Eight days before the NCAA Division I football season kicks off and nearly three weeks before the NFL does the same, high schools across Missouri will celebrate opening weekend Friday with a full slate of games.
The Star presents its three players and three teams to watch for 2017:
Mario Goodrich, Lee’s Summit West
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The list must start with the versatile, do-it-all talent from Lee’s Summit West. Goodrich committed to Nebraska in the offseason, snubbing offers from Southeastern Conference schools and Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri. He projects as cornerback in college.
But he won’t be limited to one role with the Titans. They will instead look to get the ball in his hands in any way possible. He’ll return punts, catch passes and even take a few handoffs on end-arounds.
But he has an ability to make plays even when he’s not the intended target. As a junior, Goodrich intercepted eight passes, and he concluded four of them by walking into the end zone.
Daniel Carson, William Chrisman
The game-changers don’t just reside on the offensive side of the football.
Carson has the combination of size, speed, athleticism and speed to make any offense gameplan around him. It’s no wonder he has drawn nearly two dozen Division I offers, including Alabama, Ohio State and Oklahoma. He is 6-5, 275 pounds with lightning-quick speed around the edge. A year ago, he tallied 13 sacks.
Amaun Ryan, Center
How about some love for the small class?
The Center Yellowjackets have improved their postseason position three straight seasons, reaching the Class 3 quarterfinals last year, and Ryan has been in the center of the surge.
He completed 77 percent of his throws last year for 2,257 yards and 32 touchdowns compared to just three interceptions. But the stat that truly defines Ryan is his record. He is 22-3 as a starting high school quarterback.
It’s not just that the Wildcats took second in Missouri Class 6 last season and have become so motivated to win that senior lineman Daniel Parker Jr. literally put up a picture of his tearful reaction to the state-championship loss in his bedroom.
Rather, Blue Springs has a ton of talent on both sides of the ball, and it’s coupled by a ton of experience. The Wildcats could start 11 seniors on defense and eight more on offense. Parker, a Missouri commit, is expected to contribute to both groups. The backfield is so deep that the coaching staff’s biggest dilemma might be finding a way to get all the playmakers enough touches.
Yes, the Falcons lost running back Julian Ross, The Star’s All-Metro player of the year, to graduation.
But there’s a whole lot else coming back from a team that reached the Missouri Class 5 state semifinals. To be precise, the Falcons return eight defensive starters and six more on offense, including senior-to-be quarterback John Raybourn and his top wideout, Rod Criss.
The Trojans were much better in 2016 than their 6-4 record indicated. They held a fourth-quarter lead in all 10 games.
Quarterback Billy Maples is in line for his third season under center after 41 touchdowns over the past two seasons. And he’s got some weapons joining him on offense, including halfback Dorian Clayton and wide receivers DJ Johnson and Ronnie Bell.
The defense isn’t light on flair, either, with cornerback Devin Haney returning after breaking a school record with 26 passes defended.