Instead of my weekly high school sports live chat, I will answer questions from readers each Wednesday. You can @ me on Twitter, @joannachadwick with the hashtag #vkqa, with any comments or questions that you want me to respond to, or you can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I know this is different from what I’ve been doing, but we can still have give-and-take and be informative all at the same time.
My first question came on the day I asked for questions, so props to Brad Kohlman.
Brad, this is a great first question, and it’s one I get often. I’ve seen some amazing athletes in my 18 years at The Wichita Eagle and VarsityKansas.com — East grads Bryce and Arthur Brown, Heights’ Perry Ellis and Evan Wessel, Northwest’s Kamerion Wimbley, Carroll’s Blake Bell, Conway Springs’ Jaydan Bird and Andover Central’s Tiffany Bias, just to name a few from the past.
I could go on and on with incredible athletes. But then there’s the other type of athletes who I simply love to interact with, no matter their talent.
The most recent athlete who has amused me with her wit is Carroll grad Jessi Haffner, a pitcher who won four Class 5A titles and is now at Oklahoma State. The conversations Haffner and I have had on Twitter are hilarious, including one topic that delved into a possible future tattoo of “Thug Life,” i.e. Tupac Shakur. The girl’s sarcasm just cracks me up.
As for events, the most stressful events to cover are wrestling and track because there’s so much going on at once and so many area athletes winning, that you end up running around the whole time trying to conduct interviews while finding time to write.
State basketball is my favorite because I see so many teams from across the state, and the level of play is always impressive.
As for coaches, I’d say that 99.9 percent of coaches are amazingly easy to deal with and willing to talk for virtually any story. I’ve built some strong relationships with coaches, so when it comes time to do that story that maybe people don’t want to talk about, they know that I’ll be fair and accurate.
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The high school football season starts on Friday night, although a handful of teams play on Thursday, including McPherson at Salina South.
There’s little to compare with the atmosphere of a high school football game due to the fans, the marching band and the festivities that surround every game. There’s tailgate parties, painted faces and a contagious enthusiasm that envelops you upon arrival.
And there’s the hope, as every team still maintains that the work put in over the offseason will pay off with a state championship.
Eight teams will win titles, and I picked those winners in my preseason rankings — Olathe North, Carroll, Miege, Andale, Silver Lake, La Crosse, Madison and Thunder Ridge.
The picks I feel most comfortable with are Miege and Andale. To me, those are clear favorites to win it all.
In 6A, the strength of the state is clearly on the eastern side, and I think that Olathe North, SM East and Blue Valley can be in position to win the title.
In 5A, the power is on the western side with Carroll, Maize and Heights, along with Salina South, Salina Central, Andover, Kapaun, Maize South all battling it out.
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I also picked league standings for the City League, Ark Valley-Chisholm Trail League Divisions I, II, III and IV, Central Plains League and Central Kansas League.
Making predictions is a process that involves research and, no doubt, some guesswork. Injuries take tolls on even the most highly touted teams, and then there are those teams that will seemingly pop up out of nowhere.
With predicting league standings, there are also a handful of teams where it seems like you could flip a coin on where to put them because they are just that close.
This is especially true in the City League with West, Kapaun, Northwest and East. I have complete faith in the top two, with Carroll and Heights taking first and second. West seems like a near-lock for third because it doesn’t play Carroll this season. As for Kapaun, Northwest and East, they could finish in any combination there for fourth, fifth and sixth.
The AV-CTL Division I was also difficult, outside of picking Maize to win the league title. Derby is a different team from 2013, when it won the Class 6A title, as it returns just two starters. Discounting the strength of the program and its success would be silly, though, which is why I don’t see this as a rebuilding season.
If you look at the predictions for second through fifth, it would be easy to shuffle them in a different way. I have it as Derby taking second, then Hutchinson, Salina South and Salina Central. All could go deep in the playoffs. When there’s a league that is stacked with not only talent and outstanding coaches but also tradition, it makes for a difficult pick.
How would your predictions for league shake out? What would you do differently from mine?
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The football season opens Friday night — where will you be?
There’s plenty of games to choose from, so if you’re not tied into one school, good luck making a decision.
In the City League, the season openers have changed. We won’t see Heights and Carroll play, as we did for eight straight seasons. Which means we can wait a bit for the City League title to be determined.
Carroll opens at Northwest, which is a fantastic rivalry of these west-side schools. Northwest played Carroll tight in 2013, as the Eagles held on for a 12-7 win. But Carroll’s offense was sputtering and quarterback Colton Howell stepped in to revive the Eagles.
Heights opens with Southeast, which used to be quite the matchup. I don’t think this game will be close, though.
Buhler, which won the Class 4A title in 2013, is at Andale, and Rose Hill is at Collegiate. Rose Hill will be without quarterback Brett Bonar, who was supsended for the game for breaking team rules.
Eisenhower is at Andover. Eisenhower is a team that I’ve been hearing about all offseason because the Tigers appear to be loaded and much better than that two-win team of 2013. What a test, though, against Andover, which returns the majority of its starters from its team that was unbeaten through the 2013 regular season.
The game of the night, and where I’ll be, is Derby at Maize.
Derby’s the defending 6A champ and ranked fourth in 6A, while Maize is 5A’s second-ranked team and returns a stacked offense that starts with quarterback Connor Lungwitz.
The intrigue is legit as Derby opened the 2013 season by losing to Salina South, which finished second in 5A. Salina South then lost the following week to Maize. So in Week 3, it was Maize at Derby and the game was understandably hyped.
Derby won 62-13.
I don’t see there being a repeat of that blowout. I’m picking Maize to win, but I’m banking on a tight game throughout.
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There are my thoughts for the week. I hope to hear from more of you next week with your questions or comments.
You can contact me on Twitter by using #vkqa and including my Twitter handle, @joannachadwick. You can also e-mail me at email@example.com.