Balanced in the Blue

By Dion Clisso PrepsKC Managing Editor
Posted: August 10, 2017 - 7:11 PM



The Suburban Blue has long been one of the best conferences in the Metro. Last season four of the six teams won a playoff game and finished with a winning record. Throw in a trip to the Class 4 title game for Kearney and you can see how tough this group is.

This season looks to be more of the same. Belton, Kearney, Platte County and Raytown South look to be good again while Grandview and Winnetonka should be much improved.

Kearney has won the title the last two seasons and shared the crown with Platte County and Winnetonka in 2015. This season could be much like 2015 where there could be several teams with one or two losses in the league and it could be two or more schools claiming a championship.

Here is a quick look at each team in the Suburban Blue Conference.

Belton

Head Coach: Todd Vaughn, 5th season

2016 record (overall/conference): 7-4/4-1

Returning Starters (Off/Def): 3/3

Biggest Challenge: With only three starters returning on both sides of the ball there will be a lot of new faces taking the field on Friday nights. The summer was spent getting the young players up to speed and that work continues as the season approaches. How those new starters grow into their roles will have a direct effect on the early season success of the Pirates.

Outlook: The Pirates will be younger this season and the overall numbers are down a little but the commitment of the players is very high. Belton had a great summer with 90 percent of their players attending the offseason activities. That commitment and attention to detail should pay dividends for the Pirates. The last few seasons this team has gotten better as the season goes on and this could be an exact repeat this year.

Coach’s thoughts: “I think the overall commitment level has been great. Our kids have worked hard the entire offseason and really hard this summer. They are committed to what we are doing. It’s nice that we are in year five and these guys have been in the same program. All of them have been in the same program now for every year that they have been in varsity football. They know what the expectations are they know how we do things. It’s nice that we are not having to reteach all of that and work on other things.”

2017 Schedule:
8/18 @ Raymore-Peculiar
8/25 @ Liberty
9/1 Winnetonka
9/8 Raytown South
9/15 @ Platte County
9/22 Kearney
9/29 @ Ruskin
10/6 Oak Park
10/13 Grandview

Grandview

Head Coach: Jeremie Picard, 3rd season

2016 record (overall/conference): 3-7/2-4

Returning Starters (Off/Def): 4/7

Biggest Challenge: Last season 20 seniors graduated and a lot of those players were making impacts on Friday nights. Losing that group is going to be tough but there is a large group of sophomores who will fill some of those holes. Those younger players have talent but will need to adjust to the speed of Friday night after a successful junior varsity and freshmen seasons last year.

Outlook: The Bulldogs have had a good summer even with the growing pains of younger players. This year’s squad has a nice combination of athleticism and size even if some of those players will be playing varsity for the first time. The schedule is tough but Grandview should be a better team as the season goes on and a tough squad to play every week.

Coach’s thoughts: “The energy right now has been fantastic. They are a younger group so there is a lot of learning going on. With that also there is a lot of enthusiasm for getting out there and really putting it together. When we get it right it’s exciting. It’s kind of the energy like crazy. We have a large group of sophomores from a pretty large group of freshmen last year that were pretty successful. Bringing them up and watching them develop has been the best part so far.”

2017 Schedule:
8/18 Platte County
8/25 Park Hill South
9/1 @ Kearney
9/8 @ William Chrisman
9/15 Shawnee Mission Northwest
9/22 Oak Park
9/29 @ Winnetonka
10/6 Raytown South
10/13 @ Belton

Kearney

Head Coach: Josh Gray, 1st season

2016 record (overall/conference): 13-2/5-0

Returning Starters (Off/Def): 4/5

Biggest Challenge: The challenges for this season are similar to the last two. Kearney needs to replace a large group of starters from a team that played in the last two Missouri Class 4 state championship games. This year there is also change in the coaching staff as Greg Jones left for Liberty North taking some assistants with him. Josh Gray stepped up from his role as an assistant so there is some continuity there for the players. How this senior class slides into its leadership role will and adjusts to the new coaches will be a big test this year.

