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Friday, Nov. 25, 2011

Confident Falcons prepped for 6A title game

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Olathe South coach Jeff Gourley hasn't shied away from speaking his mind this season, especially with the playoffs upon his Falcons.

He knows not everyone appreciates the brash predictions he has thrown out in the media or his single-minded focus on South's mission to win the first Kansas 6A state football title in program history.

Gourley simply has complete confidence that South is going to succeed this year where it failed in 1999, 2004 and 2007 – the three pervious trips to the state-title game for the Falcons.

“I hope it gives the kids confidence and it's definitely by design,” he said. “Nobody rises to low expectations. I know there was some scuttle about what I said in the paper last week about finishing things, but those aren't just words. I really believe that. A lot of people take offense when someone is honest, but I don't know any other way to be.”

And he isn't about to back down during the final week of the season either.

“I've told these kids that we're going to win this game, and I firmly believe that,” Gourley said. “It's not a guarantee, it's not a promise, it's not a stepping-out-like-Joe-Namath type of thing. It's just a simple fact that we're the better team going on this field.

“We match up with them. They have this hype about being so fast and so strong and so tough, but I will tell you right now without hesitation that our offensive and defensive lines are better than their offensive and defensive lines and our speed is equal to their speed.”

His son, two-way lineman Scott Gourley, believes South has fed off his father's bold predictions.

“He shows that he trusts us and really believes in us, which makes us believe in ourselves and trust the people around us,” Scott Gourley said. “It filters down from the top, because if you have a head coach that doesn't believe or doesn't think you're going to win, how could the players be motivated to win? But this is the year we bring the state title back to Olathe South.”

A similar confidence permeates the entire Falcons roster.

“We want to get that first one for South,” safety Dylan DeVries said. “We might give up a couple big plays, but our defense is going to stop them.”

SCOUTING REPORT

When Olathe South runs ... Edge >>> South

Gourley's gang gets off the ball well at the line of scrimmage and simply has too many weapons led by senior Jordan Ward, who has rushed for more than 500 yards and has eight touchdowns in the last two games. Add in senior game-breaker Teddy Colbert, who averages 11.3 yards per carry, and few teams can halt South on the ground.

When Olathe South passes ... Edge >>> South

Neither team is a big passing threat, but South is very effective when junior quarterback Frankie Seurer Jr. does unleash one. He's completed 65 of 106 passes for 1,415 yards with 11 touchdowns and one interception. Look for at least one long connection to senior Drew Johnson potentially to be the difference in the game.

When Wichita Heights runs ... Edge >>> Heights

Olathe South has the better run defense of the two teams, but how can a team that averages 377.8 yards on the ground and boasts three players with at least 1,000 yards rushing not be given the edge here. Senior running back Marquel Moore leads the way with 164 carries for 1,320 yards and 19 touchdowns, while senior quarterback Matt Reed has racked up 125 carries for 1,151 yards and 18 TDs and senior running back Kenneth Iheme owns 109 carries for 1,144 yards and 14 scores.

When Wichita Heights passes ... Edge >>> South

Heights hasn't had to pass very often and hasn't been particularly efficient the times it has elected to air it out. Reed, who has completed two or fewer passes in nine of 12 games, is only 27 for 63 – a 42.9 completion percentage – for 738 yards with 12 touchdowns and one interception. Those numbers won't scare even a suspect South passing defense.

X-Factor ... Edge >>> South

South has only played two teams with a sub-.500 record, while Heights only played three teams with a winning record in the regular season. The Falcons from Johnson County are more battle-tested than the Falcons from Sedgwick County. Both teams have good speed, but South is more effective along the line of scrimmage.

Bottom line

The teams are mirror images in some ways, but it is harder to prepare for South's misdirection and trickery in a week interrupted by Thanksgiving than it is to install a game plan for the read-option inside veer. That gives South, which also is clearly the better passing team, the edge on defense. Prediction: Olathe South 49, Wichita Heights 35

| Tod Palmer, todpalmer@theolathenews.com

PALMER'S PROGNOSTICATIONS ... Last week: 2-0 ... This season: 53-16

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