The first year of varsity football didn't treat African Centered too kindly. The Knights finished 0-10 and were shut out seven times for the season. A new coach, Steven Trumble, and a higher turnout of players allows the Knights to expect an improved effort. As the newest team in the Interscholastic League, African Centered will welcome several players from Derrick Thomas Academy, which closed.
Four games into last season, coach Steve Hopkins moved Cory McCleary to middle linebacker and the Bobcats got a whole lot better. Basehor-Linwood finished 4-5 and missed the playoffs by one score. McCleary, a senior, returns as the team’s leading tackler. Hopkins calls McCleary the heart and soul in what the team does on defense. Hopkins is also counting on senior Jake Phillips, linebacker and defensive end.
Coach Tim Dorian sees close to 20 seniors on his roster and just knows this group should help the Cyclones win some games. A year ago he only had eight seniors and only three of them played. “We have a lot of experience and hopefully we are going to get back into the win cycle,” Dorian said. “The guys have been working really hard all summer, lifting and running. We are in pretty good shape.” Dorian is counting on senior RB-LB Connor Burns and senior Xavier Tucker, a WR/safety.
A couple of players to watch are senior quarterback Jordan Jackson and senior defensive tackle Kyle Dumler. Aslin said Jackson, a three-year starter, has a great throwing arm and is very athletic. Dumler has the opportunity to dominate at defensive tackle. Another senior to watch is defensive back Anthony Kubas. “We have a very positive outlook for the season,” Bonner Springs coach Lucas Aslin said. “We have a lot of returners on both sides of the ball, six on each side.”
The Yellowjackets enjoyed a historic season last year, but they said goodbye to 15 seniors after reaching the Missouri Class 3 quarterfinals. That will put more weight on the shoulders of senior slot back Gabe King and quarterback Raheem Muhammad. With the numbers down this year at Center, linemen Gary Starr, Robert Jones and John Teague will be asked to play both ways.
A year after winning five games, only three starters return for Central, which is left with an inexperienced and undersized bunch. An exception to that, however, would be junior Sam Smith, a 285-pound tackle ready to lead the offensive line into battle. Senior Ollie Todd will be the feature back running behind him. On the defensive side, look for junior defensive end James Tucker to be the playmaker.
The Wildcats have a new coach in Brian King, who was an assistant last year, and they return just five starters from the 2012 team that finished with a 5-5 record and a trip to the Class 4A state playoffs, losing to Eudora 13-0 in the first round. They return junior halfback Jason Johnson, who started as a sophomore.
The Bears are coming off a season in which they finished with six victories for the first time since 1997. Their key tailback, senior Kevin Coulter, is back from that team after topping the 1,000-yard mark. Coulter is a three-year starter. He'll be joined in the backfield by fullbacks Ramon Turner and Shawn Simmons, who will double as the linebackers to lead the defense.
New coach Kevin Kopecky has inherited a solid group of players to make an impact in the Frontier League. Kopecky comes to Eudora after three seasons at Leavenworth. He replaces Gregg Webb, who left to become head coach at Truman. Prior to his stint at Leavenworth, Kopecky spent 12 seasons as head coach at St. Thomas Aquinas.
Coach Josh Buford hopes the Tigers can repeat or improve on last year’s 7-3 record. He has a good returning group of seniors and talented sophomores. Two players to watch: Returning all-state wide receiver Nick Masoner, a workhorse who will get the ball a lot, and last year’s leading tackler Austin Creason.
A small senior class is likely to have the Eagles suffering through growing pains a second straight season. Grain Valley has 112 kids on its roster, but only eight are seniors. Two of those eight — running back Bryce Quinn and wide receiver Hunter Ramirez — will be counted on to move the ball in the spread offense. Ramirez had 780 yards receiving a year ago. The leading tackler in 2012, junior linebacker Brenton Leighow is back on defense.
Third-year coach Steven Jackson already sees the seed of a team that will grow from an 0-9 season a year ago. “We have great attitudes and a good work ethic,” Jackson said. Jackson is counting on senior quarterback Dedric Bradley (6-1, 180), a starter last season. Another player to watch is senior Gage Peterson, who will play running back and middle linebacker.
