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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

10 bold predictions for 2010 Football Season

With the season upon us, here are ten bold predictions compiled in the sports office:

1. Smith Center will not make the quarterfinals in class 3A.
Smith Center moves up from Class 2-1A to play with the big boys this year. There might not be a more stacked Class than Class 3A football. Smith Center should have no trouble winning district and its first two playoff games, but then it will run into the winner of the Garden Plain-Conway Springs-Hutchinson Trinity scrum, and I think that is where the Redmen will fall.

2. Tate Omli will be the best statistical football player in the state in 2010.
If you have not heard of Ell-Saline’s Tate Omli, consider yourself warned. This kid does it all for the Cardinals on offense, defense and special teams. In his last two seasons, he has passed for 3,500 yards, rushed for 1,700 yards, accounted for 60 touchdowns and had 22 interceptions on the defensive side of the ball. Omli will have the best stats of any player when the dust settles.

3. Kingman will win as many games this year (2) as it has since 2005.
Kingman is 2-35 dating back to 2005. This year the Eagles escape the meat grinder that is AVCTL Division IV into the considerably softer Central Kansas League. The Eagles will win two of three from Haven, Nickerson or Sterling to get to two wins. All those AVCTL Division IV games should pay off a little bit.

4. Hutchinson will not win the 5A State Title.
No I have not had a CAT Scan recently, and maybe I should look into it, but I think your 5A Champion will be Gardner-Edgerton this year (hence the title BOLD predictions). Bear with me for a second. Hutchinson returns five starters, while Gardner Returns 12. The big thing is that Gardner has moved into the Eastern Kansas League this year and will be considerably more battle tested. The Blazers will play seven of their nine regular season games against 5A and 6A competition, last year that number was three as the Blazers played 4A teams for their first six games. Then head coach Marvin Diener has won 214 games in his 25-year career, so it is safe to say he knows what he is doing. Add in the best college prospect in the state in quarterback Bubba Starling and the Blazers look very good. Remember, bold predictions people.

5. Laque Mayes of Rose Hill will lead the state in rushing yards.
Mayes went for over 2,000 yards last year as a junior, and this year looks to be no different. The big key is on the line with TCU commit Brady Foltz (6-4, 285 pounds) and Brandon Walther (6-2, 245 pounds) opening up holes. That kind of size is hard to compete with in class 4A. Add in the fact that Rose Hill looks primed for another deep playoff run, and Mayes looks like a lock to be the top running back in the state.

6. The winners of week one games between: Heights and Bishop Carroll, Hesston and Pratt, Andale and Wellington, McPherson and Andover and Rose Hill and Buhler will all run the table in their respective leagues.
Week one is ridiculously stacked. All of these match-ups are among teams picked to finish at the top and the biggest tests come early. There is a big drop-off in the City League after Carroll-Heights. Hesston and Pratt look to be the class of the Central Kansas League. Andale and Wellington always seem to be the teams to beat in Division IV. AVCTL Division II has gotten stronger, but McPherson and Andover are the clear favorites. Rose Hill and Buhler are both powers that are on another level in Division III.

7. Wichita West will finish better than seventh in league for the first time since 2004 and win at least four games for the first time since 2002.
West has had some very lean years recently to say the least, but head coach Heath Henderson is looking to turn that around on the strength of quarterback Dorian Flournoy and running back Arnez Jones. Both have a lot of experience. I think they beat North and East and then steal one from Southeast to win three league games and finish sixth. Then, after dealing with Carroll and Hutchinson in the first two weeks of distrcts, the Pioneers salvage the last game of the year against Liberal to get to four wins.

8. Hutchinson Trinity will win the 3A state championship.
Class 3A is an absolute toss-up this year, but Hutchinson Trinity returns the quarterback-receiver duo of Derek Racette and Michael Mesh. As reporter Mike Mendez pointed out, Wichita Collegiate showed just what a potent passing attack can accomplish. I think the Celtics actually lose to Garden Plain in districts to take second, but it will work in their favor as Smith Center, Garden Plain and Conway Springs will all be pushed to the other side of the bracket as the likely district winners. This means Hutch Trinity will only have to deal with one of those three instead of more, and that would not come until the semifinals.

