Suburban Gold 2016 preview
By Dion Clisso PrepsKC Managing Editor
The Suburban Big Six or Gold division has always been tough. The team that has won the conference title has won the Missouri Class 6 title three of the last five years and in one of those years the second place team Blue Springs South went on to win the state championship.
With the enrollment changes Park Hill moved up to Class 6 and the Suburban Conference decided to keep all of the Class 6 football programs in the top Gold division. That move made an already tough league, brutal.
Park Hill’s move also sent Blue Springs to another district meaning Blue Springs and Blue Springs South have the chance to make it to the state championship game against another Kansas City team. Given the success of those programs the last five seasons, that isn’t out of the question with each school winning two titles since 2011.
With all of that this could be one of the deepest leagues in the Metro as well. The teams that finished near the bottom in 2015 are much improved while the teams at the top haven’t lost much. The winner of this conference could very well be the state champion again.
Head Coach: Kelly Donohoe, 17th season
2015 record (overall/conference): 6-6/4-1
Returning Starters (Off/Def): 8/6
Biggest Challenge: With a big group of talented returning players Blue Springs is just looking to keep everyone healthy and ready for the season. The Gold schedule is a grind for all seven teams and the team that stays healthy could be the one standing at the end.
Outlook: The Wildcats were very young last season and that youth showed in an uncharacteristic 0-4 start to the season. Blue Springs went 4-2 down the stretch advancing all the way to the Class 6 quarterfinals. This year expectations will be high for a group that has big-time players on both sides of the ball. This could be the year Blue Springs rises back to the top of the conference and to the top of Class 6.
Coach’s thoughts: “It’s a good group of seniors that has some talent but they are a good group of leaders with a class of juniors behind them that are a very talented class. The summer has been fantastic, great attendance, great work, great effort. We are really proud of our guys right now.
Blue Springs South
Head Coach: Jon Oyler, 1st season
2015 record (overall/conference): 14-0/5-0 (Missouri Class 6 State Champions)
Returning Starters (Off/Def): 5/4
Biggest Challenge: South graduated a big senior class that closed out its career with a perfect run to the state title. While that group had a huge impact several key performers are back along with a solid group of underclassmen. The Jaguars will need to develop their depth as they go through a tough schedule in conference and non-conference foes like Rockhurst, Staley and Olathe North
Outlook: For the first time in 15 years Greg Oder won’t be calling the shots. Losing a Hall of Fame coach is tough but longtime assistant Jon Oyler takes over in what should be a seamless transition. Oyler played for and coached with Oder and he is as much a part of the South tradition as anyone. While the big group of seniors is gone players like Myles Davis on offense and Cale Connors on defense gives the Jaguars a good starting point. Defending a state title might be tough but if the Jaguars can have young players step up they should be a tough team every week of the season.
Coach’s thoughts: “I’ve been very pleased with the guys that played a lot for us last year with the leadership they’ve shown this summer on both sides of the ball. Just being dedicated and being about the team which I think is one of the things about a good high school football team.”
Head Coach: Eric Thomas, 7th season
2015 record (overall/conference): 3-7/1-3
Returning Starters (Off/Def): 4/7
Biggest Challenge: The Tigers have a veteran group of players but have a few new assistant coaches who have joined the program. With some new faces comes a learning curve that the coaches and players have worked through during the summer.
Outlook: Lee’s Summit has experience on defense and also brings back starting quarterback Dalton Hill. There is plenty of veteran leadership in the right places now the Tigers will look to fill in some open spots on the offensive line. If the defense can continue to improve and Hill can lead a growing offense Lee’s Summit will be a good part of what looks to be a tough as nails Suburban Gold Conference.
Coach’s thoughts: “My favorite thing about this group is that we’ve got some really good kids. They are fun to be around. Our senior class has obviously been around us for four years now and stayed the course. There is really good leadership in our senior class. It is really easy to address something with them and they fix it without having to continue to harp on it. I love that, I love our athleticism and I love the kids in this group.”
Lee’s Summit North
Head Coach: Jamar Mozee, 2nd Season
2015 record (overall/conference): 5-5/2-3
Returning Starters (Off/Def): 4/3
Biggest Challenge: The Broncos have had a good summer working hard with good numbers. With only a handful of returning starters filling those open spots will be the big task as game one approaches.
