Here is a team-by-team preview of the high school football teams in the Suburban Conference Gold Division. The teams are listed in projected order of finish this season by Sam McDowell, high school reporter for The Star.
1. Blue Springs
After an atypical .500 season, the Wildcats return 28 lettermen. Blue Springs has been a program that thrives on running the football and stopping the run, and with three linemen back on both sides the ball, a reliable foundation is in place. Daniel Parker is the big name among the bunch, a 6-3, 270-pound junior who has already committed to Missouri.
2. Park Hill
The Trojans have won 24 games over the past two seasons, but they make the bump to Missouri Class 6 this year. While the competition will only get tougher, the Trojans figure to remain a formidable opponent nonetheless. Defensive end Chester Graves is the top-ranked senior recruit in the state and had 42 tackles for loss last year. The offense returns six starters.
3. Lee’s Summit West
After 12 seasons as the defensive coordinator, Vinny Careswell enters his first fall as the head coach. He inherits a team with plenty of talent and a powerful offensive line to protect senior quarterback Cole Taylor, who threw 12 touchdowns last year. Cornerback Mario Goodrich returned three interceptions for touchdowns last season.
4. Blue Springs South
Greg Oder retired after the leading the Jaguars to their third Missouri state championship last season, but new boss Jon Oyler embodies the same physical defensive mindset. The Jaguars possess some speed, with Jerome Hawkins lining up on both sides of the ball. Oyler has labeled his team’s ability to run the ball and stop the run as the key to the season.
With a wealth of turnover on offense, the Panthers will ask an experienced and talented defense to pave the way early in the year. All-state defensive end Anthony Payne (6-3, 265) recently committed to Kansas State, and there are four more all-conference players spread across the linebacking corps and secondary.
6. Lee’s Summit North
There’s no shortage of speed for the Broncos, with top wideout Cameron Hairston and newcomer DaRon Davis, a transfer from Hogan Prep who has committed to Missouri. The defense boasts a similar skill-set, according to coach Jamar Mozee, who won five games in his first season on the job last fall.
7. Lee’s Summit
The Tigers lost the final six games of 2015, but four of those were by a one-possession margin. So it comes as no surprise that coach Eric Thomas has put an emphasis on winning the fourth quarter. Quarterback Dalton Hill and running back Salvatore Garozzo started last season, but the Tigers have five new starters on the line.