For all of Zach Witters’ life, he has heard the same adage — high school football in Missouri is better than in Kansas.
“I’ve grown up here for 18 years, and it always kind of feels like people think Missouri is better,” said Witter, quarterback of the 2-0 Shawnee Mission West Vikings. “But now is our time to show them they’re wrong, and Kansas is better.”
Witters and his SM West teammates will participate in one of 10 games on this week’s Kansas City-area high school football schedule that will somewhat settle the issue of state-line bragging rights. SM West plays host to Blue Springs as part of the Sunflower-Suburban Showdown series, which debuts this season and will carry on to next season. The series features 10 games that pit Kansas Sunflower League teams against Missouri Suburban Conference squads. Four of those games were played on Thursday night, and six are schduled for Friday night.
The 10-game “Showdown” slate also coincides with an already-scheduled state-line matchup between Shawnee Mission East and Rockhurst, each a power on their respective sides of the state line. It is not part of the Sunflower-Suburban Showdown series because Rockhurst is an independent. SM East, 2-0, plays at Rockhurst, 4-0, at 7:30 p.m. on Friday night.
“There’s a lot of talk about who’s better, so when you play a team from the other side, you want to represent and show that your side is better,” Rockhurst senior Cole Beshoner said.
Some players have even straddled the state line, making this week even more exciting. Some Rockhurst players are Kansas residents who cross the state line and attend high school in Missouri.
“I live in Missouri, but I played in FCCJC (Football and Cheerleading Club of Johnson County),” Rockhurst senior Ross Elder said. “I think it brings a little more fun to the game. I like it a lot. I’m still going out and trying to beat them.”
Besides bragging rights, the cross-border matchups also provide tougher competition, and a chance to beef up a schedule before the postseason starts. Teams from one conference were matched up with teams of similar stature from the other conference. A powerhouse from Missouri, for example, couldn’t request to play a struggling Kansas program, or vice versa.
“We haven’t played SM East since I've been here,” said Rockhurst coach Tony Severino, who’s in his 34th season with the Hawklets. “When they called, we said, yes, that would be great. We want to play anybody we can play in town. We’re so tired of traveling.”
What the leagues have now, they hope, is a slate of games that can — win or lose — benefit all the participants.
“We have a policy that we want to play the hard games early on to help us later on in the year,” SM West coach Tim Callaghan said. “This new series helps us do that.”
The only worry? The timeline of the conference showdowns gives Missouri high schools two extra weeks of games and practices under their belts.
“It’s their (Missouri’s) Week 5; it’s our Week 3,” Callaghan said. “I don’t know if I’m real excited about that. I think it’s tough. But I think they’ve got it right as far as putting people together. There are some really fun matchups to watch.”
This week’s Kansas City-area high school football schedule features 10 games that are state-line matchups between teams from the Sunflower League in Kansas against opponents from Missouri’s Suburban Conference.
Lee’s Summit North 21, Olathe Northwest 16
Blue Springs South 34, Olathe North 7
Grandview 50, SM Northwest 14
Winnetonka 21, SM South 14
Blue Springs at Shawnee Mission West: Blue Springs has won three of four, but is allowing 29 points per game. SM West has been dynamic offensively, scoring at least 40 points in both of its games.
Lawrence at Lee’s Summit West: Lawrence running back Trey Moore has been a force this season. Meanwhile, for three straight weeks, games involving Lee’s Summit West have been decided by one possession.
Lawrence Free State at Park Hill: Coming off a shutout victory last week, Free State’s defense is confident. Park Hill junior quarterback Billy Maples threw three first-half touchdowns last week.
Leavenworth at North Kansas City: Leavenworth has had a rough two games, but watch out for versatile running back Anthony Gould. North Kansas City’s Damon Whitmill ran for a pair of touchdowns to give the Hornets their first victory last week.
Lee’s Summit at Olathe South: With a three-game winning streak, Lee’s Summit has already matched last year’s win total. Olathe South is still searching for its first victory.
Liberty at Olathe East: After posting a 6-15 record over the previous two seasons, Liberty is 4-0 and scoring 38.5 points per game. Olathe East is coming off a rivalry win last week, its first victory of the season.