High School Football Preview: How do last year’s top 5A and 6A teams look for the 2017 season?

Friday night lights are back on as we get ready for the high school football season. There are a lot of great teams around the Kansas City Metro area and we’re here to preview some of the top teams in Kansas and Missouri.

Mill Valley High School Football Team

The Jaguars went the distance in dramatic fashion last season, going 9-4 and winning their second-straight Kansas 5A title against Goddard in double overtime.

The road back to the title won’t be easy, as the Jaguars have only eight starters returning, six on offense and two on defense. Jaguars coach Joel Applebee said there is heavy competition for starting spots.

“They all understand that nobody is guaranteed a spot, so they are working very, very hard,” Applebee said.

On offense, the Jaguars will have a great rushing and passing combo. Senior quarterback Brody Flaming recorded 2,700 yards passing and 33 touchdowns, plus running for 1,297 yards and six touchdowns last season.

Junior running back Cameron Young will also be a big threat rushing for 1546 yards and 13 touchdowns last year.

Senior end Ike Valencia and junior safety Tanner Moore are the only returning defensive starters. Valencia logged 51 tackles and 7.5 sacks last season, while Moore 42 tackles and four interceptions.

“Those guys, especially with their experience in the past, will be able to lead and help the younger guys learn some lessons,” Applebee said.

 

Blue Springs High School Football Team

The Wildcats came just short of the Missouri 6A state title last year, losing 31-14 to Kirkwood High School. Blue Springs is equipped to make another run at the championship this season.

The Wildcats return eight offensive starters and six on defense.

“We’re an experienced team,” Wildcats coach Kelly Donohoe said. “Expectations are very high and our kids have worked really hard, so obviously we are real excited for what potentially could be a really good fall.”

Donohoe said seniors Jaylen Ivey and Michael Warmack, who both had 10-plus rushing touchdowns last year, and junior Aveion Bailey will give the team an excellent running back rotation.

A strong offensive line anchored by senior Daniel Parker, who’s verbally committed to play at Missouri, and junior Conrad Rowley should give these talented backs some sizable openings.

On defense, senior nose tackle Christian Boyd, who measures at 6-3 and 330 pounds, is coming off a 21-tackle season. Senior Izaiah Bello, who Donohoe called a “really phenomenal safety,” has the most tackles among returning players with 72.

Blue Springs hopes to stay healthy after injuries plagued the squad last year. By the end of the season, seven Wildcat starters were out with injuries.

“The good thing is we’ve got most of our guys back and they should be very hungry, especially those guys who missed the end of the season,” Donohoe said.

 

Blue Valley High School Football Team

Tigers coach Eric Driskell died in February, leaving the players and school mourning.

Blue Valley fell in the state title game to Derby. Only four starters, one on offense and three on defense, return from last season.

“We have a lot of guys that have not played a ton of reps on Friday night, so we are starting from ground zero,” said Tigers coach Allen Terrell, who replaced Driskell.

This is nothing new for the Tigers, however, as Terrell said they usually have a lot of first-year senior starters each season.

If anything, Terrell said as the new starters gain experience through the season, it will make them more dangerous in the playoffs.

“If I were an opposing team, I’d much rather play us in week one or two than week 8, 9, 10 or 13 just because I know our kids and I know they’ll get better every week,” Terrell said.

Blue Valley has some outstanding players moving from up from an undefeated junior varsity squad with some getting varsity reps in 2016.

Senior wide receiver Blake Brown will have a chance to be a top target this season. Terrell said Brown has good speed, makes big plays and is a great, physical blocker. Brown caught 28 passes for 278 yards and three touchdowns in limited varsity time. He also caught the two-point conversion to send Blue Valley to the championship.

Owen and Eric Olson will lead the Tiger defense as two of its returning starters. Senior linebacker Owen logged 88 tackles last year and junior safety Eric had 91.

The other big challenge the Tigers face is getting through the treacherous Eastern Kansas League.

“Our league prepares us for the state playoffs,” said Terrell. “By the time you reach the playoffs, your kids have seen excellent competition. If you don’t get just absolutely beaten up in our league, then you have a shot.”

 

Park Hill South High School Football Team

The Panthers had a turnaround season last year, recording their first winning record since 2013. They made a good run in the Missouri 5A playoffs, reaching the quarterfinals. Coming into this season, their goal is to build off last season’s success.

For them to do that, however, they will have to rely on a plethora of inexperienced starters. The Panthers have six starters returning, four offensive and two defensive.

Most of the offensive line is back, which Panthers coach Mike Sharp believes will help carry the team.

“We’re replacing almost all our skill kids, so we are going to have to lean very heavily on our offensive and defensive lines,” Sharp said.

A lot of this load will be put on senior offensive tackle Ben Becker, who has been a starter since his sophomore year.

“For us to have a good year, he needs to have a solid year on the offensive line for us,” Sharp said.

Senior quarterback Billy Eggers will be a first-year starter.

“He has a great demeanor to him and he’s a good leader, so we’re hoping he has the ability to take the reins,” Sharp said.

The Panthers have a pair of junior defensive ends in ET Reuben and Addison Snowball that show a lot of potential as first-year starters.

“I expect those kids, as long as they can stay healthy, to have a really good year, especially on the pass-rush side of things. They’re a pretty nasty duo,” Sharp said.

Senior linebacker Connor Campbell led the team with 103 tackles last season.

“It’ll be very important for us to get off to a good start in the season and allow those kids to feel a bit of a reward for their hard work, and if they get that reward, I think we can have a really good year,” Sharp said.

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Article by Drew Parks

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