Clash of the Titans

PrepsKC staff

By Sean Kosednar and Ryan Wallace PrepsKC staff writers
Posted: November 17, 2016 - 9:33 AM



With one of 6A’s most highly anticipated showdowns in recent memory occurring later this week when Shawnee Mission East travels to undefeated Blue Valley for the right to appear in the state championship, PrepsKC’s Sean Kosednar and Ryan Wallace provide point counterpoint on this massive battle. Kosednar, a regular fixture with the Lancers this fall, gives his breakdown of the Sunflower champions, while Wallace, a frequent reporter of the Tigers, offers his take on behalf of the EKL champions.

Shawnee Mission East will win if...
The Lancers need to control the line of scrimmage. Their unique style of offense is predicated on them having their way along the line. The duo of Milton Braasch and Nigil Houston only need a crease to take it to the house. East needed a two-point conversion in the final seconds of their second-round game vs Gardner-Edgerton to stave off the upset. In that game, East's offense couldn't get going due to an impressive effort from the Trailblazers' front seven. The Lancers' only loss came at the hands of Rockhurst back in September. East racked up nearly 500 total yards but was doomed by six turnovers. If Shawnee Mission East can control the point of attack and hang on to the ball they will be heading to Emporia. 

Shawnee Mission East’s most important player for Friday will be...
It would be easy to name Houston or Braasch after the numbers they have put up all season. However, I think that quarterback Luke Kaiser will be key in East's success Friday night. I expect Blue Valley to sell out to stop the run. This should leave single coverage down the field. If Kaiser can keep his composure and find targets down the field, the Lancers will have opportunities for big plays. 

Shawnee Mission East’s greatest strength is...
A quick look over their previous scores will show that East's strength is their offense. The Lancers have only been held under 40 twice this season. I would liken the Lancer offense to a version of the triple option. One running back lines up in the traditional tailback role while the second is usually to the quarterback's left and right behind the line. Defenses aren't used to watching for a ball carrier coming from the position. Combine that with Kaiser's ability to disguise handoffs and the defense has no idea where the runs will be coming from. 

Shawnee Mission East’s greatest weakness is... 
It is hard to say that a defense only giving up an average of 14 points this season is the biggest weakness, but it just goes to show how good the Shawnee Mission East Lancers actually are. There really isn't one phase that they particularly struggle in. A lot of the points they have given up came by way of their second unit. After watching them play last week against North, however, I think this is where they could struggle. North did a good job controlling the clock and moving the ball down the field. In the first half, they put together drives of 80, 80, and 97 yards. The offense relied mostly on pass plays. I know the Blue Valley likes to spread teams out and does most of their damage via the pass. In the games that East really ran up the score, their defense was taking the ball away. It will be interesting to see how they fair against an opponent of similar skill level which won't make mistakes and give the ball away. 

Shawnee Mission East’s X-Factor will be...
A dark horse player of the game candidate could be wide receiver Trevor Thompson. Thompson had four catches against Shawnee Mission North including a 43-yard bomb. Thompson is tall and athletic and is able to out jump most cornerbacks. Kaiser and Thompson have a good report on the field. Kaiser knows he can just throw the ball up and Thompson will go get it. I fully expect a deep pass off play action to go Thompson's way early in the game to keep the Tigers' defense honest. 

Shawnee Mission East’s regular season or playoff opponent that best prepared them for Blue Valley...
The Rockhurst game back in week 4 of the season was good preparation for the Lancers. Anyone who has spent time around either school knows the rivalry that is there, but it had been 34 years since the two teams faced off in football. Anticipation for the game against Rockhurst will be nearly as high as Friday night's state semifinal. Was it the nerves of reigniting an old rivalry or Rockhurst talent that led to six Lancer turnovers? We will have to find out, but a much-hyped match up with one of the metro's top teams will serve as good preparation for Friday.

Blue Valley will win if…
The Tigers control the clock with possessions. Both coaches have plenty of playoff experience and both rosters are loaded with ability at nearly every position. So when all physical aspects wash even, predictions must come from deeper analysis. The longer Blue Valley’s offense can stay on the field and tire down a stout Lancer defense, the longer it keeps a Shawnee Mission East offense averaging almost 50 points per game on the sideline. If Blue Valley can play their tempo and instill their style to the flux of the game, the Lancers will be hard pressed to mount enough momentum to excel.

Blue Valley’s most important player for Friday will be…
William Evans. Yes, plenty of attention will be directed at quarterback Matt Dercher and his plethora of receivers, namely star Harrison Van Dyne and the steadfast Gus Gomez. However, the Tigers remain at their best when Evans and the rushing attack are rolling too; offensive balance is key. A combination of strength and speed, the six-foot, 200-pound senior tailback’s 1,300 rushing yards somehow get lost among the firepower that is one of 6A’s most dynamic spread-systems. Dustin Delaney can’t discount the difference a successful Evans provides.

Blue Valley’s greatest strength is…
Experience.  The current senior class has witnessed or been part of a Tigers varsity squad that has put together a 30-5 record over the past three seasons. Cool under pressure, as we saw early last week against Blue Valley North and even more so the week before in a narrow escape of Olathe South, and capable of stepping up when the hype is at it’s highest, take this year’s opener with Bishop Miege as an example, Eric Driskell has a veteran roster that has ‘been there and done that’.

Blue Valley’s greatest weakness is…
The defensive line. Far too susceptible to gashes up front, particularly against above average rushing attacks, Blue Valley hasn’t been able to provide consistent pressure up front this fall. Granted, with players the likes of Michael Maffry and Ashkon Saravi cleaning up in the second level, it’s not always a glaring issue. But for a team that prides itself on being the more physical side each week, this group has fallen victim to superior runners between the tackles more often than not.

Blue Valley’s X-Factor will be…
Home field advantage. At least, that’s how the Tigers will look at it. Odds are that at this stage of the season, visiting teams left competing won’t be initially phased by taking their show on the road- especially not a program like the Lancers. However, momentum swings at Blue Valley can be both impactful and enormous in deciding outcomes, especially in games with so much on the line (just ask 2010 Gardner Edgerton and Bubba Starling). The Tigers have lost just once on their home turf since 2014, while Shawnee Mission East hasn’t truly played at an unfamiliar site since Rockhurst, which just so happens to be their lone loss of the season.

Blue Valley’s regular season or playoff opponent that best prepared them for Shawnee Mission East was…
St. Thomas Aquinas or Olathe South. Both late-season opponents tested Blue Valley physically and did better jobs than most at controlling the line of scrimmage. In the case of Aquinas, the Saints piled up 348 yards on the ground against the Tigers but turned the ball over twice and allowed too many big plays on defense to earn the upset. For the Falcons, they came even closer to taking down the No. 1 seed, behind the backfield duo of Nick Jouret and Oakley Reed. Shawnee Mission East presents a similar but far more efficient and lethal brand of ‘smash mouth’, power football.