Thursday, November 19, 2009

The most wonderful time of the year!

It's the most wonderful time of the year: basketball season! That’s my favorite sport, and I'm ready for indoor events now that the weather is about to turn colder.

Tuesday night’s college matchup between Kansas and Memphis was a battle that remained too close for comfort, much like two years ago (but without the overtime and national-title stakes). It was exciting to watch the Jayhawks prevail again.

So, in keeping with the theme of last week’s blog regarding the top upsets I have witnessed, here is my list of the top three basketball nailbiters I have seen since I started covering high school sports for Catch It Kansas.

Wichita East vs. Wichita Southeast boys, January 2008

The City League rivals squared off in the final game of the GWAL Basketball Classic at Koch Arena. East led 56-40 in the third quarter, but Southeast came back. The Golden Buffaloes’ Adonis Gantt made a single free throw to complete a controversial 4-point play at the end of regulation. That sent the game into overtime, when Southeast edged East 84-82.

Derby vs. Dodge City girls, February 2008

In a Class 6A sub-state final, Derby took on Dodge City for a trip to state, but the game stretched into double overtime. Derby’s Shelby Yardley scored a 3-pointer to secure a 50-48 lead with 6 seconds left in regulation, but Dodge City’s Elizabeth Ginther drained two free throws with four seconds remaining (pictured above). The score was tied 50-50 at the end of regulation and then 59-59 at the conclusion of the first OT. The Red Demons’ Kaley Temaat scored the final field goal and then sank an insurance free throw in double OT to seal her team’s 66-64 victory.

Goddard vs. Lawrence girls, March 2008

This game appeared in my list of the best upsets, but it also qualifies as one of the most exciting basketball contests to be decided in the final seconds. In a Class 6A state-final showdown featuring the Lions vs. the Lions, No. 4-seed Goddard appeared poised to deny Lawrence its first state championship since 1984. However, two Goddard turnovers in the last 40 seconds cost the girls. Lawrence, a No. 7 seed, held the lead only twice: 2-0 at the beginning and 54-52 when the buzzer sounded.

Which football player is most important?

Who is most important football player to their team? This is not a question of who is the best player, but which player if you remove them from their team are they no longer in the playoffs. CatchItKansas asked you in last week’s poll question which quarterback was most important and 51.4 percent of you said Blake Bell.

I took this poll question and put it to the test of the numbers. I narrowed it down to three players as the most important to their team on the west side of the brackets. Collegiate’s Blake Jablonski, Carroll’s Blake Bell and the injured Jorden Oden.

Jablonski has passed for over 3,365 yards and rushed for just over 200. That accounts for 69.2 percent of Collegiate’s total yards that directly involved Jablonski. In terms of scoring, Jablonski has been involved directly in 282 points (43 passing touchdowns and four rushing) to account for 52.61 percent of the scoring.

Bell has accounted for roughly the same percentage of yards for the Golden Eagles with 69.88 percent, but the big difference for him is the scoring percentages. Bell has been directly involved in 62.07 percent of Carroll’s scoring this year which means that he generally scores four out of every six touchdowns Carroll averages in a game.

Oden was and is an all-state pick this year no doubt and has accounted for 44.02 percent of Buhler’s yards and 36.36 percent of the scoring for the Crusaders. The star running back will be missed for the rest of the playoffs as he has a broken collarbone, but Jordan Reffner is more than capable of leading the Crusaders to a state championship in 4A.

For me Blake Bell wins the debate of most important player on a team still left in the playoffs. Without him I Carroll would have stumbled before this upcoming game against Hutchinson. Blake Rollins really came around last game to help out, but there is no doubt who Carroll’s key to beating Hutch is.

Agree? Disagree? Who do you think is the most important player to their team? Leave a comment or e-mail me at

Monday, November 16, 2009

Where are they now?

Many high school athletes play sports to help pay for college. So I asked myself the typical question of where are they now? Here are just a few of the former Kansas prep stars that are doing things at the collegiate level.

Lane Boyer – Fredonia
Boyer was a stud in Kansas distance running all four of his years as he won a total of 10 state titles between cross country and track. He is now at Arkansas making some major noise for the nationally respected Razorbacks. He was eighth at the SEC Championships on Oct. 31 as his team finished second to Alabama. Then last week at the South Central Region Championships he finished seventh overall as his team dominated Regional meet. He will now run at the NCAA Championships Monday, November 23 in Terre Hatue, Ind.

