High school football notes as the regular season closes under warm, clear skies:
Since Olathe North and Olathe South made the switch to the Sunflower League from the Eastern Kansas League this year, their season-ending meeting seems a little more significant.
Really, though, it isn't.
"It will be another North-South Civil War," South coach Bud Wheeler said. "It always comes down to this. It's just the biggest game of the year for us."
For the past three years, it's been the last game for the loser, and next-to-last for the winner. Once again, the North-South game is for the title in their district.
Just so happens the winner has lost to Lawrence each of the past three seasons. The Lions can't secure a playoff berth until this week against Leavenworth, but they're an odds-on favorite to meet the Battle of Olathe winner again.
"In the eyes of the people in town and the players, this is the biggest game," North coach Gene Wier said. "In the eyes of a coach, I guess every game is big."
North has a 6-2 lead in the series, but South is the favorite this year by as much as two touchdowns.
"We're definitely the underdog," Wier said, eager for second billing. "They beat Lawrence (22-16 in overtime) and Lawrence beat us (19-7). They snowballed the other teams in our district, and we worked to get by them."
Sure, if you can call a 33-16 win over Kansas City Washington working. Not that Wheeler would be outdone, or admit to being the favorite.
"The way this game has been in the past, you can't assume anything," he said. "This is such an emotional game. It could come down to mistakes."
Truth is, it could come down to which is better South's offense or North's defense.
Congratulations to Shawnee Heights on winning the Leave It All on the Field Award when they played Lawrence two weeks ago.
You might recall that the Thunderbirds dropped their wishbone offense like a hot rock, passed like Houston U. and jumped on the Lions, 14-0, before losing, 21-14.
You might also recall that Leavenworth had a 19-game losing streak before popping the T-Birds, 20-19, in a second-round district game.
"After playing so high last week, it was almost inevitable that we would play flat," Heights coach Dale Burkholder said.
No almost about it, Dale.
Top-ranked Shawnee Mission South, 8-0, is in about the same district situation as Lawrence and is likely to take the Sunflower League title to the state playoffs. That hasn't happened since Lawrence was a perfect 12-0 in 1986. In fact, SM West has won the league championship the past two seasons and not even made the playoffs.
Maybe Topeka West can't beat Manhattan in the I-70 League, but the Chargers sure can bring out the best quotes in both teams' coaches.
Manhattan finally took a 21-17 lead, but West immediately closed to Tribe's 36. With seven seconds remaining, split end Bob Kentch beat his defenders into the end zone. QB David Gish lofted a pass to Kentch, who tumbled into the end zone and apparently lost the ball as he came up and MHS defender Steve Hanks neared.
"I about threw up," Manhattan coach Lew Lane said. "We had fought all this way to catch up . . . and then to have it all come down to that was a bit too much."
Good try, but here's West coach Frank Walton with the quote of the week.
"I tell you what. If any team put up any better fight anywhere in the country than we did tonight, I'll kiss their butt."
The state football finale won't be until Nov. 18, but three fall sports wind up with their state meets Saturday. Lawrence High's top-ranked volleyball team will be at the Topeka Expocentre, the Lion cross country teams will travel to Manhattan's Warner Park and the LHS gymnastics team will be at Wichita Southeast High.