Wristen: KVL football should be improved this season
Football teams in the Kaw Valley League are conducting their scrimmages tonight and Friday, so they have yet to play a game.
Given that fact, there is minimal evidence with which to base any predictions about how the 2011 KVL football season will play out. One thing already seems certain, however: the league should be improved over the 2010 version.
Basehor-Linwood ran away with the league title last season as it rolled to an unbeaten regular season. Only Mill Valley gave the Bobcats a good scare, and Lansing and Piper joined the Bobcats and Jaguars as the lone KVL squads with winning records.
Bishop Ward was winless in 2010, Tonganoxie won just one game against Ward, and Turner and Bonner Springs struggled mightily despite having enough athletic players to do more.
In 2011, the Kaw Valley League should take a big step forward — in the upper half of the league, at least.
Basehor-Linwood remains the team to beat. For one thing, the Bobcats return numerous key players on both sides of the ball, led by quarterback Colin Murphy and top receiving targets Ryan Murphy and Ben Johnson. In addition, BLHS has won two straight league championships, so the Bobcats deserve the respect as “favorites” until another team proves it can beat them.
If anybody’s going to challenge BLHS, look for it to be Mill Valley. Second-year coach Joel Applebee’s squad went 6-4 last year, and the Jaguars lost a wild battle at Basehor-Linwood, 39-34, in a game that went down to the wire. Mill Valley’s players only go one direction — offense or defense. That strategy hurt the Jaguars at times last year because they were young. Now that they have experience and added depth, however, it should make them more dangerous.
Piper caught fire late last season and made a run to the second round of the Class 4A state playoffs by utilizing its athleticism and multi-faceted running game effectively. The Pirates were young, and they should build on last year’s 6-5 record as long as they transition quickly under new coach Chris Brindle. Former coach Tom Radke left in the spring to take over at St. James Academy.
Speaking of new coaches, Bonner Springs just might be the most improved team in the KVL this fall under first-year coach Lucas Aslin. The Braves underachieved in 2010 while going 4-6, but players have bought in to Aslin’s up-tempo style at practices and already are displaying a more competitive attitude. What’s more, few teams have the quality of athletes that the Braves do with quarterback Jourdaine Smallwood, running back J.J. Jackson and wide receiver Stevie Williams. If the Braves’ offensive line solidifies, then look out KVL.
Lansing might take a step back from last year’s 8-2 mark simply due to the loss of speedy receiver/defensive back Parker Gibson to graduation, as well as running backs Spencer Blew and Tyler Baughman. The Lions return numerous starters on both sides of the ball, however, including senior quarterback Litton Van Der Werff.
The final three teams are a bit more unpredictable with Turner losing key players to graduation, Tonganoxie recovering from an injury-plagued year and Ward attempting to bounce back from a season where the Cyclones weren’t competitive.
Only time will tell just how competitive the Kaw Valley League will be this football season, but at first glance it appears the league will take a step up.