9. The best statistical 8-Man players in the state will be Reggie Jordan of Hill City for Division I and Braden Lebeda of Caldwell in Division II.
Reggie Jordan may not have much help in Hill City, but in 8-Man you only need one star sometimes to make things go. Jordan accounted for 2,707 total yards and 35 touchdowns last season from the quarterback position. Braden Lebeda will lead the Caldwell Blue Jays as a quarterback. Last year he had 1,362 yards passing with 24 touchdowns and 1,248 yards rushing with 21 touchdowns. Caldwell also returns all but two starters, so Lebeda will have plenty of help to take the heat off of him.

10. No team will go undefeated in 11-man football.
There are no truly dominant teams in any class this year. Olathe North might be the closest, but it only returns eight starters total. It has talent, but two straight undefeated seasons in Class 6A is never a guarantee. Gardner Edgerton and Hutchinson are both 5A favorites and both have very difficult schedules. Class 4A and 3A are toss ups with no clear-cut favorite. Class 2-1A has perennial power Pittsburg Colgan and last year’s champion Centralia, but neither returns a wealth of experience.

What do you think? Too bold? Should I just stick to the cross country stuff and let the big boy football predictions go? Let me know what your bold predictions are.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

AVCTL Division I Predictions

The AVCTL Division I has a new look, but several familiar faces will once again look to establish dominance in the league's top division.

1. Hutchinson
The Salthawks bring a 22-game winning streak into the 2010 season as the six-time defending state champion. Hutch will have to replace every skill position player and offensive linemen except for slot running back Hunter Stuckey which likely means the team will hit a road bump or two along the way this year. The team returns four starters to the defensive side of ball, along with a core group of seniors ready to lead. Despite the loss of an extremely talented and productive senior class, don’t expect too much of a drop-off for a powerful program that reloads year in and year out and is ranked 18th in the Southwest Region, which is comprised of six states including Texas, according to ESPN.

2. Salina Central

The Mustangs bring back a core group of starters to a squad that went 6-3 last year. Six players return to the offense including senior Cale Sharp who has rushed for over 1,000 yards in each of the past two seasons. Shay Wooten will move to quarterback for his senior season, providing a dual-threat option for Central. Where the Mustangs will excel is on defense where they return seven starters including a pair of two-year starters on the line and three defensive backs. According to coach Mike Hall, the defensive unit will have no evident weaknesses this season. Central travels to Derby and Hutch this year, but will play all three of its district games in Salina to close the regular season.

3. Derby
The Panthers offense will be extremely talented this year with senior quarterback Tyler Harrison under center. As a junior, he passed for over 1,400 yards. Derby will have a more balanced attack this year as the unit returns five starters to the offensive line which will open up the running game. The defensive side of the ball will be a little spotty as several newcomers will be called upon to make an impact. The Panthers offense will get a pair of major challenges in the first two weeks of the season against Hutch and Salina Central.

4. Salina South
After reaching the quarterfinals last year, Sam Sellers hopes to lead his team back to the playoffs in his first full season as coach. His squad is young this year with an offense led by sophomore running back Cody Busby paving the way. Busby ran for over 1,000 yards a year ago. The Cougars return three starters to each side of the ball, which raises several question marks for this young team. South has a strong group of veteran coaches though that should be able to get the team into playoff contention come district play.

5. Newton

The Railers make the move up to Division I a year after going 7-3 and making the playoffs. Newton will be young and inexperienced this year with just three players returning to the offensive side of the ball and four coming back on defense. The team has just 13 incoming seniors off of last years roster, so several new faces will be present on the field this year. A tough division though should have Newton battle-tested for their district opponents: Emporia, Valley Center and McPherson.

6. Maize

The Eagles have made the playoffs two of the past three seasons, but with losing records both times. Maize returns six offensive starters which will give the team some direction this season. Running backs Scott Hendricks and Ty Turner, who combined for over 1,000 yards a year ago, will lead the charge for the team this year. A tough schedule will keep the team honest though with games against Derby, Salina Central and Hutchinson in a four-game stretch starting in Week 3. Maize’s district is made up of WAC contenders Dodge City and Garden City and rival Goddard.

