1. BLUE VALLEY WEST
The Jaguars went 8-3 last season and are among the favorites in Kansas Class 5A for good reason. It starts with quarterback Ryan Ralston and a punishing offensive line, which returns Michael Farchild, Sterling Williams and Hunter Saulsbury. There are weapons aplenty around Ralston, including tight end Cale McMakin, deep threat Luke Curtis and chain-mover Spencer Johannesman. Shifty running back Grant Garcia steps in for Conley Wilkins as the primary ball-carrier. McMakin and defensive end Troy Burgett lead the defense.
2. GARDNER EDGERTON
Senior running back Traevohn Wrench is coming off back-to-back 2,000-yard seasons and should be in for another monster season. Quarterback Jared Hobby returns as a rare three-year starter, along with two of his top targets -- tight end Josh Lang and wide receiver Jaylon Radel. Defensive lineman Emilio Fowler, a state wrestling runner-up, and linebacker Dustin Williams, a state champion wrestler, headline the retooled defense, which will lack experience the first few games.
3. BLUE VALLEY
Quarterback Logan Brettell returns for an experienced Tigers squad that also returns running back Chance Nelson, wide receivers Tristan Perkins and Mikey Henson and two offensive linemen: guard Blake Freeman and tackle A.J. Harris. Of course, the real strength for Blue Valley might be its defense. Linebackers Henry McGrew and Joe Forlenza return along with defensive end Jalen Cooks and nose guard Caleb Kjergaard on the defensive line. Safety Brandon Lee leads the secondary.
4. BISHOP MIEGE
After a rocky start last year, the Stags rallied to reach the Kansas 5A championship game, but the aim for 2013 is consistency. Big things are expecting from quarterback Ryan Willis, an Olathe East transfer who already has an offer from Kansas State. Of course, Miege’s returning players, including wide receiver/cornerback McKinley Johnson and linebacker Brad Ivey, already provide a strong nucleus. Receivers Michael Murphy and Jeffrey Martin are also back along with tight end Chris Ford, giving Willis plenty of seasoned targets.
5. ST. THOMAS AQUINAS
A year ago, the Saints were picked to finish seventh in the East Kansas League but wound up winning the league title. Returning one of the league’s top quarterbacks, senior Danten Cosentino, Aquinas won’t be taking anyone by surprise again. The talent is there to flourish again with wide receiver Ryan McNellis, running back Joel Edwards and linebackers Joe Maxwell and Cole Pickert also back. In the trenches, Nick Vena and Andrew Hagemann return on offense with Jack Pauley and Ben Ewing on defense.
6. BLUE VALLEY NORTHWEST
First, the good news: The entire Huskies’ offensive line returns with senior Kyle Styve (6-0, 220) at center flanked by senior guards Carter Tierney (6-0, 235) and Nate Johnson (6-3, 240) bookended by senior tackles Antonio Bennett (6-2, 290) and Christian Atteberry (6-5, 240). The bad news: The only returning playmaker from a 5-5 team is senior wide receiver Jaquwan Stone (5-9, 160). Fullback/linebacker Kyle Pottinger also returns and leads a defense that also includes safety Kyle Harrison and linebacker Jacob Rominger.
7. BLUE VALLEY SOUTHWEST
The Timberwolves remain the smallest of the Blue Valley schools and won’t have much depth this season. That could be tough, especially for an offensive line that returns only one starter — junior Austin Lawrence. Drake Herrman will replace Aaron Ramsey at quarterback alongside a trio of experienced running backs led by senior Sal Vanasse. Johnny Dunlap and Luke Wilmes also return to the backfield with Sam Randall at wide receiver, while Herrman and Wilmes are the only returning starters one defense.
8. BLUE VALLEY NORTH
The cupboard isn’t completely bare on offense with running backs Ben Brock and Dante Hicks returning along with fullback Anthony Loftus, but the Mustangs need to find additional pieces to go with John Puetz and Connor Kagy on the offensive line. Kagy and Caleb Edwards also return to the defensive line, while Marland McGee is the only linebacker coming back from a 1-8 team. Brock, Hanks and Blake Bohannon return in the secondary.
| Tod Palmer, email@example.com