Outlook: Lee’s Summit North got off to a great start in 2015 under first-year coach Jamar Mozee. The Broncos started 5-1 with big wins over Raymore-Peculiar and Lee’s Summit West. The winning stopped after that but the program had taken a big step forward. This year the numbers are strong in all classes but the starting experience will have to be learned. One big addition that could have a big impact on the Broncos is former Hogan Prep standout DaRon Davis who has already committed to the University of Missouri. Davis played running back and receiver at Hogan and could be a big playmaker for North this season.
Coach’s thoughts: “The challenge from year one to now is attendance getting everyone to buy in, everyone to come. Last year we had a good core of guys and we made great improvement. This year there is just a bigger group of them. We had about 90 guys there every day working out over the summer which is god. We have more than that on our roll but those guys are just showing up. They are there and they working hard. We’ve definitely got over a hump, we’re improving.”
Lee’s Summit West
Head Coach: Vinny Careswell, 1st Season
2015 record (overall/conference): 6-5/1-4
Returning Starters (Off/Def): 7/4
Biggest Challenge: The Titans begin a new era as Vinny Careswell takes over Royce Boehm who retired after last year. Careswell was the defensive coordinator and with his move to head coach new coaches were added to the staff. Both coordinators are new and so the offensive and defensive schemes have changed from previous years. Getting those schemes down and learning the new terminology is something the Titans have been working on all summer.
Outlook: West is one of the top programs in the Metro and expectations are always high. With seven back on offense and former Winnetonka head coach Sterling Edwards calling the signals the Titans could hit the ground running and again be an offensive force. In a crowded and talented Suburban Gold West could be a team to watch.
Coach’s thoughts: “We’ve got a long tradition and coach Boehm established that. He’s my good friend and my goal is to keep that tradition going. There has been a turnover of a few coaches but I think that tradition is alive at Lee’s Summit West. That’s the main goal in the long run is to keep that tradition going.”
Head Coach: Josh Hood, 4th season
2015 record (overall/conference): 11-2/5-0
Returning Starters (Off/Def): 6/6
Biggest Challenge: Park Hill makes the move from the Suburban Red to the Gold and from Class 5 to Class 6. The Trojans are a talented team with impact players on both sides of the ball. The task in the preseason and during the season is to get the players ready to play a schedule that includes six Class 6 teams in conference, Liberty North, Kansas power Lawrence Free State and rival Park Hill South. Staying healthy throughout that slate will be a big step up for the Trojans. It’s the same step that Raymore-Peculiar and Lee’s Summit West have faced in the past and now Park Hill is making that move.
Outlook: Any time you return your starting quarterback and one of the best defensive lineman in the Metro you are off to a good start. Billy Maples will lead the offense again after an outstanding 2015. Chester Graves is a highly touted player that can cause problems for any offense. The Trojans will need to fill some holes on the offensive line and defensive backfield but if those two groups play well and Park Hill can stay healthy it could be a special season for Park Hill.
Coach’s thoughts: “The exciting part is the challenge every week. We have a chance to move up and test ourselves every week against some of the best competition around. We are going to fight a little bit trying to create depth and quality depth. We’ve got a mountain every week. We saw that a little in the playoffs in Class 5 last year and the year before that. We’ve had success climbing the mountain two or three times in a row but then we get that last time and just couldn’t quite get over this hump. We are going to have to climb that mountain at least nine times during the course of the season and that’s before the playoffs even start.”
Head Coach: Tom Kruse, 17th season
2015 record (overall/conference): 6-5/2-3
Returning Starters (Off/Def): 4/7
Biggest Challenge: Ray-Pec has good size on both sides of the line led by standout defensive end Anthony Payne. That size will need to stay healthy to pave the way for some inexperienced skill players on offense. The Panthers depth could be key to their success wading through a tough schedule.
Outlook: The Suburban Gold is loaded and you can add Ray-Pec to the list of teams that could rise to the top. The defense should be a strength and a big offensive line should help some new playmakers get up to speed quickly. How this team finishes in the fourth quarter of games could be the key to a deep run or a middle of the pack finish.
Coach’s thoughts: “We feel like our strength is our skill guys in our secondary. We’ve got some guys that I think at the Class 6 level can play for a lot of teams. I really think our offensive line gives us a chance to compete too. We are as big as we have ever been up front. We’ve lost a lot of skill guys there but it is just how quickly we can gel there. We are rebuilding a little bit offensively but we feel pretty good about where we are at defensively especially with our linebackers and secondary back intact. Then we have some good playmakers on the defensive line as well.”
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