Who will be this year's beast in the East
By Stephen Bubalo PrepsKC staff writer
The Eastern Division of the Missouri River Valley Conference appears to have some interesting storylines heading into the 2012 season with some teams looking to continue their dominance, while others hope to start piling up more wins with new coaches.
Here’s a look at what to expect during the upcoming season in conference play.
The Huskers are coming off a historic season in which they went 13-2 in advancing to the Class 2 state title game, an eventual defeat at the hands of Lamar.
Head coach Steve Cook will try to integrate a handful of new players to go along with five returning offensive starters and six on the defense side. While getting his team to mesh will be key, he’s also hopeful last year’s magical run will spill over into this season.
“The enthusiasm of making it to a state title game was tremendous. The community really came together,” Cook said. “The boys have relived that a lot throughout the summer as far as motivation to work hard to try and make a push to do similar things this year.”
The Huskers will look to start the season on the right foot when they host Concordia Aug. 24.
The other conference power is the Spartans, as they are coming off a 12-2 season that saw them make the Class 3 state semifinals before losing to eventual state champ Logan-Rogersville.
Spartans head coach Rob Bowers saw his team take a bit of a graduation hit this year, as just four players return on offense and five on defense. With that in mind, he hopes to see a steady progression throughout the season.
“That’s our theme as we start practice, that we want to get better every play, every series, every quarter, every half and every game,” Bowers said. “Our goal is every time we’re out there, every rep we’re trying to get better. Hopefully, by the end of the season that’s when we peak and play our best football. We have a lot of little things to work on that will be the difference between us being a really good team and not.”
A home game against O’Hara will provide Richmond with its first test of the season.
A new season brings a new head coach and a new classification for the Eagles in 2012, as Mike Hedrick will now be in charge as they take the step down to Class 2.
Hedrick appears to have a pretty good group of kids in his first season at the helm, as the Eagles return seven starters on both sides of the ball from a team that went 5-5 a season ago.
And not surprisingly, the key early on during practice is getting acquainted with a new system.
“The big thing is, being new here with new kids, just trying to teach the system and get the basic bones of the plays on the offensive side,” Hedrick said, “and trying to get everybody working together and on the same page. And defensively, just continue what they did last year, which was run and chase to the football.”
The Eagles will travel to Nevada to start Hedrick’s inaugural season.
Another new coach on the scene is Andy Lierman, who will look to turn around the Minutemen after a 2011 season that saw them finish 2-8.
Lexington is a familiar place to Lierman, as he grew up there and played football for the Minutemen. He’s hoping a returning group of eight starters can turn things around.
“It’s awesome,” Lierman said of being back in his hometown. “You kind of forget what it’s like when you’re away from it. It’s been a blast. People here still love football. I think the kids are excited about it and we’re headed in the right direction. It’s just a process.”
Lexington will have its hands full when they start the season at Oak Grove.
The third and final new head coach is the Panthers’ John Cox, who had a successful run at Concordia and will now look to do the same at his new school.
He will have his work cut out for him in 2012, as the Panthers were just 1-9 a season ago and return four starters on offense and defense.
Cox isn’t trying to do too much with his new team in the early going.
“We’re just keeping it simple,” he said. “We have to simplify every position and get kids confident in the position they’re playing. We want to focus on each kid just doing his job. The kids that we’ve had all summer and were dedicated have stuck around. We’ve actually picked up a few more and it’s exciting we’re getting kids and having fun playing football.”
Knob Noster will begin the season on the road against Versailles.
Trojans head coach Greg Hough admitted he had a lot of kids playing varsity a season ago that probably weren’t quite ready, and it led to a 1-10 season.
But with seven starters returning on both sides of the ball, Hough is hopeful that experience in 2011 will turn into more wins in 2012. And it starts with a new offensive scheme.
“Our biggest adjustment is going from the spread offense to relying on our offensive lineman and running back Keaton Sullivan,” Hough said. “We average 240 pounds and in our class of football that is pretty big. They’ve done a good job of learning our new philosophy.”
The Trojans will open up the new season at home against Trenton.
Sabetha Blue Jays
St. James Academy Thunder
Blue Valley North Mustangs
Olathe Northwest Ravens
Olathe East Hawks
Excelsior Springs Tigers
Blue Springs South Jaguars
Spring Hill Broncos
St. Joseph LeBlond Golden Eagles
Lafayette County Huskers
Liberty Blue Jays
North Platte Panthers
Blue Valley Northwest Huskies
Blue Valley West Jaguars