The Missouri high school football district playoffs begin Friday. Here are five things to watch in the Kansas City area first-round matchups:
1. Rock don’t break?
Is this the return of the Rockhurst football dynasty? The Hawklets won four state championships from 2000 to 2010, but they lost 10 games over the past three seasons.
They’re back to form this season. Rockhurst has won seven straight games entering a Class 6 first-round matchup with Lee’s Summit North. That’s not a product of an easy schedule either. The streak has featured wins against three teams that played in state championship games last season.
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Senior quarterback T.J. Green has thrown 21 touchdowns this season. Perhaps even more impressively, he has completed 68 percent of his passes.
“I feel like we’re playing our best football at the right time,” Green said after last week’s win against Jefferson City.
2. One and done certainty
In a league that included defending state champions Blue Springs and Lee’s Summit West, Raymore-Peculiar wasn’t given much of a chance to compete for the Suburban Gold Conference crown. A 2-2 start didn’t change popular opinion, either.
But the Panthers reeled off five straight victories — capped with a win against Lee’s Summit West last week — to win the conference for the first time since moving up to Class 6.
What did they earn? A rematch with Lee’s Summit West. So either the Class 5 defending state champion (Lee’s Summit West) or the winner of the state’s toughest conference (Raymore-Peculiar) will be going home after just one playoff game.
Raymore-Peculiar quarterback Reed Davis threw a pair of touchdowns against the Titans last week, and running back Isaiah Truss topped 100 yards rushing for the eighth time in nine games.
3. Class 4 standouts
The top four teams in the Class 4, District 8 standings — Kearney, Platte County, Smithville and Van Horn — combined for only six losses this season.
That should add up to some intriguing playoff matchups.
Kearney has returned to Class 4, where it won three state championships (2002, 2003 and 2009). The Bulldogs, who open with Excelsior Springs on Friday, are led by senior tailback Reagan Frakes, who ran for 19 touchdowns in the regular season. Junior linebacker Cale Garrett had a team-best 97 tackles.
Platte County will face Benton in the first round. Smithville takes on Savannah, a team it defeated 37-27 in the regular season. And Van Horn plays host to St. Joseph Lafayette.
4. What a difference a year makes
A year after suffering through a winless season, the Truman Patriots have earned a home playoff game.
The Patriots, 5-4, lost their bid for a conference title when they were blown out by Park Hill last week, but they still finished third in Class 5, District 5. They will face North Kansas City, 1-8, on Friday. The two teams did not meet in the regular season.
Jordan Salima has taken the reins on Truman’s run-heavy offense. He has totaled 1,370 yards and 15 touchdowns on the ground this season.
Raytown, 2-7, will face William Chrisman, 1-8, in the same district. Fort Osage, the state’s top-ranked team, and Winnetonka were awarded byes in the district.
5. Wildcats vs. Tigers
The route to the Edward Jones Dome for the Missouri Class 6 two-time defending state champion won’t be an easy one.
Blue Springs, 6-3, opens district play Friday with a home game against Lee’s Summit. The Wildcats defeated Lee’s Summit 47-28 in the regular season, but the game stayed close through the first half.
Blue Springs has played better over the past two weeks after dropping back-to-back games to Rockhurst and Raymore-Peculiar, but it’s far from the dominant team it was in 2013 and 2012.
It will face perhaps the state’s top talent Friday: Tigers quarterback Drew Lock, who has thrown 25 touchdowns this season and only five interceptions.
Over the past two seasons, Blue Springs has attempted to disrupt Lock with pressure. Carlos Davis had 31/2 sacks in the regular season meeting. Of course, Lock still managed to throw three touchdowns.
To reach Sam McDowell, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/SamMcDowell11.