Here is a team-by-team preview of the high school football teams in the Suburban Conference Red Division. The teams are listed in projected order of finish this season by Sam McDowell, high school reporter for The Star.
1. Liberty North
The newcomers to the Suburban Red Conference become the immediate favorites with a combined 10 starters back on both sides of the ball. The offense features three all-conference linemen, a perfect fit for coach Ken Clemens’ scheme, which demands physical play. Defensive linemen Daterraion Richardson is a two-time all-conference selection and will often serve as a two-way player.
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The lineup will encounter minimal change, with the Blue Jays set to return 17 starters this season. The offensive line is particularly experienced, and junior tailback Robert Rawie is gunning for a second straight 1,400-yard season behind it. There’s a lot to like about the defense, too, including all-conference senior Bennett Swope, who had nine sacks last year.
The program has made significant strides over the past three seasons, culminating in a playoff victory last fall. The on-field product will see turnover this fall with only five total starters back. Aaron Lehman and Alex Kimble are projected to take over the starting quarterback and tailback duties, respectively, leading the effort to make the resurgence last more than one year.
4. St. Joseph Central
The Indians made a coaching change during the offseason, and Phil Pitts has migrated from the University of Missouri, where he worked as a defensive analyst. He previously served as a head coach for Jefferson City Helias. The Indians could have success in his first season, with some standout athleticism on offense.
5. Park Hill South
The Panthers are a senior-heavy group with eight starters returning for the offense and seven more back on defense. In his second season, coach Mike Sharp has expressed optimism the program will show improvement this fall. He will put senior quarterback Zach Suchanick in the charge of the offense, with Jacob Springer and Dillon Thomas emerging as his top weapons at receiver.
The Bluejays make the jump to the Suburban Red Conference with an improved roster that returns five starters on offense and five more on defense. The defensive unit is headlined by junior Dae’Ron Jones, who intercepted seven passes as a sophomore. Harrison Johnson will be relied on as a two-way player.