Here are some Missouri high school football players, teams and storylines to watch this season.
A prized class
The national high school football-recruiting spotlight will brighten the state of Missouri this fall. Per Rivals.com, the state has eight four-star seniors. It hasn’t had more than five since 2010.
With the St. Louis area housing the top three ranked players, according to Rivals, Lee’s Summit West senior Mario Goodrich is the Kansas City metro’s top recruit at No. 4 in the state. Goodrich, a Nebraska commit, is a two-way player for the Titans whose future at the next level is likely on the defensive side of the ball. As a junior, Goodrich had seven interceptions, and he returned four of them for touchdowns. Even if defenses opt to throw the opposite way, Goodrich will be offered the opportunity to make game-changing plays on offense or special teams.
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Most national recruiting websites have pegged Christian Brothers College wide receiver Kamryn Babb as the head of the senior class in the state, but Babb tore a ligament in his knee during preseason practice earlier this month. He is expected to miss his entire senior year.
The majority of the state’s premier talent is on defense, and the Kansas City area falls in that line. Blue Springs lineman Daniel Parker Jr., who has committed to Missouri, will play both ways for the Wildcats, perhaps the team to beat in Missouri Class 6 after finishing runner-up in 2016. Parker did not allow a sack as an offensive lineman but plans to play defense in college.
William Chrisman defensive end Daniel Carson is a menace in pass-rushing situations. He had 13 sacks as a junior and is weighing offers from nearly two dozen schools. Kansas, Missouri, Kansas State and Alabama are among the programs to present him an offer.
Park Hill cornerback Devin Haney returns for his senior season to lead a talented defense after he had five interceptions and a school-record 26 passes defended in 2016. Haney plans to attend Northern Illinois and is one of a handful of Trojans drawing Division I interest.
Grandview defensive end Cartez Crook-Jones committed to Kansas in February. He has shown a knack for making plays, most notably chasing down quarterbacks. Crook-Jones is a fearsome presence on the edge at 6-4, 240.
The offensive playmakers
While the aforementioned Goodrich and Parker are slated for major offensive roles, the state has plenty more capable of turning the momentum of a game with a single play.
Liberty senior Robert Rawie is one of the most dynamic running backs in the state. He ran for 2,102 yards and 23 touchdowns last season — including a school-record 440 in one game — despite defenses game-planning for him. This will be his third season as the full-time starter.
Lee’s Summit senior Somaj Brewer was one of the areas most productive wide receivers while playing in the Tigers’ spread offense. Brewer will have to develop chemistry with a new signal-caller to replicate the 938 yards and 17 touchdowns he totaled last fall.
In the small class, Center senior quarterback Amaun Ryan is entering his third year as a starter, trying to lead the Yellowjackets to at least eight victories for the sixth straight season. Ryan had a ridiculous 32:3 touchdown-to-interception ratio last season and was named the West Central Conference offensive player of the year. Ryan is 22-3 in his high school career as a starting quarterback.
When Ken Clemens elected to leave Liberty North and return to coach Oak Park, his alma mater, it set off a chain reaction in the Suburban Conferences. Liberty North plucked Greg Jones from Kearney, and Kearney promoted assistant Josh Gray.
There are more.
Nearly a quarter of the Suburban Conference schools are employing new head coaches this season, with Raytown, Truman and William Chrisman also on that list.
The defending champion
The Harrisonville Wildcats were the only local Missouri program to bring home a state championship last year, when they defeated Kearney to capture the Class 4 prize.
The leader from that team, Morgan Selemaea, who rarely left the field, has graduated, but the Wildcats still return five starters on both sides of the ball for fourth-year head coach Brent Maxwell. Running back Joe Bowers is among that bunch. He ran for nine touchdowns and averaged better than 7 yards per carry last year.
The state championship games left the dome in St. Louis last fall, finding a new home for the first time in two decades. The sites will flip-flop this season.
The Missouri Class 6 state championship will be played at 3 p.m. on Nov. 18. at Missouri State’s Plaster Stadium. That’s a Saturday afternoon.
The Missouri Class 1-5 championship games will take place the following weekend, split over Friday and Saturday at Memorial Stadium on the Missouri campus.