The camps are over and the off-season workouts have come to a close. Soon, it will all begin for real for Missouri high school athletes.
Practices for the fall sports season begin Aug. 6 and most teams will see their season start up three weeks later. The first football Friday night will be Aug. 24, a week later than last season.
Before everything begins in earnest, here’s a look at some of the top storylines that could come out of this season.
New neighborhood for Tigers
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Lee’s Summit High School had always been the big kid on the biggest block. That isn’t the case anymore.
Lee’s Summit will begin play this fall in the Suburban Red Conference, a step down from the big-school Suburban Gold. Declining enrollment dropped Lee’s Summit, now the smallest of the city’s three public high schools, out of the Gold division when the conference announced it new alignment last November.
Lee’s Summit North and Lee’s Summit West remain in the Gold division, which means Lee’s Summit will no longer be playing home-and-home matchups with its crosstown rivals. North is still on the Tigers’ football schedule, but they won’t meet West this season.
Plan on seeing the Tigers on the road? Then you’ll be taking some trips up north. Lee’s Summit’s new conference rivals are Liberty, Liberty North, Park Hill South, St. Joseph Central, Staley and Truman.
Broncos busting out?
Lee’s Summit North surprised the Kansas City area football scene last season. The Broncos aren’t likely to surprise anyone this season.
North went 6-4 last season for its first winning record since 2001. It beat Lee’s Summit for the first time in 10 years, stunned Class 5 power Liberty and came within a touchdown of knocking off Rockhurst in district play thanks to a power running attack that accounted for more than 2,500 yards and 27 touchdowns.
That ground game was a different look for a North team that had mostly thrown the ball in the past. But there will be no mystery to what the Broncos will do offensively this season. Quarterback Christian Carter returns after rushing for 1,037 yards and 10 touchdowns last season. So do running backs John Eldridge, who accounted for 599 yards and 10 TDs, and Ontario Russell, who had 572 yards and five TDs. Russell committed last week to Missouri State.
Titans still have talent
Lee’s Summit West will have two big-name talents to replace this football season with the graduation of Mario Goodrich and Phillip Brooks. Goodrich, an all-state defensive back/wide receiver, is off to Clemson. Brooks, a Simone Award finalist running back, is walking on at Kansas State after rushing for 1,666 yards and 21 touchdowns.
But West’s cupboard is hardly bare. Quarterback Ben Kobel returns for his senior year after throwing for 2,206 yards and 20 TDs last season. So does backup Sammy Cooper, who also caught three TDs at wide receiver.
And Kobel will have his two top targets back from last year: senior Cade Clemons (577 yards, six TDs) and junior Trevor Kardell (509 yards, four TDs).
Birth of a rivalry?
As two private schools about the same size in the same city, Summit Christian Academy and St. Michael the Archangel seemed destined to create a football rivalry.
Summit Christian and St. Michael will meet for the first time in the season-opener for both teams Aug. 24 at Lee’s Summit High’s Bud Hertzog Stadium. The Eagles will be starting their second season under coach Todd Berck, while the Guardians will be starting their second season of their program.
Summit Christian finished 6-5 last season with five wins in its last six games after struggling early on. Sophomore quarterback Grayson Sprouse returns after throwing for 1,136 yards and seven TDs last season as does senior running back Josh McConnell, who rushed for 1,369 yards and 18 touchdowns.
St. Michael will be looking for its first victory after going 0-9 in its inaugural season. The Guardians will also play their first postseason football game this year after not being assigned to a district last year.
The Titans of softball
Lee’s Summit West came within a game of making a second consecutive trip to the Class 4 state softball tournament last fall. This year, the Titans should be primed for another deep postseason run.
West will sport the best pitcher in the metro area in Jordan Weber, a Missouri commit who was 23-3 with a .806 ERA as a junior. Weber gave up just 20 earned runs while striking out 314 over 173 2/3 innings.
West will also have another solid arm in senior Alexis Wilds (6-0, 1.03 ERA). All-state catcher Maddie Harris (.500 batting average, seven home runs) also returns, as do senior shortstop Carson Staponski (.391, five homers) and senior center fielder Kloee Arbuckle (.289, 28 hits).
Tigers roar in soccer?
Lee’s Summit’s boys soccer team won its fourth district title and third Suburban Gold Conference crown in five years last season. The Tigers can’t defend their conference title, but they can probably expect another big season.
Coach Dave Wiebenga will have most of the major players back from that 13-9 team that saw its season end with a loss to Sedalia Smith-Cotton in the Class 4 sectionals. That includes forward Keenan Johnson, the Tigers’ leading scorer with 12 goals, and midfielder Jackson Wood, the Suburban Gold’s player of the year last season.
Lee’s Summit will also have its entire defense back, led by conference defensive player of the year Ian Shores.
Lee’s Summit North, which lost to Lee’s Summit 1-0 in the district final, has some holes to fill but will still have back senior midfielder Kyle Rock, who had five goals and a team-best seven assists last season. Lee’s Summit West had only three seniors on last year’s 9-13-1 squad.