Looking at who's left: 6A

Blue Valley won it all in 5A last year, can they do it in 6A? (photo: BV Touchdown Club)
By: Sports in Kansas - Chet Kuplen
Nov 10, 2014

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East

SM East (10-0)

The Lancers, under second year head coach Dustin Delaney, are showing they weren't a fluke to make it to the state title game in 2013. They may be the most complete team in Kansas and when we say "team", we mean it, as they get it done with everyone. The Lancers do have a star this year in senior defensive end, Kyle Ball, who may be the best defender in Kansas. Ball picked up a KU offer this past weekend. This years Sunflower League schedule didn't seem to test East at all and the fact that Olathe North wasn't on it didn't help. Last year East was tested week in and week out with very tough games. This season East has scored over forty in each of their games but this past week, last year they only did that once. They have West this week, a game they won by 23 in week four. East is 0-1 all-time in the state title game and has eight playoff wins as a school in 15 playoff appearances. Could this be the year the Lancers bring home a state football title? They seem to be favored to do so, but it's a tough road in the 6A playoffs. 

SM West (6-4)

Just two years ago West won the state title against Hutchinson (19-14) on the way to a 12-1 record. The Vikings finished 4-5 in 2013 and had a tough year with the loss of Andre Maloney, something no team should ever have to go through. This year the Vikings were a big unknown coming into the season but featured some new players that many thought could get them back into the playoffs. The Vikings (6-4), who lost four of their first five, are one of the hottest teams in 6A at the moment after winning their last five games in a row. West has showed improvement in 2014, by winning over Olathe South this week, a team they lost to by 10 in regular season. The bad news for West is they have their hands full this week against league rival, SM East, a team they lost to by 23 in week four. That's why we play the games, right? 

Olathe North (10-0)

Olathe North, under head coach Gene Wier, was the most hyped up team coming into preseason because of everything they returned from 2013. Division-I commits, Marcel Spears (Iowa State) and Josh Moore (Kansas), are two of the top recruits in Kansas, also add in one of the top juniors in Kansas, Isaiah Simmons. Quarterback Cole Murphy and running back, Venus Triplett, round out one of the best backfield in Kansas. North reminds me a lot of the hype from the Derby Panther team from 2013. The Eagles have been challenged in 2014 and won in some close ones, three games they've played have been within five points (Heritage-AR, Free State, Olathe South). North will have its toughest test of the season this week as they host the defending 5A state champion, Blue Valley Tigers (9-1). This game has a state title feel to it in the round of eight. Whoever wins is setting themselves up with a huge showdown with SM East, who will be the favorite to beat SM West. Olathe North has been in the round of eight on 20 different occasions. The Eagles are 8-2 all-time in state title games, with last title coming in 2009.

Blue Valley (9-1)

Defending 5A state champion Tigers not getting a lot of hype in 6A yet, but that's probably because they came up from 5A this season. The Tigers one loss (Miege) isn't a bad one, because the 4A-I Stags very well could be the best team in Kansas. The Tigers feature Mizzou commit, A.J. Harris,  who is one of the nations top lineman. Colton McCumber has played very nice at the quarterback position this season and has over 1,500 yards of offense. Blue Valley was a bit of an unknown coming into the year because of all they lost off a state title team, but I think they have answered any doubts anyone had on them. They have been tested in the very good EKL and will be ready for a match-up with the very hyped Olathe North Eagle squad. Eric Driskell already has two state titles since taking over the program in 2010. Blue Valley is one of the states best programs with 40-12 all-time record in the state playoffs with six state titles. They have been in the final eight (6A/5A) of the playoffs in the last seven seasons. It's a shame one of these loaded squads will have to lose in this weeks slugfest. 

West

Derby (9-1)

A year ago the Panthers were the most hyped up team in the entire state of Kansas. All of those players from last years 6A state title are gone, but this years team has the exact same record as last year. This year they could be the dark horse team that gets into the state title game without many, besides Wichita area, talking about them. Where do they fit into the state title conversation in 2014? Well they have just as good of a shot as any team on the West at this point as its wide open. The Panthers added transfers Curtis Whitten and Darreon Jackson, who have both been an immediate impact in 2014. They have won nine games in a row since their season opening loss to Maize. The Panthers have Hutch this week, a hot 6A team that nobody should want to play right now. This is a rematch of the regular season in which Derby won by seven in week four. The Salthawks (6-4) have won five of their last six after starting out the season battling injuries to a 1-3 record. Many would favor Derby in this coin flip type of game and it definitely helps its at home.  Derby is 33-24 all-time in the state playoffs with two state titles (1994, 2013) in their 27 playoff appearances.

Hutchinson (6-4)

Gone is Randy Dreiling to Aquinas, who turned the Hutch program into one of, it not the states best in the late 1990s and 2000s. In is Ryan Cornelsen, who came over from Hays, and has led the Salthawks back to the playoffs after missing them in 2013. After a rough start from some injuries, the Salthawks are back in business winning their last four games and a district title. It's always hard to beat someone twice in one year and that's what Derby will have to do this week to end Hutch's hope at a semi-final ticket in 6A. Running back Blaik Middleton, a transfer from Dodge City, has been an immediate impact for the Salthawks. Middleton has put together a school record 2,110 rushing yards this season for the Salthawks in 10 games, the old school record held by Ben Heeney, now an all-american linebacker candidate at KU. He is definitely in the conversation as one of the best backs in Kansas. Hutch is 41-7 all-time in the Kansas playoffs with a 7-2 record in the state title game.

Junction City (8-2)

Junction City, under head coach Randall Zimmerman, has been a very quiet 8-2 team on the western side of the state for 2014. The Blujays haven't had the toughest schedule on the year, cruising through a district that ended up having six combined wins and no winning records. However, they have took care of business in are in the final eight for the first time since 2010. The only concern for the Bluejays is all eight wins are against opponents that finished with losing records. Junction last won a state title in 2009 and are 18-13 all-time in the Kansas playoffs. They will have their hands full against Lawrence Free State this week, a team that is now on the west, and known for deep playoff runs in the east. 

Free State (7-3)

Free State, a known Sunflower league contender, was sent out west this year for the 6A districts. This should open the eyes of all teams out west if it already hasn't. The Firebirds have played one of the toughest schedules in Kansas, with two of their three losses to state powers SM East (10-0) and Olathe North (10-0). They have put together three quality wins over the past three weeks (Manhattan, Topeka, Wichita Northwest). Bryce Torneden is putting together a solid junior campaign at quarterback for Free State and senior lineman Scott Frantz, a KSU commit, helps pave the way for the offense. The Firebirds are making their eighth appearance in the round of eight, not bad for a school that has been around less than 20 years. Free State is 3-4 in the round of eight games. They will be the favorite in this game against a Junction City squad that hasn't been as tested, but Junction did hang with Manhattan, a team Free State beat 35-14 in week eight.