Logan Watkins – Goddard
Watkins was drafted straight out of high school by the Cubs and did very nicely for them this past summer. He played for the Boise Hawks of the Northwest League in the Short Season level. He was the team’s leadoff hitter for much of the season and hit .326 in 72 games. He was also 14-21 in stolen base attempts and scored 48 runs as well.

Julia Marshall – Bishop Carroll
Marshall has only played game at Boise State, but her debut was a good one. She started and played 27 minutes (the most on the team). She also chipped 11 points and three rebounds in the win for the Broncos.

Joanna McFarland – Derby
McFarland has just gotten her basketball season at Oklahoma started, but it has started well for the true freshman. She is averaging four points and 5.5 rebounds in the Sooners’ first two games. She is averaging 16 minutes a game through the first two.

Arthur Brown – Wichita East
Brown has played in all 10 games this season for the Hurricanes, and he has recorded a total of 10 tackles in those 10 games with a recovered fumble.

Whitney Berry – Goddard
Berry dominated the soccer landscape in her time at Goddard and contributed right away in her freshman year at the University of Kansas. She started 22 games and had six goals and 9 assists for the 12-8-2 Jayhawks. She was third on the team in total points.

That was just six of the many high school athletes competing in colleges all across the nation. Who am I forgetting? Let me know by leaving a comment or e-mailing me at

Friday, November 13, 2009

Top 5 upsets I have witnessed

An upset occurred Wednesday at the Country Music Association Awards when Taylor Swift beat four men for the highest honor of the night, entertainer of the year. She is only the seventh female act to receive the award, and she is the youngest winner in history. Kenny Chesney had won the category for the past three years.

That made me think about the greatest upsets I have witnessed in high school sports since launched more than two years ago. Here are my top five, in no particular order:

Maize boys upset four-time state champ Salina Central at league tennis (2008)

In the league tournament for AVCTL Division I, unranked Maize took on Salina Central, the four-time defending state champ in Class 5A and the top-ranked team in its class; Goddard, ranked No. 5 in Class 6A; Hutchinson and Salina South, listed among “others” in 5A; and Derby. Near the end of the day, Maize had compiled 11 team points and Salina Central had 12. In the final match of the tournament, Maize’s Rod Cuestas defeated Salina Central’s Chris Lund at No. 2 singles, securing a one-point win for the Eagles, who topped Salina Central 17-16.

Valley Center’s Cade Blair upsets Kapaun’s Joe Hagan for state wrestling title (2008)

Blair entered the 135-pound championship match as a sophomore who had lost to Hagan both times they wrestled during the season. Hagan was a senior who had placed fifth at state the previous year. Blair had been seeded fifth at regionals, indicating he was not expected to qualify for state. However, he upended four ranked wrestlers at the Class 5A tournament, including a 1-0 victory over Hagan.

Lawrence boys and girls complete unlikely march to state-championship basketball games (2008)

I was fortunate to cover the Class 6A state basketball tournament in Emporia, which was anything but predictable. The Lawrence boys, seeded last of eight teams with an 11-11 record, beat top-seed Manhattan in the first round and then upset Wichita Heights before falling to Wichita Southeast in the title game. The Lawrence girls, a No. 7 seed, beat No. 2-seed Blue Valley Stilwell in the first round and then No. 3-seed Olathe South. They edged a 22-2 Goddard team by only two points in the championship game.

Top-seeded Wichita Trinity girls fall to No. 13-seed Hutchinson in regional soccer (2009)

Hutchinson entered the game on Trinity’s field with a 5-10-2 record. Trinity was 13-1-2. The No. 1 seed battled the No. 13 seed, but the score was tied at the end of regulation. The teams remained deadlocked after four overtime periods, and Hutchinson pulled off the upset in a shootout.

Sterling’s Michael Gellerman beats Collegiate boys for individual title on their home course (2009)

Although Gellerman was the Class 2A state champ his freshman year, he moved up to 3A as a sophomore and took on a group of experienced Collegiate golfers seeking their fourth consecutive team title. The tournament took place at Tallgrass Country Club, Collegiate’s home course. Four of the Spartans’ top six golfers were members, and a couple even lived in homes on the course. Gellerman played on the course for the first time, but he won the individual championship by four strokes. Collegiate seniors claimed second and third place.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Class 4A Cross Country Review

Class 4A was a fun class to watch with some surprises and great races in the state championship battles.

