The Bobcats went 10-1 last season, rolling through the Kaw Valley League undefeated for a third straight title. Tight end/defensive end Ben Johnson, who has committed to Kansas, gives coach Steve Hopkins an all-state piece to build around, while Drew Potter leads the defense.
The Cyclones are coming off back-to-back winless seasons, but should be buoyed by the arrival of coach Tim Dorian, who coached the last two seasons at Schlagle. The Cyclones have four players back on offense and four on defense, with Brian Barnhardt expected to step into a key role on offense.
Quarterback Jordan Jackson emerged as a dynamic force for the Braves last season. Jared Knernschield has locked down the role of workhorse back, while wide receivers Jonathan Blackwell and Mason Roberts project as Jackson’s top targets.
Led by running back Bobby Zielinski, who averaged nearly two touchdowns per game last season, the Vikings went 7-4 and reached the Missouri Class 1 playoffs. With Zielinski leading the way, Cass-Midway hopes to go further in the postseason. Two-way starters Joey Beller and Peyton Semsch also return.
Led by two-way lineman Maliek Collins, who has an offer from Missouri, the Yellowjackets hope to restore their sting. Running backs Anthony Eskridge and Gage King will carry the load on offense with receivers Isaiah Maxi and Ronnie Hill. Linebacker Nick Williams and defensive back Juice Dowdy lead the defense.
The Eagles are trying to rebound from consecutive three-win seasons. Quarterback/defensive back Brian Boyd is the squad’s leader, while Byron Anderson and Ollie Todd will split carries at running back. Linebacker Trent Lapsley should have a monster year, and lineman Montell Williams and two-way end Jeffrey Joseph also return.
DERRICK THOMAS ACADEMY
The Chiefs have limited their expectations in their first year of varsity football. Coach TeNeil Stevenson has placed his emphasis on physical play, starting with defensive tackle Terrence Pryor. The team will rely on quarterback Dareece Crawford and running backs Markell Ford and Carlen Johnson on offense.
Seeking a fifth straight playoff appearance, the Wildcats face an uphill battle with a rugged schedule. Caleb Ray returns at guard and linebacker, and quarterback Corbin Clark heads up the offense. Defensively, ends Jake Price and Austin Reinertsen return, with Zack Griffiths and Brent Johnson in the secondary.
Coach Greg Smith has lofty expectations for a team that returns a combined 13 starters on offense and defense after finishing 4-6 last season. Quarterback Hassan Burnett has a valuable target in wide receiver Tyler Bluett. Linebacker Darrell Sanders will pick up the slack on defense.
The Cardinals reached the Kansas 4A state title game last season, but face an uphill battle to do it again with only four starters back. One of them is running back/linebacker Gabe Cleveland, one of three returning two-way starters along with tight end/defensive end Nick Becker and wide receiver/safety Andrew Ballock.
Wins have been hard to come by for the Tigers lately, but with only four starters to replace, the tide might be turning. Trey Lawrence, Mark Ingraham and Jake Buckallew return to anchor the offensive line with tailback Sly Harbour, wide receiver Corey Scoma and slotback Nick Masoner back as well. Safety Austin Lewis, who takes over at quarterback, leads the secondary.
Coming off a 6-5 season, the Eagles hope to avoid a full-fledged rebuild. Dominick Macoubrie, who started at tight end a season ago, moves to quarterback, with Mitch Gaylord back at tackle. Defensive end Kylan Alexander and safety Landon Hedrick return on defense.
The Hawks are coming off a 3-6 season, but with seven two-way players returning hope to improve on that mark. Running backs Daryl Williams, who also plays linebacker, and Julian Aguilar, who starts on the defensive line, are back along with wide receiver/safety Willis Garner. Linemen Aaron Baska, Kamile Gardner, Trey Smith and Keven Fajardo also return.
Replacing Tyler Brotz, who is now at Kansas State, will be a challenge for the Wildcats’ defense, but everyone else returns, including Brock Kliewer on the line. P.J. Patton, Max Galaessia and Tanner Foerschler are back at linebacker, while Tyler Bundt, Walter Eastwood, Jameson Knox and Jackson Rudell return to the secondary.
The Rams are moving up to Missouri Class 3 with the bulk of their offensive line back. Returning wide receivers Aaron Blake and Anthony Sherrills should ease quarterback Isaiah Baylis’ transition to a starting role, while lineman Carlos Stone and linebackers Kevis McArthur and Martinez Lewis anchor the defense.
Immaculata returns six offensive starters and five on defense, led by two-way linemen Josh Boeppler and Paul Lednicky. Running back/linebacker Dustin Jostmeyer also is back, while expectations are high for frunning back/defensive back Kevin Hecke and freshman quarterback Drew Sachen.
