Small Six loaded with young talented teams
By Stephen Bubalo PrepsKC staff writer
The Suburban Small Six has a little different look to it this season – with the additions of Raytown South and Winnetonka, to go along with mainstays Grandview, Kearney, Platte County and Liberty North – but that only stands to make the conference stronger.
Here’s a quick look at what this upcoming conference season could bring.
Bulldogs’ Head Coach Andy Leech is in his third season at the helm with Grandview and is hoping for things to turn around from a 2011 campaign that saw his team go 2-8.
While the team returns seven players on offense, Leech knows the key will be on the defensive side, where four players are back.
“The big thing is defense. We gave up a lot of points last year. It comes down to fundamentals defensively,” he said. “The third year is kind of the payoff year. When I took the job I knew we had a special group of freshmen. A lot of them will be third-year varsity starters.”
Leech and company start the season on the road against Oak Park.
The Bulldogs are coming off a 9-3 in which they advanced to the Class 4 Sectional game, but this season brings multiple challenges with it for head coach Greg Jones and his staff.
Not only will they have to replace several starters, with just five back on offense and only two on defense, but the Bulldogs are also making the jump up to Class 5.
“It’s always exciting when a new year starts,” Jones said. “We’re excited about moving to Class 5 and competing at a higher level and seeing what we can do there. The younger kids have really stepped up. The ones that we thought would be good players are playing better than we expected.”
Kearney will start the season Aug. 24 with a road game against North Kansas City.
The Eagles will be the most experienced team in the conference coming into the season, returning nine players from an explosive offense last year, as well as six on defense.
Running back Antwynn Beavers is the offensive catalyst and will try and get the Eagles back to the playoffs after a 6-5 season last year.
“This is the first time as a coach that I’ve had as experienced of a group that we do on offense right now,” head coach Ken Clemens said. “We’re able to do a few more things than we’ve done in the past. We want to play fast, we want to play physical and we want to eliminate mistakes and enter the competition with some confidence. We are playing some tough teams early in the season.”
Liberty North hopes to get started on the right foot with a win at Ruskin to begin the season.
The Pirates look to be in a similar position as rival Kearney, having to replace several starters on both sides of the ball.
Only three players return on offense, while five will be back on defense.
Platte County head coach Bill Utz said the beginning of the season would be key for the inexperienced players stepping into the spotlight.
“We just need to get the kids that are in those roles that have been filled by experienced seniors to step up and make plays and to get through their growing curve early,” Utz said, as his team looks to build off a 7-4 season in 2011. “By seeing some live reps they should be able to get that done.”
The Pirates start the season at William Chrisman.
The Cardinals are not only moving into the Suburban Small Six this season but they’re also headed down to Class 4 and they’ll look to make a statement with seven players back on offense and five on defense.
Head coach David Allie looks to bring a strong team into the conference just a season after finishing 7-5 and advancing to the Class 5 Sectional game.
“The kids have been working hard all summer and we’ve got some great leaders,” Allie said. “The move down to Class 4 is exciting. We get to play some teams we haven’t played in a long time, but we’re anxious at the same time because we’re not familiar with those teams.”
Raytown South will be the lone conference team to start its season at home, taking on Park Hill.
The Griffins hope to make a strong impression in their new conference as well, and they’ll need some new players to step up if they want to make that happen.
Winnetonka returns four players on both offense and defense from a team that went 7-5 last year and lost a close game to Fort Osage in the Class 5 Sectional.
Head coach Sterling Edwards hopes some new leaders emerge early in the season.
“Our focus all summer long has been getting our guys has many reps as we can and we’re looking for leaders right now. We’re looking for kids to step up,” he said. “We think we’ve got some team speed and talented kids. They don’t have a lot of experience yet, but hopefully, we’ll get better as the season goes along.”
Winnetonka will get a tough test early when they start the season at Liberty.
Park Hill Trojans
Bishop Ward Cyclones
Jefferson West Tigers
Sweet Springs Greyhounds
Hogan Prep Academy Rams
Lafayette County Huskers
Seneca-Nemaha Valley Raiders
St. Thomas Aquinas Saints
Excelsior Springs Tigers
Kansas City Central Blue Eagles
Lees Summit North Broncos
Pembroke Hill Raiders
Shawnee Mission Northwest Cougars