Other State Reviews:
Class 6A
Class 5A
My predictions this year were either spot on or nowhere near. There was no middle ground this season. In the introduction for each class I will put the percent of places I got exactly correct and the percent of runners and teams I got right, but ended up in a different order.

Class 4A Predictions Review
Percent of predictions spot on: 52.5% (9 of 16)
Percent correct but different order: 87.5% (14 of 16)

I was spot on for all three of the teams on both the girls and the guys. I figured that Mulvane would get three in the top five, but missed the order.

Notes from State
Morgan Wedekind left no doubt as to who the best 4A runner was this year. She took out early and cruised to a 26-second victory. I will always wonder what would have been if Valley Center would have stayed in 5A this year. Clifton, Maki, Balch and Wedekind are in a class by themselves, but what order will always be a little fuzzy unless the three ladies battle it out in track. (KU Relays maybe?)

-The best race for a state championship easily came out of the 4A boys race. Riley Woodward of Wamego and Evan Landes of Mulvane came streaking around the corner towards the 150 meters or so the finish right together. Landes pulled ahead with about 50 meters to go and looked to have had it, but Woodward surged on his home course to take Landes by less than a half a second.

-That race is what makes cross country great. Even after three miles of racing, it still comes down to a sprint.

-Props to Cheyenne Becker of Pratt. She kind of got left out in the wake of what Wedekind pulled off, but the Pratt harrier stepped up in her second season at the state meet and took second. Defending champion Molly Milbourn finished third.

-Brooke Vining finished off her high school career with a stellar fifth place finish. If Page Miller doesn’t transfer this year, then Valley Center would have been right in the mix for a spot on the podium in third place as a team.

-The Mulvane dynasty might be coming to a close, but it definitely went out with a bang if the run is over. The Wildcats put three runners in the top five and five in the top 16 to romp to a 21-point victory. The Wildcats do return Landes and Lockwood, but lose their three through five.

-The youth on the boys side makes me really excited to see what next year will bring in 4A. Seven of the top 10 are returning next season.

Looking ahead:
Only 29 of the 103 runners at the state meet were seniors, so there will be a wealth of returners next season. All of the top four will return and five of the top 10.

-Graduation this year is a case of the rich getting richer this next season. Five of the top seven teams return six runner from this season, but Baldwin will be the odds on favorite to win it again next year. It returns all of its top five from this season’s team that won the meet by 52 points. That program has experience and tradition working for it next season. I like its chances.

-El Dorado returns all seven of its runners from its sixth place team.

Of the 103 runners that crossed the finish line at state, 38 of them will be graduating this spring. Seven of the top ten return and six of the top seven will be back next fall.

-Mulvane is hurt by graduation in a major way. It returns the top two runners and the seventh runner from its team state championship team, but Wamego looks to have a stronger team returning with its top four and six of its top seven coming back.

-Baldwin will be strong next year as well as it returns all seven of its runners from this season’s team. One of its runners had to stop due to injury during the state meet or Baldwin may have broken into the top three.

-DeSoto is the other top program losing a lot to graduation. It will only return its one, five and seven runners next season. Mulvane and DeSoto will likely just reload as there is a wealth of JV ability in both programs.

Hugoton will look to move up from seventh as it returns its top six runners next season.

Who do you think will be good next year? What programs have some JV runners or runners who were injured that could make noise next year? Leave a comment or contact me at

Religious Experience???

If small town football is like a religion, then playoff football in those small towns is the equivalent of a weekend tent revival. Recently, I was dispatched to Andale to shoot their first playoff game versus Concordia. Driving west on 53rd street, as soon as I got past Colwich, I could see the glow of stadium lights from more than 5 miles away. In addition to the halo of light over Andale, I could also see red brake lights for miles ahead, as the cars all headed to the same place.

This scene is repeated every week in small towns across Kansas, and I truly believe it’s one of the best parts of Kansas life. These towns thrive off their teams, and live or die with their success or failure every week.

Another interesting tid-bit I came away with from the Andale game is the lack of males in the student section. The Indians have more than 100 kids out for football, which is pretty impressive considering they are a 4A school. It seemed that every kid was either out for the band, or on the football team. (It makes me wonder if the one boy in the student section full of girls knows something the rest don’t!)

