Offensive player to watch
Winnetonka is still rebuilding its offensive line, but it may not need superstars there. Tailback Marquise Doherty is one of the top recruits in the state. He has already received 17 college scholarship offers.
Defensive player to watch
A year after Kearney held seven of its final 11 opponents to single digits in scoring, the Bulldogs should again be stout defensively. Junior Cale Garrett, a potential future Division I linebacker, will pilot the Purple Swarm’s effort to repeat that success.
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The winner of the conference will be determined by the Kearney-Winnetonka matchup, and the victor there will be decided by which team can better develop its offensive line. Kearney has the early edge.
After reaching the Missouri Class 5 semifinals last season, the Bulldogs have dropped to Class 4. That immediately makes them a team to reckon with in the state championship chase. But they will have a tall task in replacing halfback Brock Broughton and quarterback Austin Hinck.
The Griffins posted their best win-loss record in 16 years when they finished 8-3 last season. They feature their biggest senior class (27) in coach Sterling Edwards’ five-year tenure. Senior running back and safety Marquise Doherty headlines that group.
3. RAYTOWN SOUTH
After serving on the Cardinals’ coaching staff for eight seasons, Nick Adkins was announced this summer as the program’s new head coach. Adkins was the defensive coordinator for the last four years and expects that unit to guide a young team.
4. PLATTE COUNTY
A senior class of only six players gives Platte County an awfully young roster, though not necessarily a depleted one. The team features talented junior and sophomore classes, which the Pirates hope can guide them back to the top of the conference for the second time in three years.
The Bulldogs will be young in 2014. Among the team’s projected top four offensive playmakers — running back Jacory Bell, tight end Darius Walker and wide receivers Arlonn Tolson and Terron Thompson — none are seniors.
The growth process has begun. Belton welcomed more than 100 players to its preseason camp, a 15 percent increase from last season. The Pirates were 3-8 in 2013, which was coach Todd Vaughn’s first year with the program.