High school football in Kansas opened its season on Thursday night, with Shawnee Mission East opening its 2017 slate against Olathe South. Here’s a glance at a few Week 1 games in the Eastern Kansas League:
Blue Valley at Bishop Miege
Blue Valley has spoiled Bishop Miege’s chances at a perfect record the past two seasons. The teams opened against each other last year, playing close until Blue Valley went ahead with 9 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
Miege recovered from the Eastern Kansas League loss with ease, winning 12 straight on the way to a third consecutive Class 4A, Division I championship. EKL champ Blue Valley only slowed months later, when Goddard put an end to Blue Valley’s perfect season in the Class 6A title game.
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This matchup will be a litmus test for a Blue Valley team that returns only four starters and is under the leadership of former assistant coach Allen Terrell.
Fun fact: Since the beginning of the 2014 season, these teams have gone a combined 68-8.
Blue Valley North at Blue Valley Northwest
One of the most intriguing story lines this season originates at Blue Valley North, where junior quarterback Graham Mertz will finally get a chance to start after spending two seasons backing up Miege’s Carter Putz.
Mertz has already attracted Division I attention and figures to break out, especially with running back Grant Hamel (1,100 yards rushing, 300 yards receiving) at his disposal.
He won’t be the only prospect shining in this Class 6A matchup. BV Northwest senior linebacker/tight end Jackson Heath is the fourth-ranked player in his Kansas recruiting class. He was a first-team All-State selection last year after making 78 tackles and hauling in 36 receptions for 592 yards and five touchdowns.
BV North is coming off a 7-4 season during which it won a playoff game for the first time since 2003 and secured a regional championship in coach Andy Sims’ third year at the helm.
St. Thomas Aquinas at Gardner Edgerton
As one of the top-ranked teams in the Kansas City area, Aquinas is poised to run circles around Gardner Edgerton in the opener. But it was clear from his weekly email that coach Randy Dreiling’s team is trying to stay even-keeled as it embarks on a potentially historic season.
“The games we’ve played with them since I’ve come to Aquinas have been tough, physical contests,” Dreiling wrote. “In the past, they liked to control the ball and put together long drives on offense. But I think with the talent they have at the skill positions, I expect them to open it up a bit more. They will be physical on defense as they have always been. Coach (Marvin) Diener will have them well prepared.”
Aquinas has never won a state championship. This year, it returns 18 starters from a team that lost to eventual Class 5A champion Mill Valley, which hosts St. James Academy for Week 1, by one point in the sub-state championship.
Aquinas will feature junior defensive back Jayden Russell, the second-ranked player in Kansas for the class of 2019 according to 247 Sports. Senior quarterback Will Swanson, who passed for 1,423 yards and 13 touchdowns and rushed for 774 yards and 15 touchdowns, is also back.
For a live scoreboard of Friday’s games in both Kansas and Missouri, go to KansasCity.com or download the Scorestream app.