After leaving Andale highly impressed with the atmosphere, I was looking forward to heading to Rose Hill on Saturday for their second round game versus Abilene; and I left just as impressed. I’ve been to both Rose Hill and Andale before for games, but not for the playoffs. The Rose Hill band was in rare form on Saturday. It seemed every time I looked up, the drum line was playing a beat, and the entire band was dancing in unison. It was great to see students and the band truly engaged in the game and not just at the game to be social.

Both teams are capable of winning state, and if they both win this weekend (which is certainly not a guarantee), they will face off in the state semi-finals next weekend. No matter which school hosts the game, it’s one I hope to be at, and I’m sure both towns would be there as well, especially the one boy in the Andale student section.

They've got the heart... Do they have the game?

Grant spoke of the teams he has knowledge of in the west... I think I'll continue with the three teams that are farther west, who remain in the action.

Scott City, Meade, and Dodge City are all in contention for title games. The thing all three of these schools have in common... they can't seem to get over a certain hump.

For Scott City that hump is the third-round game. Meade's battle is again the mighty force known as Smith Center, while Dodge City's struggle is winning in the post season all together.
Ok so the Demons got over their hump last week... But we'll get to that.

Lets start with the Beavers. It's been said more than once by city schools that teams in the west don't have tough schedules. Coach O'Neil begs to differ. Yesterday I saw the Beavers practice, and when I asked O'Neil what he though about the talk of his teams weak schedule, he rolled his eyes at me. It makes me laugh when they do that. Although his thought process was completely rational. He mentioned Norton, Pratt, and Hoisington; all teams who have had winning programs for years, and Scott City played them all this season. As far as the conference teams they played... He says the Beavers are just superior. I would agree.

Scott City faces a tough Wichita Collegiate team Saturday afternoon. The Spartans have played teams like Nickerson, Halsted, Douglas, Garden Plain... need I go on. Not to mention have one heck of a quarterback in Blake Jablonski. Jablonski has attempted almost 300 passes, and he's completed nearly 200; not to mention he's earned over 3000 yards in the air. WOW!!
Pressuring this kid will be the key to Scott City's success Saturday. The Beavers aren't use to a spread team. In the west schools who are 3A and below utilize the running game. They have, however, incorporated more D'backs, and speed in the secondary to make up for that strong arm.

Now for their hump. This will be the fourth consecutive time the Beavers have faced this game. Not faced Collegiate, but the third round. In 2006 Garden Plain defeated Scott, in 2007 it was Conway Springs who took out the Beavers, and last year Garden Plain got the better of them again scoring two touchdowns in the last three minutes of the game to take the win. HEARTBREAKER! The players told me yesterday they still aren't over that loss. Which means the Beavers have had gas poured on their fire for the past three years... and the flame is stronger than ever. Play on Scott City, play on!

Our next stop... Meade. I really feel for the Buffs this season. They have been handed a terrible hand when it comes to critiques. People haven't given them credit for their full potential. Most have just said they won't be the team they were last season considering they lost 13 seniors who were crucial to the Buffs game offensively and defensively.

As far as I'm concerned this season's team is BETTER. Mainly because the kids who are playing this season have sat in the shadows of last year's seniors for three seasons and want to make a name for themselves, which they have effectively done. Kids like Jordan Moshier, who is a very talented linebacker, Colton Little, who can put some yards in play when necessary, Jaden Friesen, Albert Davis, Kellan Hernandez, who have all three rushed for over 500 yards on the season and Friesen is pushing 1000, have made this season perfect (literally, they are 11-0) for the Buffs. So give them some credit.

I mentioned the Buffs as a team I was anxious to cover this season knowing they would be a 2A powerhouse out here... I was ridiculed. It was because LaCrosse beat them last season. I wouldn't agree with LaCrosse beating them... I'd say it was Marshall Musil who beat them. In fact, the Buffs railed LaCrosse this year 48-12.

Ok, Ok... so they have quite a hump to get over.... Smith Center. We all know what a great team they are... (and if you don't just ask Grant... He loves to talk about the good ole Redmen) It goes without saying their 77 wins are an outstanding accomplishment, but lets get real... every dynasty evenually falls. This one is a strong one, so who knows when it will fall, but it will. Why not give Meade the benefit of the doubt and say they have just as great of chance as any other team at knocking the Red's off. Hey, It could happen.

Moving into 6A... I'll touch a little on my previous statement. Dodge City has already conquered its Demon (Pun Intended) Their hump was to win a game in playoffs... something they haven't done for 15 years, until now. Last Saturday Dodge played and dominated (in the second half anyway) Topeka High. In large part thanks to Jace Banner.

