By NICK SLOAN, NJSloan212@gmail.com
After a week of high school football in the Kaw Valley League that featured blowouts, this second slate of games looks to be a little bit better on paper.
KCK Preps and 810 Varsity will be partnering on the broadcast of the Piper Pirates vs. Basehor-Linwood Bobcats game this Friday night at Basehor-Linwood High School.
The game features what promises to be two of the better Kaw Valley League teams entering the year.
Last week, Piper lost a winnable game on the road to Eudora, 25-7. Piper led most of the game, but key mistakes and a dominant fourth quarter from the Cardinals prevented the Piper victory.
Meanwhile, Basehor-Linwood did what everyone and their moms expected them to do: Handily defeat Bishop Ward. Basehor won 56-0 in the opener.
When the teams met last year, Basehor-Linwood crushed Piper in the opening half, putting up 30 first half points. Colin Murphy shredded the Piper secondary, delivering passes to Ryan Murphy and Ben Johnson all night long.
Without the Murphy Twins on the roster, does Piper have an opening to pull the upset?
Here are some keys:
1. Piper needs to weather the storm, and by storm, I don't mean an actual monsoon like the one that hit last week. The last two years, Basehor has pounded Piper in the opening half of the game. This year, the Pirates must get off to a great start. They can't fall behind 23-0 like they did last year at home to the Bobcats. It's as simple as that.
2. Piper needs the game to be at their pace. Paul Jones is one of the fastest players in the Kaw Valley League. He's good out of the backfield in the passing attack. It was Jones who scored Piper's only touchdown last week. Basehor has the size advantage, but I think Piper has the speed advantage. Piper needs to get the pace of the game in their favor - a quick game that features a lot of scoring and a lot of passing. If this is a grind-it-out affair, I'm not sure Piper can win. If this a game where the Piper offense can put some points on the board and can force Basehor to open up its passing attack (they only had eight passes last week), the Pirates have a chance.
3. Basehor-Linwood Bobcats tight-end Ben Johnson could have a big night. He's a tough match-up for just about anyone in the Kaw Valley League, but he could particularly be a tough one for Piper. Piper has some great players on defense. But they're small. And Ben is big. Piper's defense will have a major challenge in shutting down Johnson in the passing game. That said, I think Piper's secondary has a bit of a swagger and edge that should help. Keaton Cofield is one of the best cornerbacks in the KVL and he displayed some toughness during 7-on-7's this summer. Watching the Piper secondary deal with Johnson could be the funnest thing about the game. Also, perhaps Colton Beebe drops back in coverage too. Piper's defensive coaching staff should have some fun preparing for Johnson.
4. Basehor quarterbacks Tanner Garver and Zac Hevel should be ready to step up. This game should be a competitive one and I think Basehor will have to make some plays in the air. Last week, they were able to pound the rock all night long with Drew Potter. The two quarterbacks combined to throw just eight passes last week in the 56-0 win against Ward. Garver was 3-of-4 for 71 yards and two touchdown passes, both of which came to Ben Johnson. Both quarterbacks can get the job done, but Piper needs to let them prove it.
5. Can Piper's lines stand up to Basehor's? Basehor's offensive and defensive lines had a great week against Bishop Ward. While I did not see much of the Piper-Eudora game, Piper's lines will have a challenge this week. For Piper to have any chance to win, the lines must do their jobs.
6. A team like Eudora should prepare Piper well for this week. This does not guarantee anything, but playing a quality team like Eudora out of the gates can help a team be prepared for tough challenges down the road. In this case of "down the road," it's a week earlier. Piper grew as a team last year after they were defeated by Basehor and knowing the coaching staff at Piper, I expect this team to get better and better as the season goes along. Will it start in week two? After playing a powerhouse and physical program like Eudora, Piper has no excuse to be blindsided by Basehor-Linwood.
7. Check out the weather entering the game. This is cliche, but after the monsoon last week at Turner, this is worth mentioning. If it's a nasty game with rain (I saw rain in the forecast for Friday), that should benefit Basehor-Linwood. If it's a nice night, I think Piper's offense can really get something done. Piper's offense is very balanced and the offense is at its best when the passing game gets going. A nice night opens up the door for the passing games of both teams.
8. Piper needs to get the job done on the road. Again, as I mentioned in a preseason column, one of the few things the Pirates have failed to do the past few years is win on the road. Outside of defeating Sumner Academy in 2010, the Pirates don't have a signature road win. This is another opportunity to get that monkey off their backs. Another hex Piper is looking at ending - the senior class has never beaten Basehor in football.