1. Can Blue Springs South, Fort Osage or Kearney repeat as state champions?
When the 2015 season concluded, Kansas City-area programs were hoisting the Missouri state-championship trophies in the three largest classes — Blue Springs South in Class 6, Fort Osage in Class 5 and Kearney in Class 4.
Will any of the three go back-to-back?
The odds are tall. Blue Springs South and Fort Osage are entering new coaching regimes with Jon Oyler and Brock Bult, respectively, which will require some time to adapt. Kearney is replacing 80 percent of its starting lineup.
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But the cupboards are far from bare. Blue Springs South has a unique weapon with speedster Jerome Hawkins, and Kearney wideout Jess Davis offers a similarly tough matchup for opposing defenses. For Fort Osage, tailback Isaiah Iloilo is back after emerging during the playoff run last fall.
2. Who are the early-season favorites for the Simone Award?
It’s never too early to construct a Thomas A. Simone Award watch list, is it?
The award reserved for the top player in Kansas City has gone to a quarterback two straight seasons, but the 2016 recipient could come from another spot on the field.
Lee’s Summit North transfer Da’Ron Davis, a Missouri commit, is a dynamic player who can work out of the backfield or outside the hashmarks. While playing for Hogan Prep last fall, Davis totaled 2,366 yards and scored 30 touchdowns. He figures to become an immediate factor in the Suburban Gold Conference.
Staley running back Julian Ross is back to lead the Falcons’ ground game after rushing for 15 touchdowns last season.
Or might this be the year the award goes to a defender? If so, Park Hill senior Chester Graves is a name to watch. The top-ranked senior recruit in the state had 42 tackles for loss last season.
3. Will Kansas City continue its dominance in Missouri Class 6?
The big-class state-championship trophy has been handed to a Kansas City-area school in five of the past six seasons.
Which teams could keep the momentum alive? Blue Springs, Blue Springs South, Park Hill and Lee’s Summit West are ranked in the state preseason media poll.
Blue Springs is coming off a 6-6 season, but the Wildcats return 28 lettermen, including Missouri commit Daniel Parker, a junior who is one of three linemen set to pave the way for a powerful running game that will feature multiple rushers. The Wildcats won back-to-back titles in 2012 and 2013 and could be an early-season favorite to represent Kansas City in the Show-Me Bowl again.
4. Which under-the-radar teams could make some noise?
The football history at William Chrisman has left much to be desired. The Bears haven’t finished .500 since 2010.
A turnaround might be on the horizon. The team returns nine offensive starters after winning four games in 2015, including a pair of all-conference performers — quarterback James Bailey and center Trey Stout.
The Platte County Pirates were eliminated from the Class 4 playoffs with a 43-3 drubbing last November, but injuries ravaged the back half of their season. Healthy again, including quarterback Justin Mitchell, and the Pirates appear poised to be one of the area’s most competitive teams in Class 4.
5. Which small-class schools will contend for state championships?
Center High School has won 18 games over the past two seasons, and it returns a total of 13 starters this fall. Add to that, the Yellowjackets have dropped to Missouri Class 3 this year after spending the previous two years in Class 4.
Center running back Norvell Trent rushed for 2,000 yards last season, and quarterback Amaun Ryan threw for 20 touchdowns.
Center is one of a few local programs who could make some noise in Class 3. Odessa welcomes back a healthy dose of starters after finishing runner-up last season, and Oak Grove has reloaded after winning the title in 2014.