View From the Press Box: Dion Clisso 6/13

Dion Clisso

By Dion Clisso PrepsKC Managing Editor
Posted: June 13, 2017 - 10:55 AM

June is here which means the 2017 football season has officially begun. While regular practice and games don’t start until August, what is happening now goes a long way to determining wins and losses this fall.

As we start on 2017 we close out 2016 with the Papa John’s Kansas vs. Missouri All Star Game. The 26th annual contest is 7 p.m. Thursday at Blue Springs South. As usual some of the top players from both sides of the state line will do battle. It should be a good one as Kansas looks to break a six-game losing streak.

As I have gotten ready for this game it has allowed me to look back on the 2016 season. Lots of great teams, games and players in what was a fantastic year. It’s get me excited for what is coming this fall because high school football in the Metro never disappoints.

While 2016 was great the first few months of 2017 have been difficult. We’ve lost good people who had huge impacts on the game in our area. Three coaches passed away in the span of about two months and each will be missed.

I was lucky to know all three and I feel for the families and communities that don’t have them around anymore.

George Pirch was an assistant coach at Oak Grove and passed away in April after a battle with cancer. He was a great man who I met within days of starting my career as a sportswriter in 1991. He embodied everything a teacher and coach should be. He taught kids about life as much as he did school or sports.

Coach Pirch knew I went to the University of Missouri, was a huge fan and would always ask what I thought about the football or basketball team. He played for the Tigers and he made me feel important because he asked my opinion. He had forgotten more than I will ever know about Mizzou sports but he wanted to know what I thought.

Another loss was West Platte Head Coach Nate Danneman. He was killed in a car accident in April at the age of 37. Danneman was a talented young coach who made big impacts in Drexel and West Platte. I usually talked with him two or three times a season and it was easy to see why his players and students loved him. He was taken far too early.

Blue Valley Head Coach Eric Driskell was also taken too soon. He suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm while at the board meeting of the Greater Kansas City Football Coaches Association. Driskell passed way three days later.

The card from his memorial service is on a board my wife uses for pictures, cards and other mementos we receive. I walk by his picture and see his smiling face every day and it is still tough to believe he is not here.

I met Driskell as we were just starting PrepsKC. It was also when he was beginning his tenure as the head coach at Blue Valley. A tenure that was filled with as much success as any program in the Metro.

Driskell won a lot of football games and multiple championships but that isn’t what I will remember. It’s his dry sense of humor and his ability to make you feel like you were friends for years when you might have only known him for minutes.

When he passed a good friend of mine who also knew Driskell told me he felt like he had lost one of his best friends. Knowing that he and Driskell were more work acquaintances than best friends he said he shouldn’t feel that special but that was Driskell. He made everyone he came into contact feel special and feel like they were best friends.

The All-Star Game is a wonderful way to celebrate 2016 and we will celebrate. But we will also look back and remember those we have lost and not forget the special people they were.