MRVC West Preview

By Dion Clisso PrepsKC Managing Editor
Posted: August 11, 2017 - 11:15 AM



The Missouri River Valley West Conference has long been one of the better Class 3 and 4 leagues in the state of Missouri. The last few seasons that has been proven with three different teams advancing to a state championship game.

In 2014 it was Oak Grove winning the Class 3 title. The next year Odessa played for that same trophy before falling short. Last season it was Harrisonville that brought home a Class 4 championship.

What will happen this year?

The league is as deep as ever. Teams like Excelsior Springs and Grain Valley both bring back lots of experienced starters on both sides of the ball. Pleasant Hill looks to be better led by an outstanding offensive line while Oak Grove and Odessa have lots of young talent that is getting more and more experience. Oh, and Harrisonville is looking for a repeat championship performance.

With now weak programs it should be another tough grinding season in the MRVC West. Here is a look at all the teams in 2017.

Excelsior Springs

Head Coach: Mark Faubion, 2nd season

2016 record (overall/conference): 6-4/3-2

Returning Starters (Off/Def): 6/4

Biggest Challenge: The Tigers have a good core of returners but they will be relying on a big sophomore class to fill in the holes. The group is talented but they will need to grow up quickly and not get too wide-eyed under the lights.

Outlook: Excelsior Springs returns most of its talented skill players. That group was key in the turnaround after installing a new veer offense. The learning curve took a little bit of time but the Tigers are now way ahead of where they were this time last year. If the young linemen can step up and keep the skill players healthy Excelsior Springs could be one of the teams to beat in the MRVC West.

Coach’s thoughts: “We feel like we are light years ahead of last year and those core guys are really helping us. We lost a lot of players due to graduation on the defensive side. So it will be a test. It is something that will take us a few weeks until the bullets are flying for real to figure out where people’s best fits are but that will be a spot where we will have a close eye on.”

2017 Schedule:
8/18 @ Warrensburg
8/25 Cameron
9/1 @ Oak Park
9/8 Richmond
9/15 @ Harrisonville
9/22 @ Odessa
9/29 Oak Grove
10/6 Grain Valley
10/13 @ Pleasant Hill

Grain Valley

Head Coach: David Allie, 4th season

2016 record (overall/conference): 8-4/4-1

Returning Starters (Off/Def): 8/8

Biggest Challenge: The Eagles return big numbers on both sides of the ball. The eight back on offense include all of the skill positions. Grain Valley will be breaking in three new offensive linemen and how quickly that unit settles will have a major impact on the early part of the season.

Outlook: Grain Valley won its first conference title since joining the MRVC West and it looks like a team that could repeat. There are some key spots to fill like at offensive line and replacing all-everything linebacker Cole Wagener but there is a lot of experience left. If the Eagles can plug the few holes they have it could be a big season in Grain Valley.

Coach’s thoughts: “The pieces are there. We have a lot of young kids and the numbers are great. We are pretty optimistic but we are like everyone else we still have questions to answer.”

2017 Schedule:
8/18 @ Savannah
8/25 St. Joseph Benton
9/1 @ Raytown
9/8 Center
9/15 @ Pleasant Hill
9/22 Harrisonville
9/29 Odessa
10/6 @ Excelsior Springs
10/13 @ Oak Grove

Harrisonville

Head Coach: Brent Maxwell, 4th season

2016 record (overall/conference): 12-3/3-2 (Missouri Class 4 Champions)

Returning Starters (Off/Def): 5/5

Biggest Challenge: There is experience returning from a group that overcame a three-game mid-season losing streak to with its first Class 4 state title. The Wildcats have a good group back but the majority of the younger players didn’t see a lot of time. Harrisonville will need the younger players to gain experience that will build the depth it needs if another deep run in the postseason is going to take place.

Outlook: After a streak of fourClass 3 titles in five years in the last decade, Harrisonville finally broke through and won its first Class 4 championship last season. The Wildcats knocked off Webb City in the quarterfinals and Kearney in the title game so the road to a championship was hard earned. This year the Wildcats are again in the conversation as one of the top teams in Class 4 but they will need to develop their depth and survive a tough MRVC West if a repeat is in the cards.

Coach’s thoughts: “At my point my biggest concern I think, as every coach is just staying healthy. We return five on each side of the ball which isn’t bad but we graduated a tremendous senior class last year. Our seniors this year a lot of them got some valuable playing time last year. Below that not a ton of experience. You always worry about that experience factor especially early.”

