Trends? Or flashes in the pan?
By SAM MCDOWELL
The Kansas City Star
Here are five high school football story lines from the opening week we’re eager to watch develop:
1. The Fort Osage running game
Fort Osage senior Ezra Vaoifi didn’t need to think very long. No, the answer came to him rather quickly.
After gaining 313 yards and scoring two touchdowns in a 25-7 victory over Park Hill South last Friday, some people wanted to know how the performance compared to other games in his career. Middle school? Pop Warner?
“I’ve never had a game like that,” he responded. “Well, maybe on Madden.”
This, however, was reality. And that probably made it a tad bit sweeter.
A year after Fort Osage relied on its quarterback, Steven McBee, to provide the heavy lifting in the rushing attack, the Indians have a running back ready to take the wheel.
Vaoifi ran 30 times behind an offensive line that returns five starters, and the sum was a career-best. His touchdowns came on runs of 34 and 29 yards.
“Right off the bat, we definitely started off the night good,” Vaoifi said. “We want to keep this rolling. We don’t want to lose anything. We know we have to get back out there and do it again next week.”
Can the running game repeat the performance?
Fort Osage will travel to Blue Springs South this Friday night. The Indians defeated Blue Springs South 6-0 last year in a game played in a heavy downpour.
2. The turnaround of Lee’s Summit North
After winning only one game last season, Lee’s Summit North opened with a 27-16 victory at Columbia Hickman, which was coming off a 7-3 record.
Wait, where did that come from?
Look no further than senior running back Josh Caldwell. After Hickman grabbed an early lead, Caldwell responded with three touchdown runs of 60-plus yards to enable the Broncos to match last season’s win total in their first game.
In a Suburban Gold Conference filled with talented running backs, Caldwell can easily get lost among the pack. Not anymore. At least not for awhile.
Caldwell rushed for 285 yards to go along with the three TDs, and he was just the beginning of the story for the Broncos. Simply put, Lee’s Summit North clearly dominated up front, rolling for 425 rushing yards.
That was more than enough to overshadow the fact the Broncos completed only one pass.
Will the Broncos keep the ground game moving a second straight week? The schedule is set up nicely. They play host to Ruskin on Friday night.
3. The Josh Hood era at Park Hill
When first-year coach Josh Hood took over Park Hill High football, he instituted a new fast-paced offense that he hoped would drum up more excitement.
The debut provided mixed results.
Nevertheless, it was the Trojans’ defense that looked strong in a 35-7 triumph over Raytown South.
Raytown South led 7-6 at halftime, but the Park Hill defense set up the Trojans’ new spread offense with short fields twice in the third quarter. Quarterback Clay Ford and running back Charles Leaphart turned those opportunities, which in effect, turned the game into a blowout.
Is the Park Hill defense for real, or did it have one good night? Well, it shouldn’t take long to find out. The Trojans travel this Friday night to Lee’s Summit West, which carries one of the area’s most prolific offenses. The Titans averaged 41 points per game last season and can run and pass effectively. Lee’s Summit West wideout Monte Harrison might be one of the most difficult players to cover in the Kansas City area.
4. Platte County’s change under center
Perhaps the spread offense at Platte County just breeds good quarterback play.
First it was Krae Kelso. Last season, it was James Valentine. Is Tyler Cooper next?
For the second straight season, Platte County has handed over the reins to a first-year starting quarterback. Valentine led the Pirates to 10 victories last season.
Cooper is off to a fine start in 2013.
In a 42-7 thumping of William Chrisman, Cooper completed only 11 passes, but four went for touchdowns. Aliek Reed was on the receiving end of two TD receptions.
The Pirates are likely to find out more about their passing game in a trip to St. Joseph Central on Friday.
5. A positive turnover margin at Liberty North
OK, so it seems obvious that the team that wins the turnover battle has a better chance to win the football game. At Liberty North, it’s perhaps an even stronger point of emphasis after the Eagles turned the ball over an astounding 22 times in their first six games last year.
Coach Ken Clemens promised a better result in the turnover battle this season.
So far, so good.
In a season-opening win over Ruskin, Liberty North turned the ball over only once. By no coincidence, the Eagles rolled to a 40-0 victory.
The Eagles were efficient with the ball. Quarterback Brian Sharp threw only four incompletions. They averaged six yards per carry, and running back Richard Richardson scored twice. It’s this kind of fundamental football that coach Ken Clemens says will decide the fate of the Eagles’ season.
Liberty North welcomes Truman on Friday, then travels to Fort Osage next week.