The Lions lost 19 players to graduation, but the cupboard isn’t bare. Jordan Sommerla, a converted wide receiver, takes over at quarterback. He’ll be joined in the backfield by fullback/linebacker Tyler Ayres and tailback/defensive back Lucas Mein. Drew Goebel and Chase Taylor anchor both lines, and Brad Brown and Elijah Parks return in the secondary.
Cardinals tailback/linebacker Benton Maddux leads the charge in an experienced backfield, which also returns quarterback/safety Blake Edwards and halfback Ty Cox. Two-way linemen Justin Blevins and Kendall Saunders return, and iAndrew Embrey and Brandon Liberty are also back on the offensive line. Big things are expected from tight end/defensive back Drake Mortimer.
Fresh off a playoff berth and Interscholastic League title, the Tigers lost a lot to graduation. Center/middle linebacker Darrius Griffin is the team’s most experienced player. Look for Eric “Rock” Rowe and Tre Rucker to shoulder the load as quarterback Derrick Parker breaks in. He’ll lean on Seth Fisher in the passing game.
With only 21 players, including one returning starter, it would be easy to dismiss the Mules, . but they are confident thanks to a group of linemen led by two-way starters Jonathon Key, Quentin Lewis and Hayden Hall. Jake Hopper moves to running back and also plays defensive end. Sophomore quarterback Nick Kirk will be baptized by fire.
Defense will again be the Wildcats’ hallmark, led by two-way starter Kade Larson. He’s joined on the line by Konnor Cook and Kyle McLellan. T.J. McKiernan and Wyatt Sanders are back at linebacker with Will Garza, Chris Chase, Daniel O’Connor and D.J. Meyer returning to the secondary.
Quarterback Marc Walbridge returns to guide a Bulldogs offense that averaged 41 points last season. Running back Dakota Cop gets most of the carries and anchors the defensive line along with two-way starter Charles Courtney.
With 33 lettermen returning, it might be the Jaguars’ year. Quarterback Skyler Windmiller, who threw for 25 TDs, will be among the city’s best. He’ll be joined by running back Kendall Short, with Staton Rebeck and L.J. Hatch as playmaking receivers. Defensive backs Rebeck and Ryan Bathlead the defense.
Quarterback Cornell Duley will lead the offense, with all-purpose athlete Jamel Tunley shifting around in a variety of formations. Defensively, the team will look to Kendall Gilmore to bounce back from an injury-plagued season.
Quarterback Jonathan Latshaw leads the Panthers’ offense, which returns running backs Ethan Fugitt, Levi Harmon and Aaron Graham and linemen Corey Stattelman, Skyler Hulse and Dakota Fish. Wide receiver Derrick Dow is a top playmaker, while linebacker Taylor Brinegar leads the defense.
The Bulldogs have nowhere to go but up after a winless 2011 campaign. Odessa believes it will be better in the trenches with Cody Cox, Colin Baumann and Dalton Koch on offense and Drew Volmer and Greg Gallegos returning on defense. Quarterback J.W. McGraw and running backs Evan Young and Cole Bartow will carry the load.
The Celtics expect to be strong again on offense, led by quarterback Mike Briggs and running back Ronnie Sailor. The offensive line also has a strong foundation with Ben Kirse and Eero Johnson returning, but the defense was gutted by graduation.
Led by seniors halfback/linebacker Derrick Dennis and two-way lineman Hunter Guthrie, the Bearcats hope to erase the sour taste of a 1-9 campaign last fall. Orrick brings back a seasoned group in the trenches that also includes juniors Ethan Tone-Pah-Hote and Bryce Wheeler and sophomores Patrick Jones and Tyler Crow. Quarterback/linebacker John Moore is back to lead the offense.
Quarterback Austin Chisam is expected to flourish in the Trojans’ new spread-option offense behind an experienced offensive line that returns starters Richard Alonzo, Zack Owens, Alex Stookey, Tanner Foulk and Ben Dorsett. Senior Matt Lofing and junior Deven Ayres return at running back.
The Bears, 0-9 last season, hope to bounce back with six two-way starters returning. Seth Steward and Dylan VanHoutan, who both saw time at quarterback and defensive back last season, return along with fullback/linebacker Bryce Stottlemire and wide receiver/defensive back Garrett Noble. Linemen Wyatt Hofstra, John Eastridge and Matthew Henry are also back.
The Panthers, who reached the Kansas 4A semifinals last season, are led by All-Frontier League performer Joe Pomatto on the offensive and defensive lines. The defense also returns linebacker Nevin McCrackin and cornerback Drew Henn.
Raiders quarterback Ben Gallagher is surrounded by talent, including running backs Harold Edwards, Shea Radel and Caleb Slaughter, and wide receiver Tristan Threatt. Linebacker Michael Burcham also anchors a stout offensive line, which includes Sam Freitag, Thatcher Anderson and Bill Doane.
