By NICK SLOAN, NJSloan212@gmail.com
When you look at football schedules at all levels, you immediately target a few games before the season begins.
While the importance of those games may diminish during the course of the season, you still have to find some interesting games before the season begins.
Here are the Top 10 games I'm looking forward to as the season begins in a few months.
10. Turner at Harmon, October 26 - This is an underrated rivalry in Kansas City, Kan., featuring the two KCK schools south of Interstate 70. Both teams lose some important parts and with this a district game, it's even more important.
9. Piper at Sumner Academy, October 19 - Yet again these two schools will meet in district. Two years ago, the teams put on a classic, as Piper won in a low-scoring game to ruin Sumner Academy's perfect regular season. Last year the Pirates had no problem dismissing an injured Sumner Academy team to win the district championship. Piper will enter the favorite, but Sumner Academy returns some good talent that should make this game an attractive one to cover.
8. Schlagle at Sumner Academy, September 21 - These two schools have combined to win the last five Kansas City Kansas League championships - and usually, this game determines it. That wasn't the case last year, as Schlagle dominated Sumner Academy in a game that put the Stallions football program back on the map. Schlagle's a big favorite to win league entering the season, but you never know. This game should go a long way in determining the league title.
7. Harmon at Schlagle, September 14 - These two schools have put on some good games the past few seasons - and last year's rendition won the KCK Preps Game of the Year award. As mentioned, Schlagle's a big favorite entering the year. However, if there are cracks in their armor, Harmon could take advantage of it. This game could serve as a big measuring stick for both teams. If Schlagle wins big, they look like a solid favorite to win league. If Harmon stays close or even shocks the Stallions, the KCKAL race is probably wide open.
6. Bonner Springs at Turner, August 31 - KCK Preps will be broadcasting from Turner High School in Week 1. This is easily the game of the week in terms of games within Wyandotte County on the opening Friday of the season. Outside of last year's game, these contests are usually close. Turner rolls out a new head coaching staff and quarterback in this game, while Bonner Springs looks to continue its momentum under second-year head coach Lucas Aslin. It's a historic rivalry in Wyandotte County just in case you needed any additional reason to check this game out.
5. Bonner Springs at Piper, September 21 - This game features the two Wyandotte County teams that won district titles last year. Both squads lose some talent, but both also return talent. The last time they met a few years back, Bonner Springs shocked Piper and blew out the Pirates. Two junior quarterbacks - Bonner Springs' Jordan Jackson and Piper's Tanner Eikenbary - could put up some yardage in this game.
4. Piper at Mill Valley, October 5 - A simple math equation for you: For Piper to win the Kaw Valley League, they need to either surprise Mill Valley or Basehor-Linwood, preferably both. Piper has come dangerously close to upsetting Mill Valley the past two seasons and with an experienced and talented group coming back from both teams, this game could be one of the few that determine the KVL race. Look for some points and yards in this game. Kendall Short from Mill Valley and Matt McDonald from Piper are two of the best running backs in the metro area. Skyler Windmiller from Mill Valley is expected to be the best quarterback in the league this year, while Piper junior quarterback Tanner Eikenbary hopes to make headlines of his own. This game might be one of the wildly entertaining games all year. If there were gambling lines for high school sports, you would bet the over here.
3. Basehor-Linwood at Mill Valley, September 14 - Last year, Mill Valley failed in their attempt to upset Basehor-Linwood in the defacto Kaw Valley League championship game. This season, with the Murphy Twins moving on, Mill Valley senses an opportunity at winning a league championship. One key step in doing just that - knocking out Basehor-Linwood early in the season.
2. Piper at Basehor-Linwood, September 7 - The Piper Pirates football program has experienced two of their best back-to-back seasons in recent program history. The program has won two district and bi-district championships. That's a pretty good run no matter how you look at it. However, one of the few demons Piper has not shaken off is the Basehor-Linwood Bobcats. Three years ago, Basehor dealt Piper a heartbreaking loss to win a district title. Two years ago, Basehor thumped Piper on opening night. Last year, Colin Murphy carved up Piper's secondary for over 30 points in the first half. Piper looks to snap a losing streak to Basehor and if the Pirates can pull the mild upset on the road, the 2012 KVL race may be going through Piper, Kansas. It's a huge game early on and if Piper wins, the KVL race will be thrown upside down and would be a three or four team race. This is also the last chance for Piper's senior class to beat Basehor on the gridiron.
1. Mill Valley at Schlagle, October 12 - Mill Valley is one of the preseason favorites (if not THE preseason favorite) in the Kaw Valley League. Schlagle is the favorite in the Kansas City Kansas - Atchison League. If two league favorites matching up is not enough, consider these two points. First, this is a crucial district game. One of these talented, senior-led teams could miss out on the postseason. A win by either team puts them in an outstanding position to make the postseason. Second, there will be A LOT of talent. J'veyon Browning, Trevon Wallace, T.J. Wallace, Skyler Windmiller, Kendall Short and Coleman McCann are all legit Division 1 prospects. Any college scout within the metro area should be at this game. Period. The amount of talent in this game, the importance of the game for postseason implications and the fact two league favorites rarely meet makes this my early frontrunner for Game of the Year.
By NICK SLOAN, NJSloan212@gmail.com