Prep preview '13 -- McQueen commentary: Good teams or not, there are some you can count on to be in contention
While preparing for this year's edition of the prep preview, an interesting question was brought up by our own Conor Nicholl.
As many of our area athletes and coaches know, many questions brought up around here are interesting ones, but this one really brought on some interesting thoughts.
What team, out of the 39 we cover, has the highest expectations year in and year out?
For me, there are several, but ultimately one team I feel we should expect to be at the forefront of the conversation when talking about expectations of the program.
For arguments sake, let's go with five I considered.
First off, go to Sharon Springs, and look at the Wallace County Wildcats.
Every year of what will be Kevin Ayers' seventh season, the Wildcats have been in the Eight-Man playoffs. They won it all in 2007. The only thing that has kept the Wildcats at bay is they've run into elite talent each season, most recently the buzzsaw known as Thunder Ridge, and just didn't have enough to get over the hump. Still, with one of the best eight-man minds in the state, expect Wallace County to be in every conversation.
Next, that buzzsaw known as Thunder Ridge. It wasn't until the last few years, but no matter what type of team Jerry Voorhees has had, expect them to be playing for the right to go to Newton. The Longhorns have done it the last two years, and should be in the mix again to play at Fischer Field.
Next is a quiet contender in Oakley. I reference quiet because the Plainsmen always seems to just get it done on the field, without any real known names. They do it with role players. And coach Randall Rath expects Oakley to be in contention, no matter what type of talent his team has. They are certainly in the mix to come out of the west in Class 2-1A.
No. 4 on this list has to be La Crosse. I'll include Hays High School in this one because Ryan Cornelsen is in the process of building something similar to this. Cornelsen continued a solid program in La Crosse that now has made nine straight Class 2-1A playoff appearances. Now fifth-year coach Jon Webster continued that development and took it to the next level by getting La Crosse past a juggernaut and into the Class 2-1A title game in 2011, then had the Leopards back to the sub-state title round the following season. Even without their "horses" back in 2013, don't go into La Crosse and tell any Leopards they won't make it to Hays and the 2-1A championship -- because you might not make it out of La Crosse.
Lastly, and this gets my nod for the team with the highest expectations, and that is Victoria. It sounds odd to think about, because Victoria has had some ho-hum seasons.
Yet, they still carry the longest playoff streak of any eight-man team. That says a lot. On paper in some of the more recent seasons, Victoria likely would have had no business making a playoff run. Yet, there the Knights were again in the mix once postseason brackets were released. It comes down to good coaching and a strong tradition, a staple all these teams have come to share.
So, do we expect these teams to be playing for state titles? A bold prediction would say yes, but what does it matter? They expect to be doing so, and that's what we get really excited about.