By NICK SLOAN, NJSloan212@gmail.com
Usually every year, there's some controversy regarding the selection of all-league teams.
The 2012 Kaw Valley League's football team - again, selected by the coaches - has generated a ton of controversy.
First, let me defend the coaches somewhat before I pick apart some of their decisions. There are dozens upon dozens of quality players in the KVL. It's tough to honor all of them, although they tried since five punters and five kickers made the team.
Plus, as coaches, they're not really focused on the league overall - coaches focus just on their team and the team they coach against any given week. Add in the fact that not all of the KVL teams play each other and it can be even more complicated.
It's not easy picking an all-league team.
However, there were some head-scratching decisions on this year's team.
Let's start out in Turner.
1. Paul Berry only being an "Honorable Mention" selection is downright criminal.
Here's Berry's stat-line from this season: 1,017 passing yards, 862 rushing yards, 12 rushing touchdowns, 12 passing touchdowns and just four turnovers. Some simple math: He had six times as many touchdowns as he did turnovers.
He's not a passing quarterback, but he proved he can be accurate at points this season. He's also one of the few players who can claim to have scored a touchdown in three ways in one game this season - he had a receiving, passing and rushing touchdown in Turner's win against Basehor-Linwood.
Berry should have earned the 2nd Team spot. He wasn't as good as Skyler Windmiller was from Mill Valley, but Berry was hands down the second best quarterback in the league this year. On top of that, Turner played three of the best eight teams in Kansas 5A this year - Mill Valley, St. Thomas Aquinas and Bishop Miege.
Turner's schedule was brutal and yet, Berry still produced.
Berry being just an "honorable mention" selection might be the single biggest snub I've seen in terms of all-league teams during my time here.
2. Cole Holloway had a very good argument for being a First Team selection at the running back position.
Piper's Matt McDonald and Basehor-Linwood's Drew Potter are good selections on the first team at the position. McDonald was truly outstanding in the postseason and finished the year with 19 touchdowns. McDonald, overcoming a significant injury from last year, was one of the best stories in KCK football this year. Potter also was the only consistent offense Basehor had.
But here's my argument for Tonganoxie's Holloway:
2. Basehor arguably has the best player in the state in Ben Johnson, someone who still commands respect and attention from defenses no matter who the quarterback is. Some teams dedicated three players to Johnson during key plays this season. No one in the KVL demands more attention from opposing defenses than Johnson.
3. Piper had a reliable passing attack that allowed the Pirates to be a balanced team - thus preventing an "eight in the box" situation to shut down McDonald. The three steps in a defensive coordinator's plan to stop Tonganoxie this season - 1. Limit Cole Holloway 2. Limit Cole Holloway and 3. Limit Cole Holloway.
4. In the de-facto district title game between the Chieftains and Bobcats, Holloway ran all over Basehor-Linwood to the tune of 232 yards. He had the game-winning touchdown to win the district title against Basehor. Holloway, the very next week, helped Tonganoxie win a bi-district championship with an 180-yard performance against Atchison. I think Holloway has a "clutch gene" in him - he comes out when the games matter most for the Chieftains.
Holloway was the biggest reason Tonganoxie went from one win in 2011 to five wins and district champions in 2012. Tonganoxie is maybe a two-win team at best in 2012 without Holloway.
He finished the year with 1271 yards on 254 carries and 10 scores. Tonganoxie's passing attack had only five touchdowns (and 11 interceptions) this season, allowing defenses to center their game-plan on Holloway. Yet, he still produced. Ideally, we could have had three running backs make first team. It's a shame we didn't.
3. Mill Valley's Kendall Short should have received a spot on the league's second team at the running back position.
Short finished the season with 542 rushing yards and eight touchdowns; he finished with seven receptions for 191 yards and four touchdowns, totaling 12 on the season.
Because of a concussion, Short missed those games in the early portion of the season - three games where he could have added more yards and more touchdowns. He also played hurt in other games, including the postseason loss to a really good Bishop Miege team that's in the 5A state final game.
I understand why Short didn't make the first team because he missed 30 percent of the season. However, he did more than enough to be a second-team selection rather than an honorable mention choice. When you combine his rushing yards and reception yards, Short averaged over 8.2 yards a "touch," meaning that he almost averaged a first down whenever he touched the ball. Had Short been healthy this season, there would have been a good chance of him ending up on the first team.
But I'll take his 2012 production any day of the week - and any smart coach would.
4. Piper's Sean Eskina deserved more love on offense. He should have been given an "Honorable Mention" at the wide receiver position.
Eskina was one of the under the radar players all season for Piper.
He may not have had a ton of yards compared to the Mill Valley receivers - but he made big play after big play. He scored a huge touchdown in the Bonner Springs game, a bigger one in the Baldwin game and made an excellent catch against Eudora for Piper's only touchdown of the game.
Eskina, who's also one of the league's best defenders, did not display a ton of flash on offense. But he was Piper's most reliable wide receiver this year and I think he should have at least earned a place on the offensive team. When I vote for teams, I'm more on quality than quantity. Having covered Piper a lot this season, it felt like Eskina made at least one huge third down conversion each game and/or scored a touchdown.
There are some other little things that bothered me, but not as much as the top four:
1. Paul Jones should have been recognized as a running back instead of a wide receiver.
2. Why did five kickers and five punters make the team? Is this a little league situation where we all get ice cream and a trophy, even if we play for the losing team?
3. L.J. Hatch from Mill Valley had a good argument as a first team wide receiver selection, but having Windmiller as your quarterback helps a lot. Plus, Staton Rebeck earned a first team spot and maybe the coaches didn't want to overdo it with Jaguars players.
4. It seemed like the marque schools received the best treatment on the teams. Again, it's absolutely inexcusable that Berry was just honorable mention. I think some of that had to do with him playing for Turner, rather than Basehor-Linwood or Mill Valley. It's unfortunate. You could make a really good argument that Berry was the second most valuable player in the KVL this year - just behind Windmiller and just ahead of Holloway. It's not necessarily the best player who gets honored - it should be the best season.