The Falcons saw its leading rusher from a year ago, talented running back Morgan Steward, move on to play at Missouri, but they have plenty of offensive talent back to defend their Class 5 state title. The list starts with senior quarterback Trent Hosick, who is set to join Steward at MU following the season. Hosick has plenty of talent returning along with him, including tight end Tyler Nugent and wideout Ryan Pierce.2. FORT OSAGE
One of the best defenses in Class 5 nearly led to an upset of Staley last fall, and the bulk of the players return aiming for revenge. Staley knocked out the Indians in the quarterfinals with a 7-6 victory, but the conference realignment offers the Indians a chance for payback. Joseph Tuimaseve is the vocal leader of the defense, the deepest group in Ryan Schartz’s eight years with the Indians.3. RAYTOWN
With the top two teams in the conference set, the battle for third place begins with Raytown. The Bluejays enjoyed their most successful season in 23 years last season, and they return enough personnel to repeat their success in 2012. Jason Ellison and Denzel Crawley provide size among Raytown’s front four, the strength of a defense that continues to improve.4. NORTH KANSAS CITY
If nothing else, the Hornets at least have quantity. A year after struggling with depth because of a small roster, nearly 80 kids will dress on Friday nights for North Kansas City. Patrick Hoard and Marcus Jones are set to split time at quarterback, giving the Hornets both a passing threat and a running threat.5. BELTON
With a small senior class, Pirates coach Mark Thomas will dish out the majority of playing time to sophomores and freshman. Senior free safety Sean Lewis is the exception. He will be asked to command the defense while the offense transitions from a spread look to a pro-style formation.6. OAK PARK
Chris Holt expects some growing pains in his first year coaching the Northmen, especially as the players learn his no-huddle wing-T offense, an unusual but effective attack. Bruising fullback Tiernan Samm will be featured heavily in Holt’s game plan. The Northmen will ask linebacker Ray McNair to captain the defense.7. WILLIAM CHRISMAN
If the Bears are to shed their 14-game losing streak, they had better do it quickly. Coach John Crutcher has placed a strong emphasis on starting off the season on the right foot behind a defense that includes four-year starter Chris Sheets. If they pick up an early victory, Crutcher believes the next dominoes will fall shortly thereafter.