First football game in 6A Division Sept. 5; staffer predicts close game, highlights key players

Matt Antonic, Sports Editor

Blue Valley Tigers (0-0) vs. Shawnee Mission Northwest Cougars (0-0)
Shawnee Mission North District Stadium
Shawnee, Kan.
Friday, Sept. 5, 2014 at 7 p.m.

Blue Valley:
The Tigers’ journey to defend their 2013 State Championship begins tonight. It’s been 9 months since that wonderful day, and a new group of seniors will be leading the team out of the locker room. As always in high school football, the team will have to deal with significant turnover from players graduating. The offensive side of the ball will see the most changes, including first-time starting quarterback junior Colton McCumber, who will look to pick up right where graduate Logan Brettell left off. While the offense finds its feet, the defense returns several starters from last season’s team that allowed less than 200 points, including standout defensive end senior Jackson Maase. The Tigers will be welcomed to the big show tonight, having moved up to Kansas 6A Division.

Shawnee Mission Northwest:
The Cougars concluded a disappointing season with a 26-point loss to Lawrence Free State in the first round of the playoffs. Hobbled by a weak offense averaging barely 20 points per game, the Cougars struggled immensely in close game situations, losing three games by a touchdown or less. The Cougars will be extremely reliant on defense to keep them in the game tonight as they face a BV offense that has several first-time starters. With the game at home, the Cougars will look to build momentum early and have the crowd fired up.

BV will win if: The offense quickly comes together. With several new starters, it is imperative that the offense quickly finds chemistry and rhythm, especially against a rugged Shawnee Mission Northwest defense. Veteran captain senior A.J. Harris will anchor the offense as it looks to score early and often to build momentum. The Vikings are no world-beaters, but their record is deceiving with the team having lost 3 games last season by a touchdown or less. In 6A, large schools cannot be overlooked, especially on the road. Tonight is a major stop on the Tiger’s road towards repeating as state champions, this time as a member of 6A.

Players to watch:

Quarterback Junior Colton McCumber
As a first-time starter, McCumber is handed the reins with plenty of work to do. He will be tasked with commandeering an offense featuring several new starters and quickly getting into rhythm.

Offensive Tackle Senior A.J. Harris
After committing to the University of Missouri in April, Harris has one more season to develop as a tackle before heading off to life in the SEC. An All-EKL favorite, Harris will be an important anchor in the offense line this season.

Defensive End Senior Jackson Maase
After recording 63 tackles last season, Maase will lead a defense that looks to remain one of the best in the EKL, as well as wreak havoc on an underwhelming Viking offense with early pressure.

Things to know:
This is the first game in the 6A Division for the Tigers since 2009.
BV returns 27 seniors to this year’s team.
BV’s defense allowed just 190 points last season, while scoring a whopping 427.