Here is a team-by-team preview of the high school football teams in the Suburban Conference Blue Division. The teams are listed in projected order of finish this season by Sam McDowell, high school reporter for The Star.
The Bulldogs halted the Webb City dynasty in the Missouri Class 4 state championship last fall, and while the 2016 team includes a bevy of new faces, the expectations haven’t changed. On offense, wide receiver Jess Davis, who caught nine touchdowns last year, is one of only two returning starters. The defense turns to senior Ethan Luft, who recovered a fumble to clinch that championship last November.
After notching their first winning season since 2007, the Pirates are focused on taking another step forward. But in addition to replacing tailback Zach Willis, who rushed for 41 touchdowns last season, Belton must revamp its offensive line after losing four seniors. Defensive lineman Roger McDaniel and Will Baker could emerge as the strength of the defense.
3. Platte County
After a season plagued by injuries, the Pirates have some talent to compete in Missouri Class 4. Quarterback Justin Mitchell, who has a Division I baseball scholarship to Oklahoma, will lead the offense, with all-conference running back Mike McNair sharing the load. Offensive lineman Derek Kohler is an all-state selection.
4. Raytown South
The Cardinals should have no problem running the ball on fresh legs this season, with three tailbacks slated to see major carries — Vontrae Booker, Jasir Cox and Sahron Cunningham. The defense will be reliant on its linebackers and defensive backs to allow the line some time to catch up to the speed of the game.
The Bulldogs have speed to burn, with quarterback Cirr Davis, running back Terrence Johnson and wideouts Javon Williams and Sylvester Brewster. They will mold their offensive scheme around that strength. In his second season as head coach, Jeremie Picard is aiming for his defense to follow the offense’s fast-paced brand of football.
In coach Jared Barge’s first season at the helm, Winnetonka is coming off a one-win season. The Griffins will rely on Michael Small to be a factor on both sides of the ball with his elusive speed. Defensive lineman James McMullen is the leading returning tackler. He had 72 total tackles last season, including four sacks.