players like Bubba Starling and Traevon Wrench. Including a 2013 playoff loss to Olathe East, GE suffered through an 11-game losing streak and had to wait two years to get another win. Things didn't get much easier as their only other win came against an Olathe South team that was in the exact same position.

It's really difficult to predict how brand new schools will perform, but all we can say for sure is that Olathe West will mainly be taking students from both Olathe North and Olathe Northwest based on location, but the division of middle schools overall might be switched up to accommodate. This doesn't mean the schools will be immediately hurting from the new guys in town, but I can see this helping fuel the downward spiral the current four find themselves in currently as a whole.

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