The state championship banners are painted on the walls of the Lee’s Summit West fieldhouse, which borders the football field. A set of celebratory photos line the press box atop the Blue Springs South football stadium bleachers.
Wherever they may be placed, the items are reminders of the tradition each program has built over the past decade — and reminders of the expectations in place for new head coaches.
As Missouri high schools opened football practice Monday for a season that begins in less than three weeks, Lee’s Summit West, Blue Springs South, Staley and Fort Osage are tasked with replacing long-tenured, championship-winning coaches.
Easier said than done.
“For sure, there’s big-time pressure,” said Lee’s Summit West first-year head coach Vinny Careswell. “We win here at West. The expectation is for me, as the head coach, to carry on that tradition.”
The first day had its hiccups. The Titans scheduled a morning practice that was interrupted by a heavy downpour, limiting them to less than an hour on the field.
But there will be many days yet to come under a new regime. Careswell is Lee’s Summit West’s second coach. He replaces Royce Boehm, who retired after winning three state championships.
Blue Springs South coach Jon Oyler has a similar challenge, stepping in for the retired Greg Oder, who won Missouri Class 6 titles in 2006, 2011 and 2015.
After Fort Osage coach Ryan Schartz delivered the Indians’ first Missouri Class 5 state championship last fall, he accepted the school’s athletic director position, leaving the football post to Brock Bult.
Staley has turned to Phil Lite to replace its only coach, Fred Bouchard, who accepted a district job.
All four schools plucked assistants from their own staffs, perhaps the most recognizable symbol of programs wanting to carry on an existing culture rather than starting anew.
“It’s big shoes to fill,” said Lite, who served as Bouchard’s defensive coordinator at three different locations. “But we feel like our basic philosophies stay the same. We’re all about playing as many kids as we can in our program, and talk about playing smart, playing hard and playing together. Those are all things I learned from coaching with Fred.”
While the foundation will remain the same, the coaches will almost certainly mix in their own wrinkles.
Staley has further emphasized its offseason weightlifting program, and Lite said he feels the players are already nearing game shape on the first day of practice. Lee’s Summit West players have talked about an effort to increase the on-field intensity.
“With a new coach, I feel like we’ll still have to prove ourselves,” Lee’s Summit West senior running back Kevin Knox said. “But a lot of the players came in comfortable with the new coach because he really understands Titan football, what we do and how we play.”