KVL football at a glance
As the area braces itself for the start of another high school football season, all 10 teams in the Kaw Valley League have reason to believe that this is their year.
The coming season, which begins throughout the league on Friday, Sept. 2, figures to be one of the most unpredictable seasons in the league in quite some time.
"I think that the league title is probably as wide-open as ever," Mill Valley coach George Radell said. "All the teams we play have the potential to be better than they were a year ago."
With no clear-cut favorite, and a blend of seasoned veterans and lively newcomers, the race for the league championship could come down to the wire.
Defending champion Mill Valley returns starting quarterback Trey Scott a two-year starter and junior speedster Justin Woods. Woods, the younger brother of the most decorated athlete in Mill Valley history, David Woods, improved and saw his role increase as the season went along last year. By the end of the year, the Jags' super sophomore had become a target of opposing defenses. This year, he figures to pick up where he left off.
But despite having two of their top offensive weapons returning, the Jaguars are hardly the favorites. Coach George Radell's squad has just six seniors on its roster, making leadership a question mark for this squad. Radell's teams have been known for their grit throughout the years, and that should remain true in 2005. But the Jags will have their work cut out for them if they hope to repeat.
The other most logical choice for preseason favorite is Lansing. The Lions were a bit of a surprise in 2004, but the sneak attack will probably wear off by the time this season rolls around.
Coach Bill Pekarek's squad returns 14 starters and 20 seniors from a team that was as hot as any KVL club at the end of last season. Quarterback Matt Warner returns and he will be asked to shoulder the load on the offensive side of the ball. Also back is tailback and middle linebacker Jeff Slater. But the team's leading rusher from a season ago will miss a good portion of the season if not all of it because of a broken limb. Slater broke his arm a couple of weeks ago when he was pushed to the floor during a summer basketball tournament. It's not known how long Slater will be sidelined, but no matter how long he's out, this will be a big blow for the Lions' title hopes.
After these two potential KVL kings, the league race is wide open. Several squads are on the brink of brilliance. But those same teams could just as easily stumble out of the gates.
"With so many teams with so much talent returning, the league is really up in the air," Bishop Ward coach Greg Duggins said. "But from what I have seen, I would say that Lansing, Tonganoxie and Basehor have the most experience returning."
Tonganoxie, a team that lost just one league contest in 2004 to Mill Valley lost a sensational senior class, and will enter the season with several question marks. But Tonganoxie has proven in the past that it can reload quickly, and the Chieftains figure to factor into the race one way or the other in 2005.
The same could be said for Basehor-Linwood, which will be asked to replace all-world quarterback Michael Armstrong. The Bobcats return a strong defense and their top tailback from 2004, and they'll likely use the 2005 season to add to the momentum created by the arrival of second-year coach Steve Hopkins.
Bonner Springs, a team that went 1-8 in 2004, is likely hankering to erase that debacle in 2005. With talent at the skill positions and a deep and experienced offensive line, the Braves could also challenge for the top spot.
Beyond that, the rest of the league figures to be a tough matchup night in and night out.
But the one team everyone's talking about as a potential sleeper is Perry-Lecompton.
The Kaws return nearly everyone from their young 2004 team, and if the young guns mature into poised veterans quickly, the Kaws will be capable of beating anybody.
"Perry will surprise a lot of people," Hopkins said. "They are extremely physical and they return several young men who will be three-year starters. But until they lose on the field, Mill Valley and Tonganoxie are the teams to beat. They were the top two last year and I expect them to both be good again."