By NICK SLOAN, NJSloan212@gmail.com
Having covered the Kaw Valley League in football the past four years, two teams have stood in terms of greatness and dominance.
The 2011 Basehor-Linwood Bobcats and the 2012 Mill Valley Jaguars.
After Mill Valley busted the scoreboard in its latest blowout victory against Lansing last night, I threw out a tweet late last night about a potential dream game that started a little buzz - particularly from some of the seniors on last year's Basehor-Linwood team.
From there, former Basehor quarterback Colin Murphy was interested in a potential breakdown, so I thought I would put it on here.
Here's a "Game of the Week" type breakdown, instead this time it would be a fictional game.
1. A dream quarterback match-up leads the way
It doesn't get any better than Colin Murphy vs. Skyler Windmiller in terms of quarterback battles. If the league dished out a player of the year award, Murphy certainly wins it last year and Windmiller is a no-brainer of a decision for the top KVL player this season. Through nine games this season, Windmiller had 38 total touchdowns and over 2,500 total yards from scrimmage.
Murphy wrapped up his senior season with over 3,000 total yards and 36 touchdowns in 11 games. It should also be noted those stats could have been significantly higher, especially in Windmiller's case. Both teams hammered some opponents - and thus they sat out a lot of the second half.
You can't ask for a better quarterback match-up, especially with two guys at the peak of their football careers. While Windmiller may have received more recruiting attention, I've never seen a quarterback performance quite as good as the one Murphy put on Piper in the first half two years ago. Both are very good quarterbacks, however, and it's impossible to pick between them.
2. Could Mill Valley handle Basehor's big wide receivers?
Mill Valley's defense has been terrific in stretches this season. They've forced a lot of turnovers and have handled teams for the most part.
But they also haven't played a team with two 6'6" wide receivers who are as dangerous as Ben Johnson is and Ryan Murphy was last year for the Bobcats. Johnson grabbed 56 catches for 954 yards, along with 12 touchdowns. Murphy had 49 receptions for 1,116 yards and eight touchdowns. Murphy and Johnson were a terrific tandem that terrorized secondaries in the Kaw Valley League in 2011 - including Mill Valley to the tune of 42-21.
With a quarterback like Colin Murphy and two wide receivers like Ryan Murphy and Johnson, that's a tough task for a Mill Valley defense.
3. Both teams are balanced, as good running backs back up their quarterbacks.
For Mill Valley's rushing attack, the story begins with senior Kendall Short. After missing a few games this season due to injury, Short has emerged as a prominent part of the Jaguars offense. In the month of October, he scored 11 touchdowns as Mill Valley clinched both the Kaw Valley League and a district championship. On the season, Short has 77 rushes for 521 yards, averaging 6.8 yards a pop. Combining his 191 receiving yards, he has 84 "touches" this year on offense for 712 yards, about 8.5 yards a touch. Because of Windmiller, Short is one of the best kept secrets in Kansas City high school football. Windmiller also has over 500 rushing yards this season.
For Basehor-Linwood, it's more of a by committee basis. The team had nearly 2,200 yards on the ground in 2011. Drew Potter, who became one of the best running backs in our coverage area this season in terms of production, was good out of the backfield last year as well. He had 506 yards on 95 carries. Seniors Jesse Hiss and Skylar Ross combined for 890 yards, with Hiss rushing for 473 and Ross adding 417. Oh, and Colin Murphy added 420 yards on the ground.
Basehor has more options, but Mill Valley's rushing attack has gotten better by the week. Short and Potter, in particularly, are terrific running backs who can lead an offense if both teams didn't have Colin Murphy or Windmiller as the quarterbacks.
4. Both teams had underrated defenses that created turnovers.
By the numbers -
2012 Mill Valley Jaguars: 21.5 sacks, 11 INTs and 9 fumble recoveries.
2011 Basehor-Linwood Bobcats: 17.5 sacks, 18 INTs and 9 fumble recoveries.
Mill Valley's defense is better statistically when it comes to pressuring the quarterback. Tim Thomas leads the team in sacks with seven, while Alex Rounds and Lincoln Benson have each added three. T.J. Philips averages 9.6 tackles a game for the Jaguars as well.
With Basehor, the story was the linebackers and secondary. Dalton Mellies had 127 tackles in 2011 for the Bobcats, easily leading the way. Jesse Hiss was a very good linebacker as well. Caleb Hiss had five interceptions, while Zac Smith had five. On top of that, you had Tanner Garver, Ben Johnson and Drew Potter all make the All-KVL defensive team.
5. Mill Valley's special teams unit could be an X-Factor.
The most underrated part of Mill Valley's greatness this season has been their punt and kick-off return games. The Jaguars, entering this week's game against Lansing, had over 1,000 special teams return yards. They average over 25 yards a return. Basehor would have to do a great job against Mill Valley in special teams. The Jaguars have flipped field position and momentum all season with its special teams. Mill Valley has a monster advantage in this area, in my opinion.
6. Two terrific senior classes.
Basehor-Linwood's Class of 2012 was sensational and arguably the greatest in school history. Mill Valley's senior Class of 2013 could be the greatest in school history.
Let's break down all of the seniors on these two teams.
Basehor-Linwood 2011: Murphy Twins, Jesse Hiss, Mellies, Ross, Colten Stevens (leading sacker on defense), Zac Smith (led team in interceptions), among others.
