Extra Points: Brian Spano 9/5
By Brian Spano PrepsKC Senior Writer
University Academy has an uphill climb in 2012. There really is no other way of looking at it. A new coach, a new quarterback, a new classification and low numbers are contributing to tough times for the small urban school located on Holmes Road just off of Rockhill Road in Kansas City.
The Gryphons are coming off of a relatively successful 2011 season, going 7-4, but falling in the Class 1 playoffs to Archie 20-6. That was after sweeping through a district that consisted of Drexel, Lone Jack and Cass-Midway, no cake walk to be certain of.
This season there are challenges abound for a school with enrollment less than 100. In its first game of the season last Friday against Center, University Academy suited up just 22 players and lost one in the first quarter when junior running back Vonzell Stamps went down with a dislocated elbow.
“We’ve had a hard time getting the kids out for football like we needed to get them out,” first year University Academy coach Dan Stanley said. “We’re not giving up on them. I’ve got a good coaching staff, and I’ve got some tough kids. I have a lot of kids that have never played before.”
To add insult to injury, the Gryphons move from Class 1 to Class 2 this year and amazingly play just one Class 2 team on their schedule. They also have a Class 1 team, but there are five Class 3 teams and a Class 5 team in Raytown to finish out the season.
“This schedule is a tough schedule, and we’re really still a Class 1 school,” Stanley added.
Now, the Gryphons are stuck having to play the hand they’ve been dealt.
In addition to the tough schedule and the low numbers, University Academy is moving forward without junior quarterback Dimonic McKinzy who transferred to Wyandotte in the summer. He accounted for more than 3,500 yards of the Gryphons’ offense a year ago.
“He is a great man, and he has forgotten more about football than I’ll ever know,” Center head coach Bryan DeLong said of Stanley. “What they’re doing over there is amazing, and I know they’ve taken a lot of hits. They’re a smaller school. Those guys will get it going over there.”
But what Stanley and his staff are doing in year one isn’t lost on the players. They know the work will be hard, the games challenging and the season a grind. They key is to keep working on what is right and find success out of opportunity.
“The main thing for us is conditioning,” said wide receiver and defensive back Jackson Beckett. “You could see it out there, our tongues were hanging to the ground, running both sides of the ball, special teams. It’s difficult. Another thing is getting to practice on time and focusing, and I think we’ll be all right. We just need to get it together.”
Regardless of how this season ends for University Academy, Stanley, his staff and his players will have made this a learning experience.
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