We've all heard his name a million and one times this season and I'm sure we will hear it until the Demons end their season. Last week Banner rushed for 310 yards, which set a new school record for most yards rushed in a single game. He's over 1100 on the season with 152 carries. It's safe to say Demon coaches are glad Banner is wearing red this year.

So we'll take Dodge's hump one step further... How about winning a second game in post season.... That task hasn't been done since, well... honestly, I don't even know. It's been over two decades. This week they face a tough Derby team. When I say tough Derby... I mean tough Devin Hedgepeth and his 3-4 defense, who you can be sure will try an contain Banner, which means the Demons may have to use Bruce Campbell... Laton Dowling.... Steven Mills... or even go to the air.

The last time Dodge was faced with a second-round game ironically enough it was Derby, and the Panthers won it 19-0 in 1994. Will history repeat itself... I'll give you highlights on the CIK show Friday night.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Pretenders and Contenders

It that time of the season many refer to as cutting time. Another word appears before cutting but I will refrain for the purposes of this blog post. Also for the purposes of this post, I will onlybe blogging about the teams that I have knowledge about.

Win or go home and for 8-man, win and go to the state title game.

Victoria will have a rematch with their friends Quivira Heights. The Knights and Thunderbirds have met six times in the past three years, the latter half of the games coming in sub-state playoff matchups. Both teams are ranked #2 and #3 respectively in 8-man division II polls. This game is a push because they are both so good and have been at this point before, obviously. Q. Heights might get the edge because they STOMPED Otis-Bison 42-6 to advance, and Otis-Bison DRILLED Victoria, 76-26. You do the math.

Quinter has steamrolled their way to play Clifton-Clyde on Saturday. If you haven't seen Quinter play, they are the biggest 8-man team ever - huge! Five players over 6'4"! And they more motivation than you could muster on your best day, playing for their head coach Greg Woolf who is fighting cancer. They have scored over 100 points in their two previous playoff games, allowing only 6 points. Clifton-Clyde made it to the 8-man Division I title game last year, so you know they are playoff ready. Quinter hasn't been this far before and the Eagles have.

The Redmen rule 2A. Everyone knows that. They have the championships and the winning streak to prove it but Meade, like everyone else in 2A, 3A, and probably 4A, would like to end the streak and grab their own title. Smith Center and Meade played last season to advance to the title game and SC routed the Buffs, 60-14 in Meade. Friday night at 6 p.m. the game will be in Hubbard Stadium, a not so friendly place for opposing teams. SC routed a very good Minneapolis team on the road, and the end result could have been a lot worse than 63-17 had Colt Rogers and Matt Atwood not fumbled in the endzone. Until the Redmen lose, it is their title to win and I don't see Meade, of all teams, stopping them.

The other side of the bracket, Ellis and Oakley will have a rematch from a week two, 14-0 Oakley win. From the people that were there, I was told that it was one of the most boring football games of the year. Defensive struggle all night, resulting in a two touchdown snoozefest. This one is a push as well for me because both teams have been playing very well lately (Ellis actually had a touchdown called back against Smith Center that would have snapped the streak) but Oakley has been deeper in the playoffs than Ellis has. Even though the game is in Ellis, I think Oakley takes it.

The two surprises of the season, Norton and Hutch Trinity will lock horns on Saturday. Expectations for Norton were high in the preseason with Terrell Lane and Zane Perez in the backfield but losses to Smith Center, Ellis and Scott City had people thinking they were just another wrestling school trying to be a football school. But now people are believing, especially after dispatching Beloit 42-20. Expectations for Hutch Trinity in the preseason were inconclusive. Nobody knew what they were going to do because usually they aren't very good, except on the basketball court. But that was then and this is a team that beat Conway Springs. Playing in Norton isn't easy, especially with a four hour plus road trip for the Celtics. Norton plays on.

Class 5A Cross Country Review

Class 5A was one of the strongest classes on both sides this year in terms of depth. A great mix of seniors and underclassmen made is a fun year. My predictions this year were either spot on or nowhere near. There was no middle ground this season. In the introduction for each class I will put the percent of places I got exactly correct and the percent of runners and teams I got right, but ended up in a different order.

