1. PARK HILL
While the Trojans lost quite a bit from a team that reached the Missouri Class 5 state semifinals last season, they possess enough talent to make some noise again. Zach Neal and Dorian Clayton will split the load in the backfield after a preseason injury to tailback Matt Harris.
The Patriots were one of the Kansas City area’s top surprises of the 2014 season, but they will be tested by depth issues. Coach Gregg Webb is optimistic his defense will continue its improvement, and senior Jordan Salima is a weapon in the running game.
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3. ST. JOSEPH CENTRAL
With the most returning experience in the league, St. Joseph Central could take a step forward this season. The Indians have eight offensive starters back, and six more on defense.
In their second year in the conference, the Blue Jays have put an emphasis on running the ball better. The offensive line, led by Zane Shaddox, is bigger than it was last season, and sophomore Robert Rawie appears ready to handle the backfield load.
5. PARK HILL SOUTH
First-year head coach Mike Sharp’s long-term plan is to enact more discipline within the program. In the short term, the team’s top weapon, senior Alfoncio Rand, projects as one of the top pass-catchers in the conference.
Another season, another coaching change. William Perkins is the Eagles’ fifth coach in five seasons. He inherits a team that returns six starters on both sides of the ball.
Offensive player to watch
After running for 1,508 yards and 16 touchdowns last season, Truman tailback Jordan Salima returns in hopes of leading the Patriots to their second consecutive winning season.
Defensive player to watch
Park Hill junior defensive end Chester Graves, 6 feet 4 and 220 pounds, is as athletic as any defender in the city. Graves is the top-ranked recruit in the state for the Class of 2017, according to Rivals.com.
“We figured out last year that everybody in this conference likes to run the football,” Liberty coach Chad Frigon said. “So if you want to win games, you have to figure out how to stop the run.”