The Wildcats enjoyed another typical Harrisonville season in 2012, winning 10 games for the fifth straight season and reaching the Missouri Class 4 semifinals. Quarterback Zach Davidson is ready to make it six straight. He accounted for nearly 2,500 yards of offense a year ago and scored 28 touchdowns. He's one of eight starters returning on offense.
There's plenty of speed to go around at Hogan Prep, perhaps nowhere more noticeable than the combination in the backfield of the spread formation. Kewaun Riley is set to see most of the carries at tailback, while senior quarterback Isaiah Baylis is a dual-threat option who likes to run the football. The defense expects to fly to the football with Ryan Franks, Martinez Lewis, John Wilson and Horace McAlester returning.
Much of Immaculata’s nucleus started as freshmen last year, including quarterback Drew Sachen, who rushed for more than 1,000 yards. Paul Lednicky returns to anchor the offensive and defensive lines. Two newcomers, running back Michael Valencia and lineman Bruce Stanley will be keys this year as the Raiders look to improve upon their 2-7 record last season.
A poor start doomed Lansing last year, and the Lions aim to start this season on a different note. Krystian Abbott took over at quarterback midway through last season, and is the front runner this season. His main target will be wide receiver Khalil Bailey, and the main running back is Colin McQuillan. Lansing is hoping a year of experience helped a young team grow.
The Cardinals graduated 12 starters and have just two starters back on each side of ball. Fortunately, Coach Todd Dunn says he has a big junior class to fill the ranks. He said the kids’ attitudes are good and they want to prove people wrong. Lack of experience will be his main challenge, especially on the line.
A year after its roster featured only 20 players, Lincoln Prep expects to have nearly 40 this season. And many of those played key roles last year. First-year coach Henry Newell has gone to the wing-T offense, inserting Justin Dixson as his top running back. Dixson will also play defense, but Newell calls Joshua Van Dunk the leader of that group. Van Dunk, a junior, is an all-conference defensive tackle who also plays right guard.
Coach Jason Fenstermaker says he feels pretty good and has a lot of returnees. He’s implementing a new offense, defense and special teams approach. Up-tempo practices make him optimistic. Players to watch include sophomore QB Joey Brandon, Nick Kirk, who is moving from QB to RB/WR, and all-state DE Jake Hopper.
The football season has begun on a somber note as quarterback Auston McLellan died Aug. 18 after a car crash. A candlelight vigil was held last weekend at Louisburg High School Stadium. The Wildcats open their season Sept. 6 at home against Spring Hill.
The Bulldogs went 9-2 last season, but only have five starters returning from that squad. Jack Courtney, a junior, will take over the quarterbacking duties, where he will be joined by the experienced Nick McAferty and Drew Cerny in the backfield. The young parts will need to come together for McLouth to repeat last season’s success.
The Vikings have a good number of returning starters and all skill positions are back. RB Bobby Zielinski could set the school career scoring record for touchdowns. QB Petyon Semsch returns. He’s also an all-state punter. One other key will be third-year starting LB and OL Joey Beller. “We have a chance to be pretty good,” Coach Larry Burchett said.
The Jaguars won the Kaw Valley League title last year with a 6-0 record, but lost 58-37 to Bishop Miege in the first round of the Class 5A state playoffs. Fourth-year coach Joel Applebee returns 37 letter men from the 2012 team, including five offensive and seven defensive starters.
The Vikings won the Interscholastic League championship last year for the first time since 1952. Repeating the task may prove even more challenging. The team graduated 13 seniors, forcing many from this year's bunch to play both ways. Jordan Beamon, who picked off nine passes last year as a cornerback, will also play wide receiver. Kevon Graves and Brandon Nu will lead the defensive line.
