It’s the second week of Kansas City-area Friday night high school football. Tonight, it’s also full strength, with both Kansas and Missouri teams hitting the field. Here are five storylines to watch:
1. Rivalry reignited
Another chapter in the storied Olathe North/Olathe East rivalry should be added tonight at the Olathe District Activity Center. Led by senior linebacker Nathan Guthrie, Olathe East returns seven starters from a defense many considered to be the Sunflower League’s best last season. Of course, stopping Eagles running back Venus Triplett is never an easy task. Meanwhile, Olathe North counters with perhaps the best collection of linebackers in Kansas, led by senior Jimmie Swain, a TCU commit who rejoined the Eagles after playing at Lee’s Summit as a junior. He’s expected to be a force alongside juniors Marcel Spears and Jesse Kendricks.
2. Rematch of different sorts
A tropical depression turned last year’s matchup between Fort Osage and Blue Springs South into a sloppy affair, which a physical Fort Osage team used to its advantage in a 6-0 victory. The Indians won despite not completing a pass the entire game. The weather forecast calls for a much dryer night Friday, but look for the rematch to once again be defined by physical play up front. Fort Osage has all five linemen back from last season, and they paved the way for running back Ezra Vaoifi to rush for 313 yards and two touchdowns in a 25-7 win against Park Hill South last week. Blue Springs South, meanwhile, is coming off a 47-0 shutout of Truman.
3. Juicy EKL clash
Both Gardner Edgerton and Blue Valley have championship aspirations in the East Kansas League and beyond, but only one team will start 2013 with a victory. Gardner Edgerton senior Traevohn Wrench, a Kansas commit who owns back-to-back 2,000-yard seasons, was slowed by turf toe early last season and undoubtedly will be eager to hit the ground running in his final season. Senior linebackers Henry McGrew and Joe Forlenza will aim to keep Wrench contained. Of course, the bigger matchup might be Blue Valley’s offensive line, led by senior Blake Freeman and junior A.J. Harris clashing with Gardner Edgerton’s defensive line, led by junior Emilio Fowler.
4. Golden matchup
The Suburban Gold Conference finished a perfect 6-0 in the opening week of the regular season. There won’t be a repeat in the second week. Two of the league’s most-improved teams — Raymore-Peculiar and Liberty — will meet Friday in Peculiar. There are some similarities between the two, most notably with their size on the lines. Liberty overpowered Winnetonka in a 35-0 win last week, while Raymore-Peculiar juniors CJ Donaldson and Ben Sinclair form a fearsome duo on the defensive line. Ray-Pec is coming off a 62-14 thrashing of Belton.
5. Coaching debuts
There was some turnover in the Sunflower League coaching ranks, which means four programs are hoping for strong starts under new regimes. Dustin Delaney brings his flexbone offense from Emporia to Shawnee Mission East, which travels to Leavenworth. The Pioneers also have a new coach, but he’s a familiar face — former Olathe South coach Mark Littrell. Meanwhile, Chip Sherman has shifted from SM East to Olathe Northwest, which opens against SM Northwest. Finally, first-year coach Don Simmons’ rebuilding effort at SM North begins at heavily favored Lawrence Free State.