The first five weeks of Sunflower football have passed and each team has been able to show what it's capable of against a wide range of competition. Surprise teams like Gardner-Edgerton (5-0) and Shawnee Mission Northwest (4-1) have set themselves up at the top rung of the league's standings while the likes of Olathe East (1-4) and Lawrence (1-4) have struggled to finish out games after 5-5 seasons in 2017. The next few sections will cover some of the interesting bits from the first half of the season.
- 5A Olathe West had about as rough of an introduction to the SFL as any school entering its first season. The Owls opened the year against Free State with Gardner waiting in Week 2. The team managed to learn from those experience and was eventually rewarded with the school's first varsity win, a 40-14 shellacking of win-less SM West (0-5). The regular season won't get easier with Olathe South (3-2) and SM East (4-1) waiting at the end, but a Week 6 bout against fellow 5A school Turner should provide another good opportunity to taste victory.
- This may just be a personal assumption, but it feels like kickers have become a little more relevant compared to other seasons in recent memory. Most stats come from MaxPreps.com so there may be so discrepancies or missing data, but so far SFL teams have actually attempted around 10 field goals combined with mixed results. SM South Will Huggins (Jr.) has had the most success in the field goal department, connecting on three kicks out of four total. His leg power was put on display in Week 4 as he drilled in a kick from 50 yards out in a 24-54 loss to Olathe South.
- Kansas still has a ways to go before it can hope to compete against high-end schools out of state, but Olathe North (4-1) has continued its trend of searching for interstate matchups to fill up some of its open weeks with a road trip to a scary good Columbine (6-0) team. Things didn't go so well as the Eagles were stomped 48-12 in Colorado, but the story still brought intrigue as a pair of unbeaten teams went up against each other. Here's hoping more teams broaden their horizons now that teams have more choice in who they play.
Fortunately for some teams, the new playoff format has no requirement to actually enter the tournament with all teams getting a spot. Despite this, teams still have plenty incentive to either keep up momentum or salvage a couple wins to avoid the juggernauts in the first round. As much as teams and fans hope for the best, not everybody can win-out and get a good seed. Here's a few thoughts on where certain teams are trending.
- Shawnee Mission South - Trending: DOWN - Despite a somewhat historic 3-0 start (The Raiders haven't started 3-0 since the '89 season), the Raiders have come back to earth to some extent after losses to both Olathe South (3-2) and SM East (4-1). A winning record is still completely possible with Lawrence (1-4) and ONW (0-5) still on the schedule, but to see this team going deep into the playoffs as a bit of a reach. The team's already matched last year's win-total so anything past this is still progress though.
- Shawnee Mission North - Trending: UP - Even with a match-up with league-leading Gardner looming, things should still be looking up for the Indians if they can keep things together after that tough draw. SMN is the one Sunflower team lucky enough to still have 5A Leavenworth (1-4) on their schedule while also getting to beat up SM West (0-5) before that. North will need to capitalize on these final games if they want to get a good chance at a strong playoff start.
- Olathe East - Trending: EVEN - Obviously a 1-4 start is not where anybody wanted the Hawks to be heading into the last portion of the season, but things have a chance of rebounding if things go well. East gets SM West up next and will play somewhat of a wild card in Pittsburg High (5-0), a 4A team that has struggled against smaller teams and has only dominated one exceedingly good team early in the season. It's a stretch, but another two wins is not out of the question and a 3-5 record is WAY better than 1-7 when it comes to seeding in the 6A East.
- SM Northwest - Trending: Always UP - The sky is the limit for this Cougar team that hasn't had a start this good since they went 5-1 in 2008. Olathe Northwest could always surprise everyone and Gardner will be a big deal in Week 7, but if this team can get out with at least one win and maybe even clean up, I'd lean more toward this team coming out on top against SM South in the regular season finale.