7. Campus

The Colts are coming off a one-win season in head coach Mike Schartz first year and are looking for new direction in a new division. Unfortunately for Campus, it’s one of the toughest in the state. The team returns nine starters on offense and eight on defense, including their leading passer and rusher from a year ago. Campus’ defense gave up an average of 30 points per game last year but with eight players coming back on defense, Schartz says "expectations are high."

Must see games:
Rockhurst at Hutchinson, Sept. 3
Salina Central at Derby, Sept. 3
Hutchinson at Derby, Sept. 10
Salina Central at Hutchinson, Sept. 24
Salina Central at Salina South, Oct. 15
Bishop Carroll at Hutchinson, Oct. 29

How do you think the league will play out? Let me know your thoughts and leave a comment below.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Big class XC preseason look

It is about Cross Country time, which is my favorite time of the year (no offense to track). I have been a huge fan of Cross and distance running for the last six years. Here are some things I am looking forward to this year in the two big classes:

- Just how good can Bishop Carroll be as a boys team? It returns four all-state runners plus another one that finished 27th. Three of those five returners were only freshmen last year. It is not going to be a question of if Carroll can win, but by how much. The Golden Eagles replace Mulvane as the best cross country team in the state this year.

- Who wins the 5A title individually on the boys side? David Thor of Carroll stepped up and showed what he is capable of on the track. Chris Wise has been a good runner for Hutchinson. Can James Hampton of Carroll step up and win a title as a sophomore? All answers I am interested in finding out.

- For the girls, Mackenzie Maki of Kapaun is the favorite and will continue to be until I see her lose at the state XC meet. The only girls that will push her that have been around are Kaelyn Balch of Bishop Carroll and Morgan Wedekind of Valley Center. Wedekind will only race them at the state meet if Valley moves up to 5A.

- The 6A boys are up for grabs, but watch the usual suspects of Lawrence and Shawnee Mission Northwest. It has been a while since that SMNW dynasty has made its full presence known. - Seven of the top 10 boys from last year, including the top six, graduated. That means dominance is up for grabs in the individual race as well.

- The 6A girls team race will likely be a Northeast Kansas show once again, but the individual title will be interesting as six of the top ten return including Megan Ballinger of Goddard and the Derby duo of Emily Hornbeck and Amber Green.

- There are several meets I am looking forward too as well
o Carroll Invitational on Sept. 3 – Maki, Balch, Green, Ballinger, and darkhorse Amber Eichkorn of North will all be there for the girls.
o Greg Wilson Classic on Sept. 3 – Big early meet for those NE Kansas schools with Aquinas SM East, SM NW, Free State and others will be there.
o Emporia Invitational on Sept. 11 – Might as well call it NE Kansas vs. Central Kansas. There is a great mix of teams here.
o Wichita Southeast Invite on Sept. 18 – The best team and runners in the City will be established here with Washburn Rural coming back down to compete.
o Rim Rock on Sept. 25 – Any team that is a good team will be here. Bottom line the best team in Kansas will be decided this weekend.
o Newton Invitational on Oct. 2 – Great mix of big and small teams from near and far
o El Dorado Invite on Oct. 9 – Last chance for local teams to make a statement heading into the big three

There are some quick hits of what I am looking for out of the big classes this year. I will get to the smaller classes over the next couple days. What do you guys think? What big class teams and individuals are you looking at this year? Did I miss somebody? Would you like something more in-depth for a preview or is this quick one cover it well enough? If enough people want something more in-depth I will put something together.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

AVCTL Div. II predictions

The AVCTL Div. II has a whole new look in 2010. Here are my picks for the first year of the realigned league.

1. McPherson
I’m going to go way out on a limb here and pick the Bullpups to win another league championship. McPherson’s offense will be fun to watch once again in 2010. Seven players from last year’s offense that averaged just short of 46 points-per-game are back for more. With all-state receiver Christian Ulsaker flanked by all-league receiver Nick Gawanda, plus first-team all-league backs Kevin O’Conner and Seth Davenport, the Bullpups will score however they want, whenever they want. Add in Goddard transfer Tyler Mathews at quarterback, and the only way this team doesn’t score is if they don’t show up to play. Coach Tom Young will not let that happen.
The only question with McPherson is whether or not they will stop anybody from scoring. All-league safety Kenan Warren is the only returning defensive starter. However, Young has 304 wins that each tell me this defense will be fine.

