COLUMN: Six lessons from the 2012 football season


By NICK SLOAN, NJSloan212@gmail.com

With the Eudora Cardinals ending the Piper Pirates' season last night, it's officially the end of football season in Wyandotte County and inside the Kaw Valley League.

Looking back on the 2012 season, here are the things that stand out to me.

Remember, this is just one man's opinion - so feel free to disagree.

1. Piper head coach Chris Brindle is the best coach in the Kaw Valley League

This one will probably lead to a lot of awkward moments at next season's media day event, but I don't really care about that.

You have to be from Wyandotte County to appreciate the job Brindle and his staff did this season at Piper and the last few as well. KCK football teams don't make Final Fours anymore. It doesn't happen.

Being a KCK native, here's how KCK football season usually goes - one good team hammers the other teams in KCK, but then gets hammered in round one of the tournament by an average Johnson County team.

At Piper this season, the Pirates defeated some really good teams in the postseason and played Eudora tough. If Eudora doesn't successfully stop the clock with 0.8 seconds left in the first half, Piper has the lead entering halftime and who knows what happens. Piper's run can help improve the reputation of KCK football and Brindle is a big part of that.

On top of this season, Piper plays a lot of their players on both sides of the ball. It takes real coaching to determine how to balance that and find position fits. No staff in the KVL (and KCK for that matter) has done a better job in putting square pegs into round holes than Brindle and the assistants at Piper.

While Piper had a great team this season, there are not Division 1 players on this team quite yet. You don't have a KU or K-State knocking on the door at Piper. That doesn't take away from the heart and determination of the team, but Piper didn't beat teams this year on talent alone.

And one final point - a lot of people often lump Piper as a "Johnson County" type community or athletic program. That's far from the truth. While the Pirates don't struggle as much as the USD 500 schools do in terms of poverty and broken families, Piper still has them. It's not a Johnson County program that can just depend on enrollment numbers and wealth to win.

Brindle deserves consideration for any metro-wide coach of the year award. I hope my friends from The Kansas City Star at least consider him for their award. It's a borderline miracle that a KCK 4A football team was two games away from winning a title.  

2. A coaching change can make a real difference

Outside of Brindle, I thought the coach that did the best job this year was Washington's Bryan Salsgiver.

After inheriting a program that had won two games in three seasons, Washington was a threat to win the Kansas City Kansas - Atchison League this year. They lost a heartbreaker to Wyandotte this season to end that shot, but the young Wildcats will be back.

The attitude change at Washington this season was remarkable to see in person and Salsgiver deserves a lot of the credit for that. I look forward to seeing how the Wildcats do over the next two seasons. The "roar" is close to being restored at Wash House.

Meanwhile, Tonganoxie's new coaching staff - led by head coach Al Troyer - improved the Chieftains dramatically. The Chieftains won their district after winning just one game last season.

Some coaching changes work, some don't. At Washington and Tonganoxie, they paid immediate dividends in year one.

3. Enjoy a great quarterback when you have him

After playing in a bi-district game two years ago, the Sumner Academy Sabres and Basehor-Linwood Bobcats were both under .500 this season.

The biggest reason why is the fact those two teams lost great quarterbacks over the past two years - Armand Brisbane for Sumner Academy and Colin Murphy at Basehor-Linwood.

While we should appreciate all high school athletes, you have to enjoy the great ones when you can and appreciate the success they bring.

One man doesn't make a team, but one man can take a program from average to good or good to great.

Brisbane and Murphy were two great quarterbacks for their programs and their legends grew even more this season as both teams struggled without them.

4. The Murphy Twins were very, very good

It wasn't tough to figure out what the difference was between this year's Basehor-Linwood team and last year's team.

As good as the Murphy Twins were in their careers, sometimes you really can't appreciate the impact certain athletes make until they're gone.

One season after they graduated, it's clear Colin and Ryan Murphy's legends will only grow at Basehor-Linwood High School.

5. The Kaw Valley League was redeemed a little bit this season

After years of early postseason exits, the Kaw Valley League stepped up its game this season.

Piper, of course, made a historic run. It was the first time in school history the Pirates won a regional championship and a sectional title. Tongnoxie won a district and then defeated Atchison in the first round. Mill Valley, the dominant champion in the league this season, ran into a Bishop Miege team that's always tough.

But it was the Pirates who gave the KVL some long-needed credibility in terms of postseason success.

Along with the entire city of KCK, the KVL earned some respect because of Piper's run this year.  

6. While improved, the KCKAL still has a LONG way to go in order to become a good league

Wyandotte won the school's first league championship in a long time this season behind a great quarterback in Dimonic McKinzy. J'veyon Browning piled up more yards and more touchdowns this season for Schlagle.

Atchison was able to break through in a weak district, but still lost to a Tonganoxie team they had beaten earlier in the season.

Schlagle let a golden opportunity slip from their fingers after the Stallions couldn't put away a down Lansing team at home to get to the postseason. Wyandotte got hammered in the tough district they play in, while Washington and Sumner Academy were rebuilding.

The KCKAL improved this season and there's some young talent in the league - but there's a long way to go for the league in terms of reputation and success.