1. Can Blue Valley compete in Kansas Class 6A?
The Tigers, who won the Class 5A state championship last season, should be fine because they have the distinct advantage of playing in a split conference. That should make the transition much smoother. With Bishop Miege dropping to Class 4A, the Eastern Kansas League now has representatives in three different Kansas classifications. In addition to Blue Valley, Blue Valley North, Blue Valley Northwest and Gardner Edgerton also compete in 6A.
Blue Valley also brings back a number of experienced seniors, led by offensive lineman AJ Harris, who has committed to Missouri.
2. Was last season a fluke for Shawnee Mission East?
When current Olathe Northwest coach Chip Sherman stepped down from the SM East coaching job two years ago, the Lancers turned to a young, successful coach from Emporia to fill his shoes. Dustin Delaney did more than that. After a 9-2 record in his final year at Emporia, Delaney last season led SM East to the program’s first appearance in a state title game, where the Lancers lost to Derby.
Now, SM East is hungry.
The Lancers sent a number of last year’s players to the college ranks, but there is not a true star to replace. That’s helpful. SM East is loaded with returning players, including quarterback Gunnar Englund and offensive lineman Kyle Ball.
3. What can St. Thomas Aquinas expect from Randy Dreiling?
Landing Randy Dreiling as their new coach was huge for the Saints, who have had just one state playoff appearance in the last four seasons.
Dreiling brings a stellar resume from Hutchinson, where he won seven state championships in his 17 years with the Salthawks. One of those state titles came against St. Thomas Aquinas, in 2008.
It could be a tough transition for Aquinas, which finished 3-6 last season. But look for the Saints to roll toward the kind of success they had under former coach Kevin Kopecky, who took them to 11 state playoffs in 12 seasons.
4. How stacked is the roster at Olathe North?
The Eagles already boast two Division I commits: tight end Josh Moore, who is headed to Ohio State, and Iowa State-bound Marcel Spears, a linebacker. In addition, Olathe North will likely have three or four more D-I signees by the end of the season.
A bigger question for Olathe North is: Can all these talented individuals jell and find their groove? The Eagles look to improve on last season’s 8-4 record after a season-ending loss to SM East in a Class 6A substate championship.
Olathe North faces a stiff test in its season opener, traveling to Arkansas to face Rogers Heritage.
5. What is a must-see game among the season openers?
Garden City (Kan.) at Olathe East at 8 p.m. on Sept. 5. When the Sunflower League voted to open a week of its schedule to play out-of-conference and out-of-district opponents, this is the kind of high-profile game the voters likely had in mind. Garden City went 8-4 last year and lost in the Kansas Class 6A substate championship to eventual champion Derby. Olathe East fell to state finalist SM East one round earlier in the playoffs and finished with a 7-4 record.
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