Suburban Red 2016 Preview
By Dion Clisso PrepsKC Managing Editor
The Suburban Red Conference saw two teams move in and two move out when the divisions were realigned this past offseason. Gone is Park Hill who moved up to the Gold and the Class 6 and gone is Ruskin who moved down to the Suburban White.
Park Hill was the two-time defending conference champs so that may give some a sigh of relief but coming in are Liberty North and Raytown. North has built one of the better programs in the Metro over its first six years including a run to the Class 4 semifinals back in 2013. Raytown brings in a good group of athletes and a program that has been right on the cusp of becoming a consistent program.
Liberty North looks to be good again and rival Liberty is bringing back almost all of its starters. Throw in Park Hill South that has an experienced group and there could be a three-way battle for the top spot.
While those three look to be the top dogs, Truman is coming off its best season in decades and St. Joseph Central has a new coach in former Jefferson City Helias coach Phil Pitts. No matter what don’t look for any easy wins in the Suburban Red Conference this season.
Head Coach: Chad Frigon, 6th season
2014 record (overall/conference): 3-7/2-3
Returning Starters (Off/Def): 8/9
Biggest Challenge: Last season the Blue Jays defense struggled to keep teams out of the endzone. In their seven losses teams scored more than 35 points five times. With nine starters back on that side of the ball the work has begun to shore up that side of the ball.
Outlook: After suffering through a small senior class Liberty is now poised to have its most experienced team in a long time. The Blue Jays bring back almost a full complement of starters on both sides of the ball so they could hit the ground running this year. Look for Liberty to be a break out candidate in 2016.
Coach’s thoughts: “For us to be able to build upon the experience of those 17 guys we have back that have started and been there is carrying over to the other kids. I like this team they are a physical group. They are physical in the weight room and they carry that out to the field. That is something we’ve had at certain spots but not across the board the last few years. We are really going to focus on and take some pride in how physical we are.
Head Coach: Ken Clemens, 7th season
2015 record (overall/conference): 8-3/4-2
Returning Starters (Off/Def): 6/4
Biggest Challenge: A good group of players graduated after last season but the Eagles had talent behind them. With the graduation some players have moved sides of the ball and finding the right mix has been at the top of the list this offseason.
Outlook: Liberty North moves up to the Suburban Red and will now be in the same conference as rival Liberty. Even with the move the Eagles still have games with Staley, Kearney and Park Hill. It will be a tester of a schedule but Liberty North could be one of the top Class 5 teams in the Metro.
Coach’s thoughts: “The kids are working hard and they are beginning to understand the connection between how hard you go in practice and how much you improve for games. We have a couple of positions on defense that are being filled are being filled with guys who were previously offensive starters so they have varsity experience. The other spots we’ve got a pretty large pool of candidates for each spot and we are just trying to sort through them and see who is the best fit.”
Park Hill South
Head Coach: Mike Sharp, 2nd season
2015 record (overall/conference): 2-8/2-3
Returning Starters (Off/Def): 7/8
Biggest Challenge: The Panthers have a good group coming back so Friday night experience isn’t lacking. What might be lacking is confidence after a 2-8 season. Park Hill South’s coaching staff has worked this offseason to create belief in the strong skills this team has.
Outlook: Park Hill South returns a talented team that has the experience but just needs the wins to go with it. The conference loses powerhouse Park Hill but gains Liberty North. The Panthers could be one of those teams that steps up and takes the lead in the Suburban Red and could be one of the better Class 5 teams in the Metro.
Coach’s thoughts: “We are really coming together as a unit. We really emphasize family and togetherness and they’ve spent a lot of time together. Unfortunately only going 2-8 they had a lot of tough times. A lot more losses than wins but we were in a lot of those games especially at halftime winning a majority of them. Hopefully we’ve kind of paid our dues and those kids really have a desire to get some wins on the board and hopefully we can do that this year.”
Head Coach: Kevin Page, 9th season
2015 record (overall/conference): 4-7/2-4
Returning Starters (Off/Def): 5/5
Biggest Challenge: The Blue Jays have a solid group coming back but summer work was hampered by consistent numbers. The lack of consistent participation means the work before the season is even more important as the coaches look to fill holes.
Outlook: There is some experience to go along with a good team work ethic. If the Blue Jays can get the new starters up to speed and see their full numbers out once school starts they could take some steps forward this season.
Coach’s thoughts: “I really like the mix of kid we have. I like the chemistry that I think the team is starting to develop. They have fun with each other. It’s that good teenage fun. They will talk some smack on each other but also be there to support each other and be happy for each other when they have some success. I just kind of like them as people. They are good kids.”
St. Joseph Central
Head Coach: Phil Pitts, 1st season
2015 record (overall/conference): 4-7/2-3
Returning Starters (Off/Def): 6/6
Biggest Challenge: Phil Pitts takes control of the Indians after spending a year at the University of Missouri and then nine years at Jefferson City Helias before that. He was very successful at Helias in four years as the head coach and now looks to make his imprint on St. Joseph Central. The main challenge for any new coach is the same getting all of the players and coaches on the same page and installing a totally new system.
Outlook: There is talent at Central and there are a good amount of starters back. Pitts and his staff have the enthusiasm level high and there is good by-in by the players and the community. The Indians could be ready to take the next step and compete in the conference and Class 5 races.
Coach’s thoughts: “I really think there is an opportunity to build something pretty special here in St. Joe and here at Central. I’m really looking forward to digging some roots into this place and try to build that program that everybody can be proud and everybody can be a part of. I’m looking forward to that. This year’s team has a lot of kids coming back with some experience but also some new kids I’m looking forward to get out there on the football field. We want to build this program the right way. We’re not going to cut corners but I think we’ve got a chance to be successful pretty quick.”
Head Coach: Gregg Webb, 4th season
2015 record (overall/conference): 8-3/4-1
Returning Starters (Off/Def): 3/3
Biggest Challenge: Coming off two of the best back to back seasons in school history the Patriots enter with a small group of players. The total number that started practice on Aug. 1 was less than 40 so the job of replacing the 16 starters lost gets even tougher with small numbers.
Outlook: Truman took a big step forward two years ago and then made even more progress with an 8-3 mark last season. While good players graduated there are still some good ones left. The question is with the low numbers will the Patriots have the depth to survive a season in the Suburban Red Conference along with some tough non-conference games with Fort Osage and Columbia Battle.
Coach’s thoughts: “We’ve made a lot of progress during the summer from kids who haven’t seen a lot of varsity action. We’ve got a few kids back so those kids are having to take on a more heavy role in turning this team into their old team. We saw massive growth but that is what you kind of expect. Those kids that could sit back and watch Jordan Salima and Dean Clemons some of those good players we had win football games and now they have to be the ones to win those games. It’s always an interesting transition from watching those kids take a back seat role take a front role. We’ve got some kids that are finally settling into that role and are forgetting about what we had last year and becoming the team we will have this year. I like our kids, we’ve got some talent.”
Blue Valley North Mustangs
East Buchanan Bulldogs
African Centered College Prep Knights
Wentworth Military Academy
Blue Springs South Jaguars
Olathe South Falcons
Mill Valley Jaguars
Turner Golden Bears
Blue Valley West Jaguars