High school sports

Friday night football: 5 things to watch

Updated: 2013-09-27T22:58:08Z

By SAM MCDOWELL

The Kansas City Star

1 Shawnee Mission West (3-0) at Lawrence Free State (3-0)

It’s been a long 10-month wait for Lawrence Free State, but the opportunity for payback is finally here. Shawnee Mission West ended Free State’s promising 2012 season with a 48-21 playoff victory last November. SM West went on to win the Kansas 6A state championship. The undefeated Firebirds can exact some revenge Friday, but more important, a victory would give them a leg up in the race for the Sunflower League crown. Free State quarterback Joe Dineen has thrown for 424 yards and seven touchdowns, but replicating that success will be difficult against an SM West defense that has allowed only 10 completed passes all season. And that payback goes both ways. SM West lost only once during the regular season during their state title run — a 28-14 loss to Free State.

2 Platte County (3-1) at Kearney (3-1)

If the first four weeks of the Missouri high school season have taught us anything, it’s that the Suburban Conference Blue race is as unpredictable — not to mention, entertaining — as any in the state. Just look at last week’s results. All six teams played in games decided by one possession. Half of those six — Winnetonka, Platte County and Kearney — remain unbeaten in league play, but obviously one will fall today. Noted for its spread offense the last several seasons, Platte County has instead used defense to fight for its second straight conference title. Pirates linebacker Jesse Eggers leads the team with 31 tackles and three sacks. He and his teammates will have the task of chasing around Kearney senior Brock Broughton, who has rushed for 738 yards and 12 touchdowns in four games.

3 Bishop Miege (3-0) at Gardner Edgerton (2-1)

The Eastern Kansas League’s top passing attack meets one of its best running games. Behind quarterback Ryan Willis, Bishop Miege has amassed more than 300 yards per game through the air, which is nearly double the yardage of any other team in the conference. McKinley Johnson has emerged as the top receiving threat — he leads the conference with 457 receiving yards and five touchdowns. Counter that with Gardner Edgerton, which prefers to move the ball on the ground. Given that the Trailblazers have Traevohn Wrench in the backfield, that’s not a bad idea. Wrench has gained 553 yards and scored eight touchdowns, with all eight scores coming in the last two weeks.

4 Grain Valley (3-1) at Pleasant Hill (4-0)

It’s taken Grain Valley and Pleasant Hill only four weeks to surpass their victory totals of last season. Pleasant Hill is averaging 39 points per game. Why is that significant? Well, the Roosters scored 39 points only once in 10 games in 2012. Grain Valley’s performance has been just as surprising, especially considering the Eagles have only eight seniors on the roster. Their young team, however, has transitioned smoothly into Jimmy Tucker’s new spread offense. It’s the opener for both teams in the Missouri River Valley Conference West, which looks like an awfully tough league at the moment. Among future opponents, Oak Grove is unbeaten, and traditional power Harrisonville is 3-1.

5 Shawnee Mission East (3-0) at Olathe North (2-1)

Power football faces power football. Both teams use the running game to move the football, and it’s proved effective. That’s putting it mildly. Shawnee Mission East and Olathe North have combined for 1,750 rushing yards and 20 rushing touchdowns. Dustin Delaney’s flexbone offense at SM East has been as advertised, with Luke Taylor (432 yards) leading the charge. Olathe North has shown an ability to throw the football, but the Eagles would prefer to have tailback Venus Triplett and quarterback Cole Murphy move the chains with the ground game. They have totaled 11 touchdowns.

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