1. FORT OSAGE
In search of the first state championship in school history, the Indians project as one of the top threats in Missouri Class 5. It all starts with senior quarterback Skylar Thompson, though the Indians have an abundance of experience surrounding him, too. They have won 23 games over the last two years.
In coach Fred Bouchard’s final season, the roster features 39 seniors, many of whom saw extended playing time when the team finished 8-3 last season. The Falcons have a stout defense, led by all-conference linebackers Monterio Whiles and Eli Ross.
3. LIBERTY NORTH
After allowing only 9.1 points per game last year, the Eagles’ defense will be one of the best in the city once again, despite graduating three all-conference players. That unit could offer enough time for the offense to gather some traction late in the season.
Fitting with the conference theme, the Bluejays expect to be improved defensively, and they have adopted a mentality to “play fast, play physical and finish.” The group is led by linebacker Theo Smith and defensive lineman Dominique Hampton.
5. NORTH KANSAS CITY
It took the Hornets all of one week to match last year’s win total. The team is placing a higher emphasis on its running game this season, and with D.J. Whitmill as the go-to tailback, it’s easy to see why.
6. OAK PARK
The Northmen have improved their win total in three straight seasons. To make it four straight, they will rely on a defense that returns seven starters, including Brysen Stigger and senior linebacker Greg Coble.
7. WILLIAM CHRISMAN
A commitment to offseason work has second-year coach Scorpio Horn optimistic the Bears will improve on last fall’s one-win campaign, even with a young roster.
Offensive player to watch
It’s hard to point to anyone other than Fort Osage quarterback Skylar Thompson as the league’s top offensive weapon. Thompson, a Kansas State commitment, had 33 touchdowns last season.
Defensive player to watch
Liberty North junior Daterraion Richardson is the lead man on a fierce defensive line that pressures the quarterback, despite not having a blitz in the playbook.
“There’s a lot of good things that occur with a big senior class,” Staley coach Fred Bouchard said. “Most of all, they always know it’s their last go-round, and that can be motivating for a lot of guys.”