West Central Preview

By Dion Clisso PrepsKC Managing Editor
Posted: August 17, 2014 - 11:05 AM



The West Central Conference has a new look to it for the 2014 season. The same teams return this season but Nevada joins Center, Clinton, O’Hara, Sedalia Smith-Cotton, St. Pius X and Warrensburg to make it a seven-team conference that stretches from north of the Missouri River to just north of Joplin.

The Conference has been won by Center the last two seasons and the Yellowjackets could again be a favorite. Center lost a talented group but the Yellowjackets have done a good job of reloading the last few seasons.

While Nevada is new to the conference another school has a new coach and will be opening a new stadium by the end of the season. Smith-Cotton’s longtime coach Mark Johnson retired and assistant Ryan Boyer took over. The Tigers will be moving to a new stadium on campus near the end of the year.

Let’s take a look at the teams in the West Central this season.

Center

2013 record: 8-3/5-0 Conference Champions

The Yellowjackets have been one of the most talented and physical teams in the West Central the last few seasons. Even with graduation losses from the 2012 season Center rattled off eight wins and another conference title last year.

There are several talented skill players with experience returning for Center this season but the Yellowjackets success will be determined by how well both sides of the line play. There are a few players back but depth will be key especially when the postseason rolls around and Center faces Class 4 competition after spending the last two years in Class 3.

This year the group is young but talented. One difference between these players and the ones from the last few years is this group has come to expect wins after back to back winning season. Yellowjackets’ coach Bryan DeLong said he likes this team and is excited about the upcoming conference season and the return to Class 4.

“We’re very excited about the challenges that Class 4 will present,” DeLong said. “It’s probably one of the deepest classes in the state of Missouri. You just look right around here at the teams, the Harrisonvilles, the Pleasant Hills and the Kearneys. You get through them and you are talking about Webb City. Class 4 is very deep and we are excited for the challenge.”

Bryan Delong Podcast

Clinton

2013 Record: 2-8/1-4

Clinton spent 2013 with a very young team. That squad gained lots of experience and many are back again this year.

The big difference this season may be the time put in the weight room by the young group. The Cardinals played a lot of sophomores last season and a good offseason has those players with experience and strength to get ready for this season.

The big test for Clinton this season will be to have that young team continue to come of age in a tough West Central Conference and a nonconference schedule that includes Monett and Warsaw. As the one of the smallest schools in the conference wins against bigger schools it could help them in the seeding in the Class 3 postseason.

Cardinals coach Chris Smoot said his team has really bought in and made big strides to get them ready for this season.

“I love their energy,” Smoot said. “They are very coachable. They are a young group, they’re hungry. They absorb. You go to start coaching them and they take it in. You tell them to do something and they are very eager to please and they start working and get done whatever you just asked them to do. That will take us a long way if we can keep that attitude about us.”

Chris Smoot Podcast

Nevada

2013 Record: 5-4

There is a new kid on the block this season in the West Central. Nevada comes into the conference to give the league seven teams and deepen what has always been a tough league.

The Tigers come into the conference off a 5-5 season that saw them start 0-4 but close out the year with five straight regular season wins. The success of last season should carry over to this year as Nevada brings back six starters on offense and seven on defense.

The program also should benefit from a full offseason under second-year coach Eric Yoakam. The Tigers got off to the slow start but the final weeks of the season show how the players were adjusting to the new coach.

While some of the teams in the West Central are not new to Nevada many are. Yoakam said being in a conference is great and that there will be a lot of learning for his staff and his team as they play some teams for the first time.

“This is something that we are looking forward to and I know are kids will,” Yoakam said. “This first couple of years will be kind of an adjustment for us but other than that I think it is going to be a great opportunity for us.”

Eric Yoakam Podcast

O’Hara

2013 Record: 6-5/3-2

O’Hara is coming off a strong 2013 and brings back many of the players from a squad that won its first game of the postseason last year.

The Celtics return many of their skill position players including most of its offensive backfield and receivers. Defensively there are seven starters back but the biggest area of inexperience will be on the line on both sides of the ball.

O’Hara has talent but the problems will come if it suffers many injuries. The overall numbers are lower this year and injuries to key positions will make stretch a thin bench even thinner.

Celtics’ coach Jim DeMarea said his team is working hard and will need to stay healthy to be successful.

“We are looking to try to build our offense and defense line,” DeMarea said. “We are really struggling. We lost a lot of numbers there and right now we are trying to get these kids ready to play a varsity schedule.”

Jim DeMarea Podcast

Sedalia Smith-Cotton

2013 Record: 4-7/2-3

There are many changes in store for Smith-Cotton as it heads into the 2014 season. There is a new coach in Ryan Boyer and the school will move to an on-campus stadium for the first time.

Boyer takes over for longtime coach Mark Johnson who retired at the end of the 2013 season. Boyer was on staff with Johnson so the transition has been a smooth one for the new coach.

The stadium is set to open near the end of the regular season and it will give the Tigers a home stadium that Boyer said everyone in the community is very excited about.

Smith-Cotton was improved last season doubling their win total from 2012. The Tigers grabbed three regular season victories including a win over Class 6 Columbia Hickman and a postseason win over Washington.

This year the Tigers bring back four starters on both sides of the ball and Boyer said he is excited about how this group is working and what they can achieve.

“We have a lot of kids out this year and they are very excited,” Boyer said. “So far practices have been great. They’ve bought in to everything we’ve thrown at them. They are just excited to hit the ground running and get the season going.”

Ryan Boyer Podcast

St. Pius X

2013 Record: 6-5/4-1

If history is any indication look for St. Pius X to be a tough team to beat as the season goes on. For the second straight year the Warriors ripped off a five game winning streak in the season’s second half that included a postseason win.

This year Pius brings back seven offensive starters and that side of the strength of the team. The Warriors have returning skill position players but are looking to get better on the line. Depth up front could determine how good this offense can be.

Defensively five starters are back from a group that played well during the five game winning streak in 2013.

Warriors’ coach Rick Byers is pleased with the way the team worked on the field and in the weight room in the offseason.

“They’ve put in the time in the weight room and the chalk board this summer,” Byers said. “I think they are going to be a little more disciplined offensively and that is going to get us started off a little better I hope.”

Rick Byers Podcast

Warrensburg

2013 Record: 0-9/0-5

It’s been a tough two-year run for Warrensburg but there is hope that things are starting to change. An experienced junior and senior class along with a big and talented sophomore class could be what helps the Tigers break a 20-game losing streak dating back to the beginning of the 2012 season.

The last two years the young squad took its lumps and it spent its offseason working hard to break through and take the next step.

The Tigers return six starters on both sides of the ball and that experience should pay dividends when the season starts.

Warrensburg coach Scott Grinde said his team is really starting to understand what it takes for the program to get better.

“We’ve got a high quality group of seniors and I think they have really provided some great leadership for us,” Grinde said. “Across the board they are all a bunch of hard working kids that have really impressed me with their workouts this summer and camp now. I’m looking for good things for that class.”

Scott Grinde Podcast