Another tough year in the Small Six

By Dion Clisso PrepsKC Managing Editor
Posted: August 17, 2014 - 5:11 PM



The Suburban Small Six may be feature the smallest schools in the Suburban Conference but that doesn’t mean there aren’t big-time programs battling it out every year.

This year as the conference realigned for the two-year cycle Liberty North moved up the Small Seven while Belton came down joining Grandview, Kearney, Raytown South, Platte County and Winnetonka.

You don’t have to know much about high school football in the Metro to know these programs have a long tradition with only Winnetonka not appearing in a state championship game in the last decade. While the Griffins haven’t reached that height they are currently one of the better programs in the conference and in Class 5 in Kansas City.

Last year Kearney won the conference on their way to a run to the Class 5 semifinals. This year the Bulldogs will again be one of the favorites but every week it will be a tough game for every conference team.

Let’s take a look at the teams in the Small Six for 2014.

Belton

2013 Record: 3-8/2-4 in the Suburban Small Seven

The Pirates took a step forward last season as Todd Vaughn came over from a successful run at Farmington to take over at Belton. The Pirates won only one game in 2012 but tripled that number last season. One of those wins came in the postseason as Belton beat Springfield Central in the first round of the Class 5 playoffs.

This year the Pirates return four starters on offense and three on defense and while the upper classes might still be small there are 50 freshmen out for football. Belton is seeing an increase in interest in the program and that should signal good things in coming years.

Even though the numbers at the varsity level aren’t as big as the freshmen, Vaughn likes the way his team prepared during the offseason and is taking that into practice so far.

“I think our kids are really excited,” Vaughn said. “We had the offseason to spend time together and do some character education, some leadership stuff. I think our kids are excited. Their expectation level of themselves has improved and increased. Anytime you can get 45-50 kids excited about what you are doing that’s fun to watch and hopefully that will pay dividends this season.”

Todd Vaughn Podcast

Grandview

2013 Record: 5-6/1-4

The Bulldogs continued their steady improvement last year and finished with a winning regular season followed by a first round postseason win.

That group was the first to go all four years with head coach Andy Leech and his system and that continuity paid major dividends. That group is gone leaving behind a young team that is charged with continuing the new tradition put in place.

Grandview returns only two starters on both sides of the ball but has 30 sophomores in what could turn into a very talented group. Even though there is not much experience returning Leech said this group has talent and a desire to learn.

“I’ve been pleased with the work ethic that we’ve seen from our younger guys,” Leech said. “There really isn’t a lack of talent with these guys. It’s just experience is going to be the main thing for us to overcome.”

Andy Leech Podcast

Kearney

2013 Record: 11-2/5-0 Conference Champions

The Bulldogs had a great two-year run in Class 5 reaching the semifinals last season. This year Kearney is back in Class 4 and could have another team that has the talent to make a deep postseason run.

While the Bulldogs will be without all-state running back Brock Broughton and quarterback Austin Hinck there are a lot good players returning including receiver Zack Davis and a lot of talent on defense. Overall Kearney returns five starters on both sides of the ball with many more players who gained experience last year.

This season could be another special one for the Bulldogs but they will need to do well in their conference and navigate a non-conference schedule that features Liberty, Liberty North and St. Joseph Central.

Kearney coach Greg Jones likes the way this group has prepared for the upcoming season.

“We are excited, it’s a good group of seniors,” Jones said. “They work extremely hard and get along together very well. It’s just a special group.”

Greg Jones Podcast

Platte County

2013 Record: 4-6

The Pirates are coming off a losing record for the first time in a while with just a few starters returning. While that might be the recipe for more struggles Platte County’s talent level even with younger players could be the difference between another struggle and a winning campaign.

With only three offensive starters and just four on defense there will many players who hear their name called over the loudspeaker for the first time this season. At the same time that young group did get playing time last year and could take big steps forward this year.

One area that will be a concern will be depth. Pirates coach Bill Utz said he likes the younger players but staying healthy will be a key for this team.

“In a way you can call it a positive,” Utz said. “They are young and they are getting better. We just have to stay really, really healthy because obviously playing that many young kids our depth issue becomes a major concern. All of your talent is already playing so we don’t have a whole lot to back them up.”

Bill Utz Podcast

Raytown South

2013 Record: 4-7/1-4

It was an up and down year for Raytown South in 2013. The Cardinals struggled with injuries and inconsistent play through most of the season before winning three of its last five games including a first-round postseason game at Harrisonville.

In the offseason a large group of starters graduated but that wasn’t the only change. Longtime coach David Allie left after 14 seasons to take the job at Grain Valley. Assistant Coach Nick Adkins was hired to replace him with much of the staff still in place.

This year Adkins takes the top spot with five returning starters on offense and four on defense. The Cardinals have always had talent and usually got better as the season went along. This year could be more of the same as Raytown South as the young squad looks to gain experience heading into district play.

Adkins said there is a lot of opportunity for players to find starting jobs with such a young team.

“We were able to walk in and show them completely empty depth charts,” Adkins said. “There were a lot of faces looking at me. I said guys it’s an open competition. We need guys at every position. We need guys to stand up and say hey that’s my position and put their name down. We always talk about you can write your name in pencil, you can write your name in pen or you can write your name in Sharpie and challenge guys to get their name in there and leave it there.”

Nick Adkins Podcast

Winnetonka

2013 Record: 8-3/4-1

There has been a steady progression at Winnetonka the last few seasons. The Griffins have improved almost every season and now this year look to be one of the top Missouri Class 5 teams in the Metro.

This group of seniors have been starting or playing key minutes for Winnetonka for two seasons. The Griffins bring back six starters on offense and five on defense on a team that lost in the district championship Fort Osage.

Leading this group is Marquise Doherty who could be one of the top running backs in the Metro this season. He is joined by other talented skill players and several starters on the offensive and defensive line.

The Griffins are a team that has been close to a conference and district title and Head Coach Sterling Edwards said those goals are still there for this season.

“We’ve done a lot of good things and made some strides,” Edwards said. “We really need to take one step closer on a couple of things and finish some things that we’ve started.”

Sterling Edwards Podcast