Mill Valley 2012: As good as the Basehor class was, Mill Valley's is arguably deeper while the Bobcats are a little more top heavy. Windmiller, Short, Staton Rebeck (over 600 return yards and over 1,000 yards from scrimmage), LJ Hatch (leading wide receiver with 12 touchdown receptions), an experienced offensive line led by Coleman McCann. Mill Valley is stacked with a great senior class that's probably a little deeper than Basehor's was.
Still, both senior classes in terms of football have an argument of being the best ever at their schools. Both are in rare air.
That's the breakdown. Now on with the prediction.
But before that, let me say this: Both of these teams were outstanding in their respective seasons. Mill Valley has a chance to make some postseason noise, while Basehor ran into a hot Eudora team at the wrong time. Both teams have won big and already winners in my book. Also, let me say this - don't get mad at who I pick. I welcome any rebuttal, as long as its an educated one and one that doesn't accuse me of "being a homer" or "ignorant" like some readers do.
I have tremendous respect for the coaching staffs, players and environment of both programs. This is just for fun.
With that out of my way, my prediction: Basehor-Linwood (2011) 41, Mill Valley (2012) 33.
Here's why in one man's opinion:
1. Basehor has a few more offensive options than Mill Valley does.
The Jaguars are scary on offense, but Basehor's team had a few more options in it. Ryan Murphy and Ben Johnson are very difficult match-ups for anyone. They are 6'6" players who would make life miserable. Even if you double one, that likely leaves the other in single coverage. Picking which guy to try and shutdown from those two is like picking between getting kicked in the groin once and getting kicked in the groin twice. Either way, you're going to get hurt.
On top of that, Basehor had three running backs who could do some major damage. They had three running backs who finished with over 400 yards and Colin Murphy added in 400 just for kicks. Drew Potter blossomed into one of the best players in the league this season. Jesse Hiss and Skylar Ross were also good backs who could chew up some ground.
I can't express how much respect I have for Skyler Windmiller, Kendall Short and the rest of the Mill Valley offense. They are a show and a juggernaut when they get going. But to me, Basehor's pieces on offense provide Mill Valley's defense a tougher match-up than Mill Valley's offense does with Basehor. Basehor's weakness, even during the Golden Years the three years leading up to this season, was dealing with speed. Sumner Academy's trio of wide receivers in Vernon Vaughn, Eli Alexander and Marcus Allen were very tough for them. Mill Valley is a great offense, but I think Basehor wouldn't get overwhelmed by it like they did by Sumner two years ago.
Both are great offenses, but Basehor's a little deeper.
2. Basehor proved they could win the close games.
While Mill Valley has great style points, most of their games have been over with by halftime. That's not their faults - you can't control your schedule and Mill Valley was just better than everyone in the league this season by far. Still, the downside of that is winning close games prepares you for a championship run. You're bound to run in to a team that's either as good as you are or maybe even better.
Basehor-Linwood needed a late game comeback to win the district title on the road against Perry-Lecompton. They won a tough game on the road against a Turner defense that may have been the second best in the entire Kaw Valley League last year.
Even though they eventually lost, Basehor won a game when the pressure was on. Mill Valley has not done so quite yet. Even in their one loss, the game was over by halftime. There's been no drama with this Jaguars team in terms of a late-game situation. As great as that looks on paper, it's an important intangible.
3. Basehor-Linwood 42, Mill Valley 21
This game happened two years ago in league play. Although Mill Valley's team was filled with juniors in that game, is it possible to make-up 21 points with a year of experience? Mill Valley is a better team this year than last year, but 21 points is still a big margin. And Basehor led that game by more at one point.
Colin Murphy had two passing touchdowns in that game and he added two more on the ground. Ross had 90 rushing yards. Ryan Murphy and Ben Johnson each had over 90 receiving yards and one touchdown reception. In the 2010 game, Ryan Murphy had nearly 200 receiving yards alone in a 39-34 victory.
Don't get me wrong - this year's Mill Valley team would play a more competitive game against last year's Basehor team. There's no question about it.
But I'm a little skeptical that a 21-point margin would be erased entirely.
4. At the end of the day, it's tough to bet against a team led by the Murphy Twins
This point might upset some - even a few in Basehor, Kan., - but the Murphy Twins were just very good at what they did. And while two don't make a team, two can turn a team from average to good, good to great and great to championship level.
Let the records speak for themselves: Basehor was 27-4 in football during the Murphy Twins' last three seasons. In the four seasons they played basketball at Basehor, the Bobcats finished 84-13 with two state championships. While coaching and great teammates have definitely helped, there's a common link between the two successful programs.
The Twins - end of story.
Other than MAYBE Bubba Starling, I'm not sure any athlete has faced as much pressure than Colin and Ryan Murphy did during their four years at Basehor-Linwood High School. There are still some idiots around Kansas City who believe they were disappointments. They thrived despite the unfair expectations put on them. They led by example, they gave it all for their community and were great citizens. There's nothing more you can ask of a high school athlete.
Those two led their school to nearly 115 combined wins in football and basketball. That's not easy to do.
At the end of the day, I think the Murphy Twins - who made all of their teammates better - would have found a way to lead their team to a win one more time.
There's an argument to be made about Mill Valley. You could argue their special teams could have flipped the field a lot. You could argue the fact they're a better team based on how they killed everyone they played.
Skyler Windmiller is a player who could put a team on his back and lead them to a win. Kendall Short is a Division 1 caliber running back who thrives in both the rushing game and passing game.
They also have a great senior class all around. They are truly a great team and I hope they win a state championship.
But based on a gut feeling and history, give me the Murphy Twins and the Bobcats one more time in this dream game.
Basehor-Linwood 41, Mill Valley 33 - in a game featuring two great teams with so many great players.