The more things change … never mind, sometimes they don’t really change at all.
By TOD PALMER
The Kansas City Star
Fresh off its first Kansas Class 6A state football championship in 27 years, Shawnee Mission West was picked to repeat as the Sunflower League champion in a survey of the league’s 12 coaches.
The Vikings, who finished with a 12-1 record last season, received 11 of 12 first-place votes, making them the clear favorite despite having lost 2,000-yard rusher Brett Sterbach and several key performers on defense.
Lawrence Free State, which reached the 6A semifinals last year, received the other first-place vote and was picked second in the 2013 Sunflower League poll.
The Firebirds, who were 10-2 last season, must replace quarterback Kyle McFarland, but Joe Dineen, who also plays safety and has committed to Kansas, ought to be a more than capable replacement.
Two more traditional powers, Olathe East and Olathe North, tied for third place.
The Hawks reached the state quarterfinals last season and have made the playoffs 12 consecutive years, while Olathe North looks to make big strides in Gene Wier’s second season back with the Eagles, who started last season 1-5 but rallied to reach the playoffs.
Led by one of the nation’s top recruits, tackle Braden Smith, Olathe South checks in at fifth in the poll followed by two teams with new coaches.
Shawnee Mission East was picked to finish sixth in Dustin Delaney’s first season at the helm, while Olathe Northwest was tapped at No. 7. Former Lancers coach Chip Sherman takes over for the Ravens.
If you’re looking for a sleeper in the Sunflower League, Shawnee Mission South could be the surprise team. The Raiders were picked eighth followed by Brad Strauss-less Lawrence, Leavenworth, SM Northwest and SM North.
Sunflower League football coaches’ preseason poll
Listings include team, (first-place votes), points and last year’s record:
1. SM West (11), 121 points, 12-1; 2. Lawrence Free State (1), 109 points, 10-2; 3 (TIE) Olathe East, 93 points, 6-5 and Olathe North, 93 points, 3-7; 5. Olathe South, 76 points, 5-4; 6. SM East, 67 points, 7-3; 7. Olathe Northwest, 58 points, 2-7; 8. SM South, 51 points, 4-5; 9. Lawrence, 47 points, 8-3; 10. Leavenworth, 39 points, 4-5; 11. SM Northwest, 27 points, 2-7; 12. SM North, 11 points, 0-9. Note: Coaches do not vote for their team. Points are awarded on an 11-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis.
To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/todpalmer.