An app on Logan Cheadle’s cell phone counts down the days to the start of the high school football season. He installed it nearly two months ago.
In reality, though, the countdown for Cheadle, a senior at Lee’s Summit West, began long before that. You can trace it all the way back to Nov. 12, 2012 — the day Ozark ended LS West’s unbeaten season with an upset in the Class 5 playoffs.
“I’ve been left with a terrible taste since that night,” said Cheadle, a senior cornerback who has committed to Missouri. “It was the worst loss I’ve ever experienced in my football career. I don’t want that to happen again. That’s why we are getting ready (for the season) a lot harder than we did last year.”
They’re not the only ones. Staley, Harrisonville and Oak Grove are among a contingent of Missouri teams who enjoyed regular-season success in 2012, only to see it offset by a tough-to-swallow playoff loss.
That made Monday all the more meaningful.
Football returned in Missouri with the opening day of high school practices on Monday. Blue Springs, the defending Missouri Class 6 state champion, kicked off its 2013 season at 5 a.m.
For some, the wait hasn’t been quite so enjoyable. Take Oak Grove, for example. Much like Lee’s Summit West, the Panthers finished unbeaten during the regular season last fall but then stumbled in the Class 3 playoffs, losing 21-6 to Center.
The itch to return — and the possibility to erase that memory — has been long-lasting.
“It was a tough offseason, but it’s one of the greatest feelings in the world getting back out here — it was like waking up on Christmas morning,” said Oak Grove running back Aaron Graham, who ran for 1,837 yards and 23 touchdowns as a sophomore in 2012. “I’m hungry to get back. (The loss) makes me feel like getting back to that game and going all the way — making up for that.”
Graham added that he prefers to ignore that game rather than use it as motivation.
Harrisonville, on the other hand, isn’t afforded the same luxury. The Wildcats lost 17-7 to Helias in the Class 4 semifinals last November — a disappointment considering they defeated Helias in the regular season.
The Wildcats are served with daily reminders in the film room. Why? Harrisonville opens the 2013 schedule with a trip to Helias on Aug. 30.
“I won’t have to say much to get us fired up to go down there and play,” Harrisonville coach Chuck Lliteras said. “We try not to dwell on that, but it’s always in the back of their minds. They came out here (Monday) morning ready to get after it. I think they feel like they have something to prove.”
As does Staley, which followed its state championship season in 2011 with a disappointing finish in 2012. The Falcons suffered a home loss to Fort Osage after having defeated the Indians six weeks earlier.
For Staley, though, the motivation is to prove it can win without Trent Hosick, a quarterback who led the team to 23 wins over the last two seasons. That’s a motivation that will last well beyond Monday’s opening day of practice.
The motivation should also last for Lee’s Summit West, whose coach, Royce Boehm, mentioned last year’s loss to Ozark when speaking to his team after Monday’s practice.
“It’s been a long time since the Ozark game,” Boehm said. “The kids are stepping on the field looking back because they know they have to improve themselves. This is their chance.
“Football is back, and that’s phenomenal.”