1. LEE’S SUMMIT WEST
Despite losing stars in quarterback Luke Knott and tackle Evan Boehm, the Titans are the favorites to repeat as league champions with nine returning starters on defense. Those nine are headlined by linebacker Nick Ramirez and defensive end Jamone Boyd. The offense still has plenty of talent left, most notably on its offensive line, a sizable group that will lead the way for tailback Ryan Williams.
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Following a dip in 2011 from nine wins to four, the Panthers are set to reverse their luck. They return an experienced defense that includes seven starters. Alex Augspurg and Austin McCormick provide skill in the secondary, and wideout Craig Scott is a downfield threat.
3. PARK HILL
A new spread offense has been the focal point of the offseason for the Trojans, who expect to improve on last season’s 5-5 mark. The fresh look is designed to spread the ball around to players such as receivers Lane Holmes and Anthony Arens, as well as running backs Dondrell Hardiman and Kenyatte Harris.
4. ST. JOSEPH CENTRAL
A year after regularly putting up big yardage numbers and averaging nearly 30 points per game, the Indians are left with a lot to replace. Star running back Corey Jackson graduated after scoring 22 touchdowns his senior year. They will also have to replace quarterback Darrin Dudley, who totaled 1,600 yards of offense.
Coming off their second district title in 23 years last fall, the Patriots expect to compete in the upper half of the conference. They return 14 starters, led by all-conference linebacker Stuart Lauber, one of eight players returning for the defense.
In a competitive conference, the Eagles have the most work to do. Ruskin coach Matt Sullivan expects the team to make significant strides in his first season after a summer dedicated to the weight room. Kiestan Burrell will command a spread offense. His top target will be two-way athlete Terrello Holden.