Phil Lite knew there would be one big difference in coaching all-stars as opposed to the typical high-school football team: You get to hit the ground running.
Lite, who led Staley to the Class 5 state championship last season, is guiding the Missouri team in the 27th annual BeYounion.com Kansas vs. Missouri All Star Game, which will take place 7 p.m. June 14 at Leavenworth (Kan.) High School.
That doesn’t give Lite much time to assemble a squad of players from all over the Missouri side of the metro area into one cohesive unit. But these are all-stars, which means Lite can accelerate the process a little bit.
“You’re going to get experienced kids that already have a clue, so to speak,” Lite said after the team’s second practice June 5 at Oak Park High School. “What we end up doing is spending a ton of time on install and game plan and those type of things. We just hit the ground running because we don’t have to spend a lot of time on the fundamentals.”
The Missouri team originally had three Lee’s Summit North graduates on its squad, but two of them – tight end Jordon Murray and linebacker Myles Craddock – had to bow out. That leaves safety Kendall Thomas as the lone Bronco on a lineup that could see more last-minute changes.
That uncertainty hasn’t impeded Lite’s progress in putting the team together.
“I like where we’re at,” Lite said. “We have our entire offense basically in right now after two days. What we’re trying to do right now is perfect what we’re doing, try to get in a bunch of reps, do some window dressing and get the kids in the right spots.”
This is Lite’s first experience as an all-star team head coach, but he’s been around these games enough to know what to expect. Having more talent, of course, is the obvious difference. So is getting to pick and choose that talent to fit what Lite and his coaches hope to accomplish.
“It’s kind of a college mentality,” Lite said. “We draft kids that are going to fit our system – offense, defense and special teams. We try to go over some basic fundamentals the first day but we don’t spend a whole lot of time because the kids already know it.”
If the players don’t come in knowing what’s at stake in the annual rivalry against the Kansas all-stars, they find out soon enough. Missouri has won the last seven games and holds a 14-11 lead (one game was canceled) all-time in the series.
Running back Dante Madden from Belton was one of those who didn’t know what was on the line when he was first invited to play. But now that he does, Madden said he’s more pumped up for the game.
“It’s a big deal for me,” Madden said. “I didn’t think it was a big deal at first but after hearing all the coaches talking to me about it … it just hit me in my heart.”
Lite said he doesn’t plan on making a big deal of the rivalry. He just wants his players to focus on getting better every practice and having some fun.
“I just love how all these kids from different parts of Kansas City … are getting on the field and having fun,” Lite said. “You can see the camaraderie. Our kids want to go out they want to compete and show what Missouri football is all about.”
Tickets for the BeYounion.com Kansas vs. Missouri All Star Game, which presented by the Greater Kansas City Football Coaches Association, can be purchased by going to www.kcprepfootball.org