Other Reviews
Class 6A

Class 5A Predictions Review
Percent of predictions spot on: 37.5% (6 of 16)
Percent correct but in different order: 87.5% (14 of 16)

This was a really good class in the predictions ring for me. I correctly picked the individual and team champions on the boys’ side, but missed the girls’ side on both fronts. I got the top five in the boys’ side right but had second and third flipped from my predictions.

Notes from State
The anticipated duel between Mackenzie Maki of Kapaun and Kaelyn Balch of Carroll never materialized as expected. Maki continued to improve all season long and cruised to a 28-second victory over the freshman Balch as she ran a 15:01. That was the same time as Avery Clifton won the 6A race in. It would have been interesting to see these ladies battle it out along with 4A’s Morgan Wedekind.

-Adam Porter just wins. Period. He has now not lost a race of any kind to a 5A opponent in a year. The only Kansas runner who beat him this season head-to-head was Roy Wedge of Lawrence. Now it is time for him to get in shape for his true strength, track.

-Cameron Sprague of Hutchinson beat out Hays’ Josh Munsch for second. Those three were a fun trio to watch these last couple of years. The last time we may get a chance to see all three in the same race again would be the state mile in the Spring. I am hoping for it.

-Pittsburg’s Page Miller (formerly an all-stater for Valley Center) really stepped up at the state meet. I doubted her, but people told me she would be there and sure enough she was. I thought she was cooked after getting beaten by seven, yes SEVEN, St. Thomas Aquinas runners at the regional meet. Only one of those runners beat her at the state meet.

-Track season is going to be a lot of fun on the boys side in the distance races. Porter is the best in any one race in 5A, but when he chases after three more golds it brings him back to the pack slightly. Josh Munsch, Javier Segura of Topeka West and David Thor of Carroll will all provide a lot of competition in the 800 and 1600. Sprague works hard just like Porter and don’t sleep on him to surprise in the 3200. If Porter was not running that race fresh, then I would pick that event for Sprague to pull the upset.

Looking ahead:
-Graduation will take 33 of the 102 runners from Class 5A. Maki and Balch will be back to do battle, but five of the top seven at state were seniors.

-Graduation absolutely decimates the top two programs in St. Thomas Aquinas and Bishop Carroll. Aquinas only returns three, while Carroll returns just two. Carroll’s two are a solid two in Balch and Christian McCaulley, who was 15th at state.

-Great Bend and Hutchinson are the top two returning teams on paper as both schools return six of their top seven and all of their top five. Hutchinson has the better pack returning, but Great Bend has the better front runner in Rubi Torres. I will never doubt Aquinas’ and Carroll’s ability to reload though. Carroll is very deep if you had a chance to see the City League JV race this year.

-A lot of the upper crust from this year will be graduating this spring including four of the top five and seven of the top ten. All totaled 42 of the 103 runners that crossed the finish line will be crossing the stage at graduation next spring.

-David Thor of Bishop Carroll is your top returner with Hutchinson’s Chris Wise, Hays’ Seth Tophoj and Thor’s teammate James Hampton the next three highest finishers returning.

-Barring injury, a runner quitting or a bumper crop of freshman for some other team, Carroll will defend its title next year. It only loses one senior in Cliff Kissling. Even if you pretend Kissling does not run this year, Carroll still wins the title by 27 points over McPherson.

-None of the teams behind McPherson bring back particularly strong teams. Second place McPherson loses its top two in champion Porter and top 15 finisher Morgan Peterson plus its six. Hutchinson loses its one and five and is probably the strongest on paper returning. Aquinas is once again decimated by graduation; losing five of its top seven. Only seven of the 12 teams even return five runners.

Who do you think will be good next year? What programs have some JV runners or runners who were injured that could make noise next year? Leave a comment or contact me at

Class 6A Cross Country Review

This is long overdue, but it is time for a wrap on cross country and the season that was. My predictions this year were either spot on or nowhere near. There was no middle ground this season. In the introduction for each class I will put the percent of places I got exactly correct and the percent of runners and teams I got right, but ended up in a different order.

Class 6A State Predictions Review
Percent of predictions spot on: 43.7% (7 of 16)
Percent correct but in different order: 50% (8 of 16)

Notes from State:

-Roy Wedge of Lawrence made a statement by going out and winning the big class in dominating with a time of 15:43. Second place was a distant second a full 26 seconds behind Wedge. The second best time at Rim Rock was Adam Porter’s championship run of 16:07 in class 5A. Wedge established himself early as the best cross country runner in the state by beating Porter head-to-head and he proved it late too.