The bad news: The Pirates face five playoff teams. The good news: none are in district play. Running back Matt McDonald headlines a game-breaking offense that includes all-purpose threat Paul Jones and quarterback Tanner Eikanbary. Linebacker Colton Beebe and cornerback Keaton Cofield lead the defense.
There will be a lot expected from wide receiver/defensive back Dillan Findley, who is the Roosters’ only returning two-way starter off an 8-4 team. Bumping up to Missouri Class 4 will challenge coach Kyle Roach’s squad, which only returns one other defensive starter (DL Joe Griffith, senior). The offense brings back two linemen, tackles Nate Cripps and Johnny Berry, and two backs, fullback Gage Neill and tailback Maurice Lang.
The Rams rolled to five straight wins last season before dropping the last four but has eight starters back on both sides of the ball. It all starts up front with three-year starter Aaron Brown, who also stars at linebacker, along with two-way lineman Dustin Bardoff, Kyle Jones on offense and James Farmer and Sean Spurlock on defense.
With 27 wins in the last two seasons, the Spartans have established themselves among the elite teams in Missouri Class 3, but Richmond returns only five starters. Running backs Jimmy Hamm and Tevin Robinson return along with wide receiver Lendarius Pritchett. But the key might be filling in around linemen Derek Rickart and Canaan Adams.
In coach Tony Severino’s 30th season at Rockhurst, the team will rely on a power running game. The Hawklets have offensive linemen Joe Gibson and Zach Hannon anchoring a powerful front five. A variety of tailbacks will run behind them, with Connor Kuhlmann slated for the most playing time. Kicker Griffin Bins has been placed on the Ray Guy ProKicker.com preseason All-American watch list.
ST. JAMES ACADEMY
With nine starters back on both sides of the ball, the Thunder hopes to reach the playoffs for the first time. Quarterback Jansen Keyes returns and should be protected by potential NCAA Division I linemen Jake Wittman and Chris Gomez, who also anchor the defensive line with Darin Feist, David Feist and Zach McGuff.
With a roster of only 19 players, the Trojans will rely heavily on seniors Drew Huttinger, Ozzy Litchfield and Sam Kenney. The Trojans will run a variety of offenses early and gradually shift toward whatever works best as the year progresses.
ST. PIUS X
Skill players aren’t a problem. The Warriors have several returning led by senior quarterback Grant Gavin, wide receiver Sam Monachino and fullback Joe McCoy, along with newcomer Gabe Akalugwu, another receiver.
The Stallions are favorites to win the Kansas City-Atchison League, and running back J’veyon Browning is poised for a monster senior season.
The Warriors shared the first conference title in school history last season, and several core players are back. Smithville has all-conference linebackers Joe Dominiak and Scott Olson back. Offensively, they will look to leading rusher Zach Parmenter, who topped 1,000 yards.
Coming off a rare four-win season, most of the offensive and defensive linemen return, including junior two-way starter Kainon Laingley-Clark. Fullback Jacob McDade and tailback Mike Epp power the offense.
The Sabres endured an injury-riddled season last fall but hope a return to health for quarterback Brandon Williams will be a step in the right direction toward better things this fall.
First-yeat coach Al Troyer inherits a Chieftains program that won one game last season. Quarterback Tyler Ford now has experience under his belt, and Tyler Zinser and Shane Levy return at running back. Levy and senior Ty Barton anchor the defensive line.
Quarterback Paul Berry returns for the Golden Bears along with offensive linemen Sam Worth, Jarek Smalley and Jacob Frederick. Meanwhile, the defense has seven players back.
First-year Gryphons coach Dan Stanley has 26 players this season, including three seniors, but only two with significant varsity experience. University Academy will be led by defensive end Jackson Bennett and offensive lineman Michael Foster.
The Falcons enjoyed a breakout 7-4 campaign last season. Senior running back Denzel Strong and senior lineman Joe Pedrino bring experience back on offense, while the defense is led by linebackers Joseph Naiuli and Levi Kelsey, end Chadd Wheelington and defensive back Marc Krantz.
Offensively, the Wildcats return their backbone in center Isaiah Smith and guards Devaughn Rucker and Thomas Lopez, but the incoming skill players face baptism by fire. The situation is better on defense, with five returning starters.
All-state running back/safety Dylan Guthrie leads the Bluejays, who went 8-4 and won a game in the Missouri Class 1 playoffs last season. He rushed for more than 1,500 yards and is joined again in the backfield by junior Colton Goodlet. Big things are also expected from senior wide receiver/defensive back Matt Heili.
The Bulldogs had a Division I-caliber quarterback drop on the doorstep with Dimonic McKinzy’s transfer from University Academy. McKinzy, who reportedly has offers from Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota and Nebraska, instantly makes Wyandotte a threat to win the Kansas City-Atchison League.