Here is a team-by-team preview of the high school football teams in the Suburban Conference White Division. The teams are listed in projected order of finish this season by Sam McDowell, high school reporter for The Star.
After eight years as an assistant coach, Phil Lite has taken the reins at Staley, replacing Fred Bouchard. Lite inherits a perennial contender with some experience on offense. Senior running back Julian Ross rushed for 1,200 yards and 15 touchdowns last year. The defense will be led by senior linebacker Eli Ross, who tallied 134 tackles as a junior.
2. Fort Osage
The Indians claimed their first Missouri Class 5 state championship in program history last fall, but the offseason included a wealth of change. After coach Ryan Schartz accepted the school’s athletics director position, Brock Bult took over as head coach. While the 2015 Indians were led by Simone Award-winning quarterback Skylar Thompson, this year’s group will lean on the running game and tailback Isaiah Iloilo.
3. William Chrisman
The tide is turning at William Chrisman, which won four games in 2015 after back-to-back one-win seasons. Might the Bears be ready to further the progression? To do so, they will rely on an offense that returns nine starters, including all-conference quarterback James Bailey and all-conference center Trey Stout.
4. North Kansas City
The bulk of the Hornets’ offense is back this year, and that includes all-conference running back Damon Whitmill, who rushed for 1,486 yards and 14 touchdowns a year ago. With Whitmill, the Hornets plan to become a run-first offense. The defense is led by Nate Shook, an all-conference honorable mention lineman who is one of four returning starters for the unit.
5. Oak Park
After a one-win campaign, coach Kevin Keeton expressed satisfaction with the offseason turnout. How that translates onto the field remains to be seen. The Northmen will depend on two-way player Forrest Rhea, who will share the backfield load on offense and lead the secondary on defense.
After five straight seasons with a coaching change, William Perkins returns for his second year. So do nearly half his starters. The offensive line has added bulk, offering lanes for quarterback Mark Anthony Robins and running back Shakespeare Williams to move the football. Williams was also an all-conference defender last season.