- Avery Clifton cruised to victory in the 6A race by 33 seconds over second place. She failed to break 15 minutes, but that is not surprising considering she was not pushed.

- Congratulations to Brock Nooney and his performance for the Campus Colts. The senior busted out and took fourth place in his final high school cross country race.

- Other area kids in 6A that impressed were Danielle Walker of Maize and her second place finish. Megan Ballinger of Goddard finished fifth, but was right in a pack of runner and easily could have been fourth or sixth, but was able to hold off Lisa Imngrund of Shawnee Mission Northwest for fifth.

Looking ahead
- Thirty-six of the 104 runners that stepped to line for the girls were seniors this year, including four of the top ten. Alli Cash of Shawnee Mission West will be the top returner as she was third in her freshman season.

-The team that looks to be in the best shape is this year’s champion Olathe East. It returns its top four runners and its sixth runner. If you score returners and take out seniors, then Olathe East would score 71. That is five points better than Shawnee Mission West’s returning score of 76.

-Shawnee Mission West is easily the scariest returning team. All seven runners return and its top five at state were freshmen.

-Derby has the fourth best returning score with 129 and five of its top seven returning.

The boys are hit hard by graduation, which should give rise to some new blood in 6A cross country as 43 of the 104 runners from the state meet will graduate this spring. That includes all of the top six an seven of the top ten in total.

The two-time defending champion Lawrence Lions look to be in some trouble next season. The Lions lose their top two runners in Wedge and Calvin Morgan. Its returning score 91 for next season based on this year’s meet, which is second to perennial power Shawnee Mission Northwest.

-Shawnee Mission Northwest returns its top three runners and five in total. Its returning score is 73. These two teams clearly have the strongest returners, but don’t sleep on some others.

Campus has the fourth best returning score with 137. It loses its one and three from state. The surprise next year could be Wichita East as it took 11th this year, but returns a strong top four and its seventh from state. It has the fourth best returning score with 142 points.

Who do you think will be good next year? What programs have some JV runners or runners who were injured that could make noise next year? Leave a comment or contact me at

We normally don't cover gymnastics but...

Just read this article.

Wow. Just wow. Shawnee Mission Northwest's team was supposed to win, they had a small lead over Lawrence Free State and Newton. But because their coach asked what their score was, and did so not in the allotted 5 minute window, her team was docked a point therefore moving them from first to third place. That is so wrong. Again, this goes back to something I blogged about not too long ago. The random cross country rules in Baltimore that cost a team first place because the stitching on his shorts under his uniform were white instead of black, that could happen here in Kansas.

This gymnastics fiasco already has happened here in Kansas. The reason why team sports are encouraged is because they teach kids rules. They teach teamwork. They teach kids that when someone else is down you help them up, they teach sportsmanship, but they also teach that hard work should be rewarded. These girls from Shawnee Mission Northwest worked hard. They trained, practiced, focused and set their eyes on one heck of a big goal. And they reached that goal only to have it taken away on a technicality.

There's something else to be taught here in sports. Compassion. Common Sense. How many times do these young men and women have to go home with nothing to show for their hard work before we wise up and realize that these kids are TEENAGERS!

I'm no softy, I'm not of the soccer mom mentality that everybody wins and everybody should play. I'm probably the most competitive person you'll ever meet. I was the kid who rode my bike to the tee-ball league umpire's house to ask what the score of the game was because I wanted to win. But I also wanted to win fairly. I wanted to win because I worked hard and because I put forth the effort. And I sure didn't want to lose because someone, somewhere, who undoubtedly had never played my sport in their whole lives decided on an arbitrary rule to keep athletes in check.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Goddard football coach resigns

Roger Robben will not be returning as the head coach of the Goddard High School football team, the school confirmed this afternoon. Robben submitted his letter of resignation on Friday, and the school board accepted it Monday night during a board meeting.

Robben will leave the Lions after six seasons at the helm, having compiled a record of 23-26. This season, Goddard finished 1-8, but had a chance to make the playoffs until they lost in their final game of the season to Maize. Previously, Robben had been the coach at Buhler and Remington.

Goddard principal Bill Kelley said a search would begin immediately for a replacement, and would include both outside candidates and assistant coaches already on the staff.

“We want to give everyone an opportunity who is interested,” said Kelley.