2017 Schedule:
8/18 @ St. Joseph Benton
8/25 Savannah
9/1 @ Pittsburg
9/8 Platte County
9/15 Excelsior Springs
9/22 @ Grain Valley
9/29 Pleasant Hill
10/6 @ Oak Grove
10/13 Odessa

Oak Grove

Head Coach: Pat Richard, 7th season

2016 record (overall/conference): 5-6/2-3

Returning Starters (Off/Def): 5/4

Biggest Challenge: Oak Grove was young last season and still carries a lot of underclassmen into this season. The Panthers have talent but getting that talent ready to play on Friday nights has been job one for Pat Richard and his coaching staff.

Outlook: The Panthers are another talented team in what is a very deep MRVC West. If they can build momentum early and the younger players can continue to get better this is a team that could challenge for a conference title. If a MRVC West championship isn’t there for Oak Grove it could still make a deep run in the Class 3 postseason.

Coach’s thoughts: “With this group every day is a new adventure because something new to learn is always coming up. It’s a close-knit group and we are starting to get back into that family atmosphere that we are known for. It’s been fun. It’s been a fun summer and it has just continued.”

2017 Schedule:
8/18 Richmond
8/25 @ Blair Oaks
9/1 Lift For Life Academy
9/8 @ Carnahan
9/15 Odessa
9/22 @ Pleasant Hill
9/29 @ Excelsior Springs
10/6 Harrisonville
10/13 Grain Valley

Odessa

Head Coach: Mark Thomas, 5th season

2016 record (overall/conference): 4-6/1-4

Returning Starters (Off/Def): 6/7

Biggest Challenge: Odessa took a step back from its run to the Missouri Class 3 title game in 2015 last season but there were some benefits. The Bulldogs had a lot of younger players see time and this year there are good numbers coming back on both sides of the ball. Getting the other younger players up to speed along with some scheme changes on both sides of the ball will be the test in the early part of the season.

Outlook: In a crowded conference Odessa is right in the mix with several other teams. One big difference is the change of style the Bulldogs are doing this season. How Odessa moves and stops the ball will look a different and if those changes can take hold quickly it could be a bounce back season for the Bulldogs.

Coach’s thoughts: “I like our athleticism. I think we’ve got some pretty good athletes. We had some young sophomores that got a lot of experience, a lot of playing time at the varsity level last year. We are hoping to watch them build off that and kind of pull some of these other young kids that are coming up behind them that are going to be asked to step into similar roles that our juniors had last year. The sooner we can do that and the faster we can do that we feel like that will make our team more competitive.”

2017 Schedule:
8/18 St. Pius X
8/25 @ Clinton
9/1 @ Holden
9/8 Warrensburg
9/15 @ Oak Grove
9/22 Excelsior Springs
9/29 @ Grain Valley
10/6 Pleasant Hill
10/13 @ Harrisonville

Pleasant Hill

Head Coach:  Greg Smith, 3rd season

2016 record (overall/conference): 4-6/2-3

Returning Starters (Off/Def): 6/5

Biggest Challenge: The third year for coach Greg Smith looks like it could be a breakthrough year. There is experience returning in key spots but depth will be an issue with a schedule that features strong non-conference opponents along with the always tough MRVC West. Getting that depth the reps in practice and key playing time will be key for the Roosters.

Outlook: The Roosters have a luxury that not everyone has, experience on the line of scrimmage. Pleasant Hill also has some skill players back as well. If the depth can come together and fill in when needed it could be a good season for the Roosters.

Coach’s thoughts: “I like our attitude. The effort has been great... the kids work hard and they are bonding and they are coming together. That has been refreshing. As far as on the field goes there is a certain comfort level when you return four starting offensive linemen. We’ve got depth and we’ve got experience up front on both sides of the ball. Those are a couple of areas that we are encouraged with early on in the season. I think our physicality is going to be improved over the last couple of years.”

2017 Schedule:
8/18 @ Smithville
8/25 @ Moberly
9/1 Richmond
9/8 @ Sedalia Smith-Cotton
9/15 Grain Valley
9/22 Oak Grove
9/29 @ Harrisonville
10/6 @ Odessa
10/13 Excelsior Springs