LSJ Sports

Veteran passing game driving Titans this season

Sammy Cooper of Lee’s Summit West is one of three experienced receivers expected to give the Titans a strong passing game this season. Cooper is also the Titans’ backup quarterback.
Sammy Cooper of Lee’s Summit West is one of three experienced receivers expected to give the Titans a strong passing game this season. Cooper is also the Titans’ backup quarterback. Special to the Star

With three experienced receivers back and a second-year starting quarterback, it’s safe to say Lee’s Summit West is going to air it out this football season.

Safe, but not completely accurate.

“I would say there’s a little more passing, but our running game’s always open,” West quarterback Ben Kobel said. “If we need to run the ball, we’re going to run the ball.”

Like any other high-school football team, West strives for a balanced attack. But when it comes to returning offensive personnel, the Titans are decidedly unbalanced as they prepare for the start of the season.

Kobel is back, and he threw for 2,206 yards and 20 TDs as a junior last season. So are three of his favorite targets from last season: senior Cade Clemons (577 receiving yards, six touchdowns), junior Trevor Kardell (509 yards, four TDs) and junior receiver/“Wildcat” quarterback Sammy Cooper (three TD catches).

The Titans backfield, on the other hand, has a big hole to fill with the graduation of Phillip Brooks. None of the running backs on hand is even close to matching the Simone Award finalist’s 1,666 yards and 21 touchdowns.

That’s a big chunk of the 1,939 yards West gained on the ground last season, which complemented nicely with the 2,357 yards the Titans accrued through the air.

“We’re going to throw the ball, for sure,” LS West head coach Vinny Careswell said. “But I think we’ve got some backs. They’re not Phillips Brooks, but …”

Careswell believes senior Marcian Marshall, who moved in from Louisiana last year and ran for 136 yards and a touchdown spelling Brooks, could be an impact power runner this season. Senior Max Payne has speed and will also get some carries, as will newcomer Taylor Wilson, who has run a 4.4-second 40-yard dash.

But the main strength of this offense will rest with the guys throwing and catching the ball.

“When you get all four of them together, they’re like peas in a pod,” Careswell said. “They’re good kids; they kind of have the same sense of humor. I think they clicked really good last year and I think it’s just going to carry over to this season.”

Kobel feels like they’re clicking already during the first week of practice. All of them also play baseball, which caused them to miss some summer workouts, but he doesn’t think that’s hurt their early preparations.

“It’s been really nice having them back and knowing that they’re always there,” Kobel said. “I just know their routes and I know they’re going to have my back for any pass I’m going to put their way.”

Kardell, whose 26 receptions led the Titans last season, said he and his quarterback are already in tune.

“We’re always on the same page,” Kardell said. “I’ll look into him when I’m at wideout and we’ll just know, yep, we’re on the same thought process. We know what each guy’s doing and where everyone will be at the same time.”

With so many veterans who are so comfortable with the scheme, it would seem tempting to leave the Titans’ passing attack as is. But Careswell said offensive coordinator Sterling Edwards is planning some new wrinkles. He’d like to see the Titans stretch the field more.

All of which sounds fine to Kobel, who is already looking forward to the Titans’ season opener Aug. 24 at home against Park Hill.

“I think we’ll probably throw five or 10 more times a game, at least,” Kobel said. “I don’t know how much we’re going to throw it down field or short gains – it’s going to be all over.

“I’m real excited. The schedule is difficult but I know we have playmakers to win games and we’ll go far this season.”