It's been a long nine months for the Panthers, who saw their undefeated season end rather abruptly with a loss to Center last November. The good news is that most of that team is back. Oak Grove sees eight starters return on both offense and defense. Junior Aaron Graham rushed for 1,837 yards and 23 touchdowns and has drawn interest from several Division I programs. He'll run behind an experienced line, paced by Skyler Hulse. The defense expects to see a breakout season from Ethan Fugitt.
Coach Mark Thomas lays it on the line: “We are very, very young, with two seniors in the program. We’ve got our work cut out for us.” Odessa is the smallest school in the MRVC West. Thomas comes to Odessa after spending the last two seasons as head coach at Belton. It’s his second stint at Odessa. He was there from 1985-88.
“Offense is our strength,” Coach Jim DeMarea says. “We have number of returnees and we’re hoping to have good things happen.” Defensively, the Celtics will try to patch something together. DeMarea says he’s looking for aggressive players. Veterans on the offensive line will play a key role.
First-year coach Nick Chapman will stress the run. “We’re a pretty young team, with juniors, sophomores and freshmen starting. The kids put in work during the summer.” Tyler Crow, a junior defensive lineman, is a three-year starter.
Coach Rod Madden will lead his Osawatomie Trojans squad into its season opener on Sept. 6 at Neodesha.
The Bears have some pieces to work with after a rough 2012 season where the team finished 2-7. Running back Justin Sharp anchors the backfield and has four returning offensive linemen in front of him. There is plenty of returning experience on defense, highlighted by the linebackers.
Quarterback Drew Henn was lost to injury in Week 7 last year, and could only watch as the Panthers suffered a painful loss in the first round of the 4A playoffs. He’s back, along with four starting offensive linemen, running back Mitchell Sloan and wide receiver Luke Wilson. Paola finished last season strong and looks to start the 2013 season the same way.
Coming off a nine-win season, coach Sam Knopik said there is some added excitement around his program. Part of that is based on the personnel the Raiders welcome back, starting with running back Charlie Mueller. Tristan Threatt will take over under center after starting at receiver the past two seasons. The defense is led by senior linebacker Max Montague, a three-year starter.
Piper was 10-3 last season and finished second in the Kaw Valley League with a 5-1 record. Three-year starting quarterback Tanner Eikenbary threw for more than 2,700 yards and 31 touchdowns last season. Junior linebacker Colton Beebe, who is entering his third year as a starter, led the team in tackles as a freshman and was second last season.
The Roosters feature quite a few seniors this season who played key roles on varsity last year. It’s a good base to start from, Coach Kyle Roach said. Seniors will have to assert their leadership skills, Roach added. Three of four linebackers also return. Players to watch: OL-DL Johnny Berry, QB Josh Shewmaker and OL-DL Delainey Taala.
Nick Holmes returns at quarterback after rushing for 800 yards as a freshman in coach Pat McCollim’s option offense. The Rams finished 4-6 last year, and lost only four players to graduation. Blake Graham returns after topping the 800-yard mark as a running back. The defensive backs are the strength of the defense, and the unit has improved in the offseason.
Coach Rob Bowers: “We have 79 kids outs. I’m excited about the numbers. They’ve had a really good offseason, worked hard in the weight room and conditioning.” The downside, Bowers added, is he has just three starters back on each side of ball. Three returnees are back on offense: QB Kuinton Maxwell, OL Brock Bowers and RB Brock Stokes.
For the second straight year, the Hawklets are an inexperienced group. But that's not to say they're not talented. Coach Tony Severino says he has plenty of depth, even on the offensive line, where he must replace all five starters. Athlete Ahmad Tyler, last year's starter at quarterback, will shift between running back and wide receiver while also playing cornerback. Tight ends Luke Arbanas and Jayke Simsheuser are also reliable two-way players.
ST. JAMES ACADEMY
The Thunder had a record of 7-2 last year, but didn’t make the Class 4A state playoffs. Third-year coach Tom Radke returns five starters on offense and three on defense with senior quarterback Alex King leading the way for the Thunder.
