There are two Johnson County area high school football teams -- Shawnee Mission East and Blue Valley -- playing for state titles on Saturday. Here are five things to watch for in those championship games:
By KATHLEEN GIER
The Kansas City Star
1. History: Shawnee Mission East already has the best record in school history at 11-1 and it has the chance to win its first state title if it can defeat a tough Derby squad on Saturday. This is also the first time the Lancers have advanced to the state final and they’re doing it under first-year head coach Dustin Delaney, who has plenty of experience in championship games coming from Hutchinson High School. There, he contributed to four state titles in his four seasons as offensive coordinator.
2. Blue Valley’s passing game: Chance Nelson has led the Tigers’ offense with 1,628 rushing yards on 236 carries and 18 touchdowns, while Montana Brady and Logan Brettell added 768 and 655 yards, respectively. Though they’ve been known for their ground attack, last week against Blue Valley West they showed they can be prolific through the air as well. Brettell completed 19 of his 31 attempts and threw five touchdown passes to four different targets. He also had no interceptions in the game to help the Tigers overcome an early 14-0 deficit. His only repeat receiver was Mikey Henson, who has 625 yards and 10 receiving touchdowns this season.
3. Coaching battles: Delaney brought a highly successful flexbone offense with him when he came to Shawnee Mission East from Hutchinson. The only problem is that Derby has seen it before and Derby defeated Hutchinson 36-0 earlier this season. The familiarity works both ways, though, since Delaney knows what to expect from Derby’s defense after his four seasons battling them as an offensive coordinator. Salina South head coach Sam Sellers is also familiar with Blue Valley, a squad which dealt his 2003 team a loss in the state title game when he was an assistant. Ken Stonebraker, who was the head coach in that game, is now the athletic director. His son, Justin, plays quarterback.
4. Derby’s high powered attack: Derby is averaging nearly 49 points per game this season, with totals ranging from 28 to 76. In addition, the Panthers have only allowed one opponent to score more than 20 points. That came in a 41-35 loss to Salina South in the season opener. Since then, they’ve won 10 consecutive games, with six games in which they held opponents to seven points or less.
5. Salina South’s prolific offense: The Cougars are averaging 447 yards per game with 75 touchdowns. When they faced Blue Valley in Week three they recorded 465 yards which tied the highest totally by an opponent this season. They averaged 8.16 yards per offensive play which was also a high amongst Tigers opponents. In that game, Stonebraker completed 14 of his 23 pass attempts for 283 yards and three touchdowns. Blue Valley won the first game 35-28, but Salina South rattled off nine straight victories to get to the state championship with a 10-2 record.
To reach Kathleen Gier, call 816-234-4875 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.