Coaches agree: KVL football should be tougher in 2011
Basehor-Linwood has won two straight Kaw Valley League championships, and the Bobcats return numerous key starters from last year’s nine-win season.
Still, BLHS coach Steve Hopkins isn’t about to chalk up another league title for the Bobcats. He knows they will have to earn it, and he’s certain they’ll have plenty of competition.
“I think there’ll be four teams that right now would tell you — four to six teams — that would tell you ‘Well, we’re going to challenge for the league championship,’” Hopkins said. “Everybody might say that every year, but I think they’re right this year. We have to be ready every week for every team’s best shot not just because of any history, but because the league has improved dramatically.
“There are a whole lot more kids that are excited about football all over the league that are really, really good players.”
While Hopkins points to his squad’s opposition as presenting serious challenges, other Kaw Valley League coaches say the Bobcats remain the team to beat.
“Everybody’s probably picking Basehor, and rightfully so,” Tonganoxie coach Mark Elston said. “Experience is on their side. They have three four-year starters and they’re all 6-foot-7. Nobody who has players who can match up with them.”
First-year Bonner Springs coach Lucas Aslin pointed to Basehor-Linwood and Mill Valley as the two teams he expects to be the strongest.
“Basehor’s good and physical,” Aslin said. “They have a great summer weights program and they’re going to be tough. Mill Valley runs a system similar to what Derby High School runs, and their new coach (second-year coach Joel Applebee) is a good one. They’re going to be a tough team.”
Meanwhile, Applebee echoed many of Hopkins’ sentiments as the Mill Valley coach expects the overall league to be strong. In fact, Applebee sees his team’s first opponent of the season — Lansing — as one of the favorites after the Lions won eight games in 2010.
“It’s going to be a challenge this year,” Applebee said. “We’ve got some good teams in this league, and I’m excited about it. Every week’s going to be a challenge starting with Lansing.”
Elston said it makes sense that some of the league’s largest schools (Mill Valley and Lansing are in Class 5A, as is Turner) should be among the early favorites to win the league championship. They have a simple numerical advantage against the smaller Class 4A programs, Elston said.
“The bigger schools have an advantage from a numbers standpoint, and Basehor has an advantage from a (physical) size standpoint,” Elston said, noting that his team has just 53 players on the roster. “When you line up 50 against 100 week after week, the bigger schools are going to have the advantage.”
Elston has a point in terms of depth. Mill Valley limits its players to going one way — either offense or defense. Basehor-Linwood also has enough depth that it is moving in that direction.
Many coaches expect Bonner Springs to be among the league’s most improved teams during Aslin’s first season. The Braves return a few of the league’s most athletic players, making them dangerous and unpredictable.
“We always have been impressed with how much talent that they have,” Elston said of BSHS. “It could take them a while to get going (with a new head coach), but they have the talent.”
Said Aslin: “We’re probably in the middle of the pack, quite honestly.”
Regardless of who is favored, all of the coaches know predictions ultimately are meaningless. It comes down to putting on the pads and playing games.
“You’ve got to prove it on the field, that’s all that matters,” Applebee said.
— Benton Smith and Pete Logan contributed to this report.