2. Andover Central
As cowardly as my pick to win the league is, I will get a little crazy with my runner up. Andover has had Central’s number over the past few years. Both teams return seven offensive players and six defensive players. But I think this season will belong to the Jaguars based on one thing: big nasty linemen on both sides of the ball.
With 6-5, 280-pound Boston Stiverson and 6-5, 270-pound Jens Danielsen, I’m glad I will never have to get in a three-point stance and look up at either of them, let alone both of them. Big talented linemen are essential at every level of football, and the Jaguars have them. The question for Central’s opponents is not whether they will be sore in bed on Saturday morning. It’s whether they will be in the right mindset to play on Friday without caring about the consequences.
Central has a returning quarterback in Landon Huslig, a returning tight end in Matt Clements, and a returning fullback in Aaron Hoy. With this kind of base, the Jaguar backs and receivers stand to have monster years.

3. Andover
Like its cross-town rival Central, Andover has seven returning offensive starters and six returning defensive starters. But one of the players Andover losses is quarterback Aaron Hansen who has taken the snaps in each of coach Mike Lee’s three seasons with the Trojans.
Even though Andover loses Hansen in the passing game, the Trojans have the talent at running back with Ben Croitoru and Blake Gumeringer, and a defense that will allow this team to make a legitimate run at a league title. Luke Linder and Jonathan Nye are two beasts on the defensive line, Jordan Ray can hit from the linebacker position, and Caleb Windholz can make plays in the secondary.

4. Goddard
Goddard has struggled in recent years in Div. I. After a 1-8 season last year, the Lions will get an overhaul with a new head coach in Charlie Nally, and a new league. Like Andover Central, Goddard has two 270-pound linemen to move the line of scrimmage with 5-11 Jaden Wood and 6-4 Seth Roberts. The Lions have four upperclassmen at running back, giving them the ability to wear teams out with fresh legs up until the final gun.
Goddard also has a wealth of linebackers on the defensive side of the ball. With players in these positions, Nally has a good start in building what he says will not be a foo-foo offense or foo-foo defense. The Lions are going to hit.

5. Arkansas City
Ark City had a decent season last year at 4-5. The bad news is that they finished with an 0-3 losing streak once district games rolled around. The Bulldogs have a lot coming back with eight returning offensive starters, but the line of scrimmage will be suspect on both sides of the ball.
Skill positions will give Ark City a chance to win games. Brandon Young will take over at quarterback in the spread-option offense. Young was a receiver last year who can make plays with the ball. Justin Spencer returns after starting at running back as a sophomore last year. Head coach Derrin Wegner is high on Spencer, who stands at 6-1, 185 pounds and also plays linebacker. Whoever opponents put in charge of preparing ice packs will not see Spencer in the same light Wegner does. Ark City receiver Dylan Burroughs is a 6-3, 200-pound playmaker who stands to have a breakout season for the Bulldogs.
But without the proven experience on the line of scrimmage, Ark City is sitting at No. 5 for me.

6. Valley Center
The Hornets are coming off an 0-9 season last year. They have only four returning starters on each side of the ball. But Valley Center hopes it has a keeper in new head coach Pat Haxton. Haxton takes over at Valley Center after leading Southeast of Saline in a wildly successful program, highlighted by a 3A state championship in 2005.
Valley Center has some good things to build on. D.J. Crager, Austin Southards and Ryan Haxton make a corps of experienced linemen. Quarterback Adam Ingle takes the helm at quarterback, and Loi Tran gives Ingle a target to throw to.
Defensively, Jace Nibarger and Southards give a good base to the Hornets’ linebacker corps. But Valley Center needs Haxton to spark a change in culture at the school for this team to start climbing the ladder in a tough realigned Div. II.

How do you think the league will play out? Share your picks for the AVCTL Div. II and tell us why you made them!