EKL/Sunflower League football: Five games to watch

10/01/2013 3:54 PM

10/01/2013 3:56 PM

It’s Week 5 of the Kansas high school football season. Within the Eastern Kansas League and Sunflower League, here are five must-see games.

1. Gardner Edgerton (3-1) at Blue Valley West (3-1)

Blue Valley West's overtime loss last Thursday opened the door to an intriguing race for the Eastern Kansas League crown. It's not even the halfway point of the season, but every team in the conference has lost at least once. How's that for parity? Few teams benefited from the Jaguars' loss more than Gardner Edgerton, which now sits tied for the conference lead with some momentum, to boot. Traevohn Wrench is nearing the 1,000-yard rushing mark already, but he's far from Gardner Edgerton's lone option offensively. The Trailblazers have scored at least 48 points each of the last three games, and the passing game is developing into a weapon. Quarterback Jared Hobby has thrown for eight touchdowns, including four to Josh Lang. If Blue Valley West is to prevent its loss last week from becoming a lingering slide, it needs to improve its running game.

2. Shawnee Mission East (4-0) at Shawnee Mission South (2-2)

It was Lawrence Free State that notched the biggest Sunflower League victory last week, a 35-14 victory over defending state champion Shawnee Mission West. But don't forget there's still another undefeated team in the conference. Shawnee Mission East, however unlikely, has rolled to a 4-0 start in league play, winning the last two games by a combined six points. The Lancers possess a dynamic running game but also a quality passing attack. It's no coincidence they have produced at least three touchdowns every week, although this week's assignment might be the toughest yet. Shawnee Mission South — perhaps another surprise — has performed as well defensively as any other team in the conference. The offense, on the other hand, has some catching up to do.

3. Blue Valley Northwest (2-2) at Blue Valley (3-1)

Blue Valley Northwest played the role of giant killer last Thursday, taking down Blue Valley West in overtime. The role may stick around awhile. Now, the Huskies travel to face Blue Valley, the new No. 1 team in The Star's power rankings for the Eastern Kansas League. Does Blue Valley belong? The Tigers need to beat one of the league's better teams to prove it. Their rushing attack, led by Chance Nelson, gives them a chance against just about anybody.

4. Lawrence Free State (4-0) at Olathe North (2-2)

Ah, the trap game. Coming off a victory over Shawnee Mission West, Lawrence Free State is one of only two remaining unbeaten teams in the Sunflower League. It's set to face the other, Shawnee Mission East, next week. In the meantime, it can't overlook the opponent sandwiched between the two. Sure, Olathe North is 2-2 through four weeks, but it's not your average .500 football team. The Eagles' two losses have come by a combined four points.

5. Olathe South (3-1) at Olathe East (2-2)

Two teams looking to jump back into the Sunflower League mix need a victory to keep those hopes alive. Olathe East possesses a formidable running back duo of Joran Brown and Jalen Branson, each of whom has averaged at least 80 yards per game. That's not unlike the offensive scheme of Olathe South, which is fourth in the conference at 213 rushing yards per game.

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