Extra Points: Brian Spano 9/30
By Brian Spano PrepsKC Staff Writer
It is truly amazing how strong the quality of high school football is in this part of the country. I look at it two ways: first, the top notch games we’ve seen in the first half of the season, and these will only get better as we head toward district play; and second, the number of solid high school football programs.
Over the last decade, or so, the quality of talent in this area, both Kansas and Missouri, has been nothing short of astonishing, and with that talent, you get better head-to-head matchups. I would also say that coaching would have something to do with it as well. Just look at the programs that have risen over that time.
Probably the best program that embodies the success and talent in the area is the Gardner-Edgerton Trailblazers. When Marvin Diener took over the program five years ago, the Trailblazers were coming off of a 2-7 season. Since then, they went 5-4 and were co-conference champions of the Frontier League in 2006, improved to 7-4 the following year and Class 5A regional champions, soared to 10-2 and sectional champions in 2008, and last year went 12-1 and ended as sub-state champions.
This year, the team is off to a 5-0 start behind the arm and legs of Nebraska recruit Bubba Starling. Now they are just a few short weeks from showcasing all that talent in a home game with St. Thomas Aquinas on ESPNU.
After five straight state championships at Harrisonville High School, Fred Bouchard decided to take on the monumental task of starting a football program at a brand new high school. So, he was hired three years ago at Staley High School and has had unbelievably immediate success.
In his first year, he led the fledgling program to a 9-3 record and a district championship. In 2009, they went 11-1 and repeated as district champions. This year, the Falcons sit at 4-1 with team leaders such as running back Evan Campbell and quarterback Michael Rich.
Raytown South saw a shift in its fortunes when former Kansas quarterback Kelly Donohoe took over the program in 1997. His first year, the Cardinals went 8-2 in the regular season, and won their first playoff game in 17 seasons when they defeated Marshall 42-12 in a sectional battle.
Donohoe left for Blue Springs after the 1999 season and current coach David Allie took over. Although there wasn’t immediate success, the Cardinals made it back to the postseason in 2004, but lost to Lee's Summit West, a school in its first year of existence. Then in 2008, Allie led the Cardinals to the state championship game only to fall short to Hazlewood East on the last play of the game. Last year, Raytown South came within one game of returning to the state championship, but lost to Fort Osage in the semifinals.
It might be easy to get a program up and running, but it’s sustaining success over a long period of time within that program that’s difficult.
Now that all of these programs have risen and with talent abound, if brings me to the first half of the 2010 season. Each game has provided a weekly postseason atmosphere with matchups so big and so important, the entire Kansas City press corps comes out to cover them.
Going back to week one, Rockhurst battled Blue Springs to a 7-6 win. Two weeks later, Rockhurst took out Blue Springs South. But it seems like whenever any team plays Rockhurst, it’s a big game. There was the epic battle between Ray-Pec and Lee’s Summit where the Panthers prevailed 53-49.
Then there was the shocking Olathe East 25-0 shutout of Olathe North. And finally, Gardner-Edgerton ousted Bishop Miege in an early season EKL tilt.
These are just a small sampling of games in the first half of this amazing season, and we still have district play to look forward to.
There is no question that the athletes are bigger, faster, stronger when football has become a year round activity. There’s no question the coaching has gotten better with legendary coaches building programs from scratch or reviving teams with long and storied traditions.
Any way you look at it, this second half of the season is going to be wild, so buckle up and enjoy it.
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