Number of Kansas schools — Shawnee Mission North and Immaculata — that welcome coaches who also happen to be alumni. Ben Bartlett will take over at SM North, and Fred Elliott will lead the Raiders.
State championships for the Kearney Bulldogs over the past 12 seasons. Why is that relevant now? Well, all three of those titles came in Missouri Class 4. And after a two-year stint playing in Class 5, Kearney rejoined Class 4 this fall.
The number of opponents on Rockhurst's schedule that played for state championships last season. The Hawklets have perhaps the most difficult slate in Missouri. They will be thrown into the fire early, too. Rockhurst travels to face Rock Bridge on Friday. Rock Bridge lost to Blue Springs in the Missouri Class 6 state title game last season.
Seniors projected to be on the Platte County roster. Only two years after winning the Suburban Conference Blue division title, the Pirates will boast an awfully young team — though coach Bill Utz insists it will eventually be a talented one. For now, though, senior linebacker Topher Kilkenny and senior wideout Aliek Reed will shoulder the load.
If Blue Valley is able to repeat as state champion, it would be the program’s seventh state title and its first in Kansas Class 6A. It would also be the first time the Tigers won in back-to-back seasons, dating back to 1991.
Eight Kansas schools from the The Star’s coverage area are changing classifications this season. Blue Valley and Harmon are moving up to Class 6A. Bonner Springs, Leavenworth and St. James Academy move up to 5A. Bishop Miege goes down a class to 4A. McLouth and Oskaloosa, meanwhile, are moving up to 3A.
Victories for the Fort Osage Indians over the past three seasons. They are well-equipped to keep that pace, too. Fort Osage has nearly all of its skill-position players back — including quarterback Skylar Thompson and do-it-all senior Jesse McBee, who will take over the load in the backfield after being featured primarily as a wideout last year.
The pounds squatted by Belton junior Zach Willis in the offseason. And get this — he's a running back. Willis set a new national record for his weight class and age group at the Natural Athlete Strength Association national competition in Oklahoma City this summer. Needless to say, he brings some power to the Belton backfield.
| The Star’s Sam McDowell and Kathleen Gier contributed to this report.