High school football previews: Mill Valley, De Soto, St. James Academy, Spring Hill, Rockhurst

09/03/2013 9:15 PM

09/03/2013 9:15 PM

Mill Valley has enjoyed a lot of success in the regular season recently but not in the post-season, so far.

The Jaguars won the Kaw Valley League championship with a 6-0 record last season, but they lost in the first round of the Kansas Class 5A state playoffs 58-37 to Bishop Miege. That was their fifth consecutive season in the playoffs, but they managed to advance only in 2008 when they lost in the second round.

This season the Jaguars are pinning their hopes on five returning starters on offense and seven on defense among their 37 letter winners.

Included are several players who earned various levels of Kaw Valley League honors in 2012. They are senior linebacker Micah Clarke (5-10, 185), senior linebacker TJ Phillips (5-10, 190), senior defensive lineman Ryan Smith (6-1, 265), senior kicker Connor Mills (6-2, 150), senior offensive lineman Coltyn Glatton (6-1, 215), junior offensive lineman Evan Applegate (6-7, 285) and junior tight end Zach Hanna (6-1, 210).

Fourth-year coach Joel Applegate had three players competing for the quarterback job in early preseason workouts -- senior Zach Cole (6-2, 260), junior Ty Bruce (6-0, 175) and sophomore Logan Koch (5-11, 170).

Applegate feels he has a promising collection of young talent looking to step up and make an immediate impact. “We return a strong defense with an experienced defensive line and linebacking corps leading the way,” he said.

Mill Valley’s only loss in the regular season last year was 43-21 to Manhattan. The Jaguars open the season again against Manhattan at home on Sept. 6.

DE SOTO

The De Soto Wildcats have a new head coach in former assistant Brian King.

They were 4-6 last season losing nine starters on offense and eight on defense.

The new coach has only two offensive and three defensive starters returning. Holdover returning offensive starters are junior halfback Jason Johnson (5-8, 160) and senior tackle Nick Patterson (6-3, 240). Returning on the defense are junior nose guard Jeremy Slitor (5-10, 205); senior linebacker Brendan Brummer (5-11, 190), and senior Michael Buffkin (5-9, 165).

King is looking for solid contributions from several players who have varsity experience, including senior outside linebacker-halfback Mason Kahnert (5-11, 185), junior offensive-defensive lineman Chandler Carter (6-0, 210), who started several games at guard last season; senior offensive-defensive lineman Mitch Gehrt (6-2, 230), who has gained 45 pounds since last season, and senior offensive-defensive lineman Austin Rodgers (6-2, 260). King said that Rodgers was out for football for the first time in 2012 and had a great year in the weight room.

King expects senior Nelson Reeves (6-0, 215) to be a major competitor for the starting quarterback job. He played linebacker on the varsity some in 2012.

Junior running back-linebacker Josh Miller (5-10, 185) is out for the first time, but King considers him a very strong kid and expects him to compete for the fullback job.

“I know we lost a lot of starters from last year’s team, but the seniors on this team are great leaders who have had a great off-season,” King said.

The Wildcats open the season Sept 8. with a non-league home game against Holton.

SAINT JAMES ACADEMY

St. James Academy got off to a 6-0 start in 2012 only to go only 1-2 in district play.

“Injuries to key defensive players after the fifth and sixth weeks really slowed down our team,” third-year coach Tom Radke said.

The Thunder return five offensive and three defensive starters from the 2012 team.

St. James runs out of the pistol formation. Senior Alex King, who played mostly wide receiver, free safety and was the Thunder’s kicker and punter, will be the quarterback. A 6-3, 188-pounder, King played some at quarterback last season.

“He is a great athlete and is an All-State baseball player,” Radke said.

The main running back will be senior Jacob Bade. The 6-1, 195-pounder had 134 carries for 952 yards and caught 10 passes for 150 yards last season.

“He is a downhill runner with a knack for breaking tackles,” Radke said.

Other top players to watch, according to Radke, are senior wide receiver Ryan Hand, junior free safety Connor Moore, senior offensive-defensive lineman David Feist, senior outside linebacker-tight end Keith Winger, senior defensive lineman Ethan Kelley and junior defensive back-running back Zach Hensley.

Also on the team is Dylan McHugh, a senior offensive lineman transfer from Pennsylvania.

“Our team looks to learn from the disappointing ending to the 2012 season and is ready to put St. James football on the map for good,” Radke said. “This may be the last year the Thunder will be in 4A, and we look to make a deep run into the playoffs.”

St. James Academy doesn’t have a football stadium on campus and will play all its home games at St. Thomas Aquinas.

The Thunder’s opening game is against Paola on Sept. 6 at Aquinas.

SPRING HILL

Spring Hill had its best season in many years in 2012.

The Broncos made it to the Kansas Class 4A state playoffs for the first time since 2006 and won a district championship for the first time since 2000.

They lost in the first round of the playoffs 31-14 to Baldwin, but they return six starters on offense and three on defense off the team that finished with a 5-5 record.

Fifth-year coach Anthony Orrick returns his entire starting backfield with senior quarterback Trevor Cluck, senior fullback Lincoln Smith and junior halfback Trevian Bryant.

Also back are offensive linemen seniors Kainon Laingley-Clark, Dylan Thompson and C.J. Dyhouse.

Starters back on defense are Laingley-Clark at defensive end, senior Blake Hampton at linebacker and senior cornerback Austin Jager.

Orrick’s projected offensive lineup has eight seniors and three juniors. The defensive lineup shows six juniors.

“We expect to keep things going in the right direction and improve on last year’s record and make a run in the state playoffs,” Orrick said. “We have several returning players who saw considerable playing time last year, and we expect them to step up and be big leaders this season.

“We have several junior and sophomore players who will contribute in all aspects. Several will hopefully mesh well with the veterans.”

Orrick was an assistant coach at Blue Valley from 2002-2006, and was the head softball coach there.

Spring Hill opens the season Sept. 6 at Louisburg.

The Broncos play in a 4A district with St. James Academy, DeSoto and Bonner Spinngs.

ROCKHURST

The Rockhurst Hawklets may very well stumble through the early portion of their schedule. They’re young. They’re inexperienced. But if they bounce back and make a postseason run, coach Tony Severino is warning you not to be surprised.

If this story sounds familiar, well, it should.

Rockhurst lost three of its first four games last season before reeling off eight straight victories and reaching the Missouri Class 6 quarterfinals. The Hawklets could be in line for some growing pains once again, considering only four starters return offensively and defensively. They opened last week with a 19-14 loss to East St. Louis (Ill.), play a home game against Bentonville (Ark.) this week and then travel to Blue Springs.

“That’s the way we plan it,” Severino said. “We’ll find out how good we are. We want to see how they handle adversity early, because there’s going to be some. We’re looking to be there at the end of the year.”

A year after rotating four quarterbacks, Severino has named T.J. Green — son of former Chiefs quarterback Trent Green — his early-season starter. That moves last year’s primary starter, Ahmad Tyler, to running back and wide receiver. Tyler has experienced shoulder problems, limiting his passing potential.

The Hawklets replace all five offensive linemen.

“Obviously that’s a concern, and yet it’s fun to watch because the guys who are going to be there are talented and big,” Severino said. “We’re not quite sure how they’re going to handle it when we open the season, but by the end of the year, they’ll be really good.”

Tight ends Luke Arbanas and Jayke Simsheuser will help pave some running lanes, and they also serve as the team’s leading defenders.

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