Race for the top wide open

By Dion Clisso PrepsKC Managing Editor
Posted: August 20, 2014 - 3:56 PM



The elephant has left the room for the Suburban Middle Six this season. Lee’s Summit West and its run of conference championships has moved up to Class 6 and the Suburban Big Six.

Taking the Titans place is Liberty who moves out of the Suburban Conferences biggest group for the first time in almost two decades to join Park Hill, Park Hill South, Truman, St. Joseph Central and Ruskin.

The group is made up of all Class 5 teams and in fact the four north of the river will all battle it out in the same district during the postseason.

It should be an interesting season in the Middle Six so let’s take a look at the teams.

Liberty

2013 Record: 7-4/2-3 in the Suburban Big Six

The Blue Jays took a big step forward last season playing in the tough Suburban Big Six. This year they will see if that success continues in a new conference and class.

Gone are a lot of starters including most of the offensive line. While there are open spots Liberty does return some key pieces including its starting center and tailback along with quarterback AJ Cambric. Those three are the only returning starters and that same number return on the defense.

The big test for the Blue Jays is to see if all of those years of playing in the tough Big Six will help them succeed with a schedule that has more Class 5 teams.

Liberty coach Chad Frigon said even with a new group of starters he likes what he has seen so far.

“The biggest quality for this team is how they work together,” Frigon said. “On the night of the jamboree I had an opportunity to be in the huddle a little bit and hear how they interact with each other. I just feel like this team counts on each other well and holds each other up and encourages each other. How well they get along is going to determine how we go throughout this year.”

Chad Frigon Podcast

Park Hill

2013 Record: 3-7/2-3

It was a year of transition for Park Hill in 2013 with some growing pains under first-year head coach Josh Hood.

The Trojans suffered through some injuries and character problems but in the end saw a lot of young players take the field and earn significant minutes. This season 11 players who started at some time return on offense and six more are back on defense.

This group will be greeted with a new group of assistant coaches and expectations are high for a big bounce back season.

Hood said this team looks like it could be ready to turn the corner.

“The main thing I like about this team is just the attitude they bring,” Hood said. “This is a team that is pretty hungry right now. They are like a bunch of caged lions. They’ve been working out they’ve been preparing since the last day of the season last year.

“Leading into Thanksgiving I told the kids I was going to give them a break until Christmas before we start lifting. The kids told me know and started working the next day.”

Josh Hood Podcast

Park Hill South

2013 Record: 6-5/3-2

The Panthers are coming off a solid season that saw them finish with a winning record. South may have lost five games last season but the list is almost a who’s who of Kansas City football programs.

The Panthers opened with losses to Fort Osage and Blue Springs with two of their other two losses coming to Lee’s Summit West and Kearney. The only other defeat came at the hands of St. Joseph Central South did a good job of taking care of its business when it wasn’t playing the top teams in the state.

This year most of that group is gone and only two starters return on both sides of the ball. There is talent returning and young talent on the team but it will be a learning experience right of the gate.

South coach Mark Simcox said this group is soaking in everything the coaches are teaching them.

“They are real coachable,” Simcox said. “We’ve got some talent in our younger classes but they are young so they haven’t really played on a Friday night yet. They are learning. They are making great strides and really improving pretty dramatically from just a couple of weeks ago. They will still be scared to death when we start Friday. Hopefully they will progress and by the middle of the season they will be where we need them to be.”

Mark Simcox Podcast

Ruskin

2013 Record: 1-9/1-4

For the fourth time in five seasons Ruskin has a new head coach. Kiwaukuee Thomas takes over for Damon Fishback and will be the fourth head coach this senior class has played for during their time at Ruskin.

With all of that change the goal is stability as Thomas takes over. He comes to the Eagles from the college ranks in Florida and is intent on creating a program.

There isn’t much experience on offense with only one returning starter but the defense features seven starters back this year. The experience on defense should help the team compete while its offense gets its feet under it as the season goes on.

Coach Thomas said the young team has worked hard getting ready for the season.

“I like their discipline and I like that we are a young team,” Thomas said. “I love my leadership coming from my underclassmen who have totally bought in. We’ve just got to build these guys confidence up and teach them what success is so they can go out there and get it. I think we are definitely teaching them what hard work is. After that they will see the payoff that comes with hard work.”

Kiwaukuee Thomas Podcast

St. Joseph Central

2013 Record: 6-5/4-1

This could be a bit of a rebuilding year for St. Joseph Central. The Indians had another solid campaign in 2013 but only two starters return on both sides of the ball for 2014.

There are other players with experience returning this season. Most of those players will take up spots on the both sides of the line while most of the skill positions will be manned by a young core of players.

The youth is there but there is also talent could be there as well. Indians’ coach Jeff Wallace said his team has taken huge learning steps over the summer.

“Every coach will tell you out there that the younger you are you that every time you step on the field you are learning something and you are getting better and this group is no different,” Wallace said. “From where we started back at the first part of June to where we are at is night and day. We are going to continue by leaps and bounds to get better.”

Jeff Wallace Podcast

Truman

2013 Record: 0-10/0-5

It was a tough road for Truman in 2013. The Patriots struggled most of the season and went winless for the second year in-a-row and now own a 22-game losing streak dating back to the 2011 season.

The season may not have had any wins but for coach Gregg Webb and his staff it allowed them to learn which players wanted to be a part of the program. Now as Webb starts his second year at the helm he should have a group ready to move forward.

That group will include five returning starters on offense and two on defense. The overall numbers are up from the end of last season so that will help with depth.

Webb said this group is more committed to the program.

“It is going in the right direction, “Webb said. “We came out of last year with our tail between our legs.

“When we got out of that we had tons of issues that we had to address. The biggest thing was commitment and who wants to be here.”

Gregg Webb Podcast