This is the second time in two days an area 6A school announced a change after Wichita North’s Tom Beason stepped down on Monday.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Tom Beason resigns as North High head football coach

Tom Beason has resigned as head football coach at Wichita North according to North High Athletic Director Lance Deckinger. North had a 3-6 record this season and failed to make the playoffs. Beason led the Redskins to a 7-21 record in three seasons as head coach. The 2008 season was the only year that North made the playoffs in Beason’s three years. The Redskins lost to eventual champion Junction City in the first round of the playoffs last season.

Giant killers

In the last week, both of the 3A western giants have fallen. For the first time since 2005, the state championship game will be played without Conway Springs or Garden Plain.

In the past eight years, the 3A championship has been won by either Conway or Garden Plain six times. Since 2000, one of the two powerhouses has represented the west in the championship game every year except for 2005, when Southeast of Saline won the title, and in 2000 when Wichita Collegiate won the title.

You can now add 2009 to the small list of years in this decade that won’t feature Conway or Garden Plain playing on Thanksgiving weekend.

It started with maybe the best game of the first round—in any class—on paper at least, between Wichita Collegiate and Garden Plain.

Garden Plain was looking to a rematch with the Cardinals after a controversial loss to Conway Springs in districts.

The Spartans from Collegiate, led by quarterback Blake Jablonski and a host of 6-foot-plus receivers, have put up eye-popping offensive numbers on a weekly basis.

But while Collegiate’s offense put a strain on scoreboards all year long, it has done so with a certain amount of disbelief based on the Spartans’ weak MCAA schedule.

The true test of Collegiate’s legitimacy had to wait until the Spartans went up against the big boys in the playoffs.

Jablonski’s 248 yards and six touchdowns overwhelmed the Owls in a 51-20 blowout. Receiver Brett LeMaster finished the game with an unreal 146 yards on nine catches.

Really. Garden Plain lost a game by 31 points.

Anyone who may have doubted Collegiate based on soft MCAA opponents instantly needs to rethink things. Collegiate is for real.

While Garden Plain was getting pounded, Conway Springs was busy eliminating Douglass from the playoffs with a 54-13 win, setting up a Saturday game against 10-0 Hutchinson Trinity.

Hutch Trinity, like Collegiate, has a high powered passing attack, led by quarterback Derek Racette.

The Celtics didn’t handle the No. 1 team in the state the way Collegiate took out Garden Plain, but Trinity did come away with a 33-28 victory, to completely turn the western half of the 3A bracket upside down.

Racette threw for 341 of Trinity’s 473 yards of total offense, and had four touchdown passes, including a 77-yard Hail Mary to Michael Mesh on fourth-and-28 for the go-ahead touchdown with a minute left.

The Trinity win completed what has become an extreme rarity in this decade—a non-CPL western champion.

Could this be the beginning of a new passing era in 3A football?

For years, the Conway Springs single-wing offense has been the standard of excellence in 3A. Trying to guess whether the next play is going to be a run or a pass is a breeze. Conway is running the ball. However, trying to figure out who is going to get the ball has been an absolute nightmare for defense coordinators, defenses, photographers, videographers, spectators and play-by-play personalities for a very long time.

There have been a ton of imitators of the Conway single wing. But no one has been able to run it like the Cardinals.

Garden Plain also plays a physically dominating style of football. Unlike Conway, there is not a lot of sneakiness in the Owls’ running game. The Owls line it up, hand it to the back and pound you. Garden Plain is maybe the only team in the state that can line up against Conway and get into a battle of running games.

It may seem like a no brainer to run against Conway and Garden Plain to keep the dominate offenses off the field. However, the amount of Division I defensive talent to come out of both of these schools has a way of taking those plans and trashing them. Both of these schools can, and will, hit harder than the opponent.

But in 2009, Collegiate and Hutch Trinity may have laid down a new blueprint to beating these teams—using the pass.

Of course, passing offenses require a ton of athletic talent, from the quarterback, to the receivers and all the way down to running backs who are willing and able to pick up blitzes in pass protection. Deciding to go with a passing attack is easier said than done.

Both Collegiate and Hutch Trinity have the talent to run these offenses, and run them well.

Physical running games have been a staple of the western football style for as long as there has been football in Kansas. But in 2009, the game to decide the western half of the bracket could be a passing fest between the Celtics and the Spartans.

Could this be the future of 3A football, or will the dominant passing attacks of 2009 be a one-time deal?