ST. PIUS X
The Warriors are hoping momentum can carry over from last season, when they won five of their final six games after an 0-6 start. The defense, in particular, played well down the stretch. That unit is led by senior Joe McCoy, who will be joined at linebacker by Nicholas Kelliher and Gabe Akalugwu. Meanwhile, offensive lineman Jacob Kelliher and wide receiver Bennie Palmentere are the top returners on offense.
“We lost a lot, but we also gained a lot,” Coach Martez Wesley said. “I think our freshman and sophomore class are by far the type of caliber players we are looking for. We do have some seniors who have seen significant playing time. I think they are going to be a great senior class for us.” Three players Wesley is counting on are senior tight end Joshua Bruce, senior strong safety Terry Hunter and senior defensive end Derrick Gibbs.
The most successful runner and the top tackler in school history have graduated, but there's still a bevy of experience returning for the Warriors. Nolan Gromacki will move to running back, replacing Zach Parmenter, who totaled the most yards in school history. Gromacki will also be part of a linebacker corps that includes Scott Olson and Bailey Wilson. Those three will look to replace Joe Dominiak, the leading tackler in school history.
While Southwest remains a young team, most of a 17-player sophomore class saw regular action last season. The sophomore class is headlined by running back Howard Rice. Joining Rice in the backfield will be fullback Larahn Walker. Both players are physical runners, which is well suited for the team's between-the-tackles playcalling.
The Broncos won five games in 2012 and made the Class 4A state playoffs for the first time since 2006 and their first district championship since 2000. Fifth-year coach Anthony Orrick returns his quarterback, fullback and halfback from that squad.
The Sabres are coming off a 2-7 season. They plan to win more in a KCK League that has improved in the last four years. Sumner Academy will rely on its defense. Sumner returns seven on defense and four players on offense.
There won’t be much deception when Tonganoxie has the ball. Cole Holloway ran for 1,200 yards and got nearly 30 carries per game last year, and he figures to be a staple for the Chieftains. Shane Levy piled up more than 1,000-all purpose yards and led the team in tackles as a defensive back. The offensive line is anchored by 6-7, 270-pound tackle Cody Schneider.
The Golden Bears will try to improve on a 5-4 season, but will have to do it with a new nucleus. Two starters return on offense and four on defense. Two of the key starters are senior quarterback Paul Berry and wide receiver Sirr Thadeus Green. Second-year coach Jeremy Milne likes all the things Berry brings to the table. “We feel he can play anywhere on the field,” Milne said.
Lack of participation may prove to be the Gryphons' tallest hurdle this season. Only 24 players will be on the roster. Second-year coach Dan Stanley, however, likes the players he has. The offensive line, which includes Dominic Richardson, Malik Abdullah and John Bigby, is the strength of the team, Stanley says.
In an attempt to become more diverse offensively, the Falcons plan to implement the option into their playbook. Coach Jeff Tolbert says he has the personnel to run it. For starters, Van Horn returns four of its five offensive linemen from a year ago. Add to that, senior quarterback Anthony Winningham — known for his feet as much as his arm — spent the summer fine-tuning his timing within the option system.
The Wildcats have a fairly small senior class, said coach Bryan Salsgiver. He expects senior quarterback Kalem Harrison, senior middle linebacker Marvin Bowens, senior wide receiver Marvin Bowens and senior safety Shakair Love to lead a large junior class. “Our expectations are very high,” Salsgiver said. “Last year we competed in a lot of close games in league. We missed out barely from tying for a league championship.”
First-year coach Nate Danneman spent the last two years as head coach at Drexel. He said he has a good group of kids, a strong senior class and good leadership. He’s still implementing offensive and defensive schemes, feauring an option-based offense and 4-4 defense. Seniors Colton Goodlety (FB-LB) and QB Jack Callahan will play key roles.
The Bulldogs are the defending Kansas City Kansas League champion and are the favorites to repeat. Part of their success will be the beef up front. Seniors Marlon McKeithen and Jesus Guzman and junior Lester Hall all weigh over 250 pounds and have the muscle to push opponents around. Another player to watch is senior Dimonic McKinzy, a 6-1, 213-pound quarterback that many are calling a Division-I prospect.