In their quest for a third straight trip to the state semifinals, the Bulldogs must replace their leading passer, rusher and receiver from last season. But the cupboard is rarely bare at Kearney, which was presented with a nearly identical challenge in 2014 and responded with 12 wins.
2. PLATTE COUNTY
The Pirates have eight offensive and eight defensive starters back from a team that won nine games in 2014. Quarterback Justin Mitchell leads a spread-it-out offense that will seek to use the run to set up the pass.
3. RAYTOWN SOUTH
The school is set to play inside its home stadium for the first time in 54 years. The Cardinals possess a lot of speed on defense, and the offense will welcome back quarterback Jabril Cox.
In coach Todd Vaughn’s third season, the Pirates appear poised to take yet another step forward. The offensive weapons are plentiful, led by running back Zach Willis.
In a deep conference, the Griffins have managed 30 wins over the last four seasons, but they have a lot to replace this year. Two-way player Djimon Colbert is one of the league’s top talents.
After a young team fought through growing pains last fall, the Bulldogs have a senior-heavy roster in coach Jeremie Picard’s first season on the job.
Offensive player to watch
Raytown South had one of the best offenses in the city last year — scoring at least 26 points in each of the first 11 games — before quarterback Jabril Cox tore his ACL. He returns healthy this fall.
Defensive player to watch
Kearney senior Cale Garrett could be one of the most underrated players in the Kansas City area. He had 157 tackles last season and is set to earn his fourth varsity letter.
“Flying under the radar is an easy thing to do because there’s no pressure,” Platte County coach Bill Utz said. “It’s going to be interesting to see how (we) perform when (we’re) expected to win games.”