Outlook: It would be easy to say the Bulldogs have lost too much and are due for a down year. At the same time Kearney has been in the same position for about four straight years and all it does is reload and make a deep playoff run. There may not be a third straight title game appearance in the cards but don’t count the Bulldogs out at any time.

Coach’s thoughts: “Obviously when you have change it’s about guys into position. We are pretty fortunate that we have a great staff here at Kearney. I think getting the kids around them and getting the kids visible early on is important and the staff did that and had been able to come up early on. Obviously through the summer they’ve been there all summer. Just building those relationships with the kids has been important. One thing our kids have done and been great with and understanding is they’ve bought in.”

2017 Schedule:
8/18 Fort Osage
8/25 @ Raytown South
9/1 Grandview
9/8 @ Winnetonka
9/15 Liberty North
9/22 @ Belton
9/29 Raytown
10/6 @ Staley
10/13 Platte County

Platte County

Head Coach: Bill Utz, 10th season

2016 record (overall/conference): 8-4/3-2

Returning Starters (Off/Def): 3/6

Biggest Challenge: Big losses on the offensive line is one of the first holes the Pirates will need to fill along with tailback and quarterback. Those skill positions are key but Platte County has shown the ability to continue to play at a high level even with changes in the backfield. The guys up front will be an area to watch especially early in the season.

Outlook: While the offense will have new faces a lot of the defense is coming back. That group will be relied upon early to help a new offense win games. The quarterback is new as Justin Mitchell graduated but the backup does a lot of summer experience. Mitchell was a top baseball player in the Metro and didn’t do a lot of summer work so that job fell to now senior Tanner Clarkson. If Clarkson can hit the ground running like so many standout Platte County signal callers the Pirates should be in line for another good season.

Coach’s thoughts: “I do like this group and the senior class especially. They’re a pretty talented group as well. They’ve played a big part in the last couple of years of helping us having some success so it’s nice to see those kids in the role of seniors. Then we’ve got another nice mix of part of that senior class that have been waiting in the wings so to say behind some very talented positions so they’re hungry. I can see that in the way the practice and their leadership skills.”

2017 Schedule:
8/18 @ Grandview
8/25 Oak Park
9/1 Staley
9/8 @ Harrisonville
9/15 Belton
9/22 Liberty
9/29 @ Raytown South
10/6 Winnetonka
10/13 @ Kearney

Raytown South

Head Coach: Nick Adkins, 4th Season

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

Returning Starters (Off/Def): 8/7

Biggest Challenge: With a big senior class and lots of returning starters the issues have been few. The Cardinals have moved the coaching staff around a little but they were mostly in house moves so the adjustment has gone well.

Outlook: Raytown South has been a team that sometimes starts slow but finishes strong. This year with so much returning experience and some good depth this could be a year when the Cardinals battle to be one of the better Missouri Class 4 teams in the Metro.

Coach’s thoughts: “We are trying to keep the expectations as realistic as possible. The good thing that we’ve had in the last couple of weeks is we’ve had some serious competition at several different positions that we are trying to figure out who is going to be the starter.”

2017 Schedule:
8/18 Ruskin
8/25 Kearney
9/1 @ North Kansas City
9/8 @ Belton
9/15 William Chrisman
9/22 Winnetonka
9/29 Platte County
10/6 @ Grandview
10/13 @ Raytown

Winnetonka

Head Coach: Jared Barge, 2nd season

2015 record (overall/conference): 1-9/0-5

Returning Starters (Off/Def): 4/3

Biggest Challenge: The effort from the players has always been strong at Winnetonka. The struggles can come in the summer where players have outside responsibilities that make it hard for full offseason participation. The coaching staff changed some things this year to get the most out of the time they have with the kids and hopefully it will pay off during the season.

Outlook: The Griffins had a tough year last season and this group is looking to turn things around. One key to the year will be the play of the offensive line. Barge put in a new offense last season and took a long time to find footing especially on the offensive line. This year the big guys have really picked it up and the confidence level is high which could mean good things for Winnetonka.

Coach’s thoughts: “The best thing about the Griffins this year is I’ve got 26 seniors and they as a whole have decided that they are going to work hard to get things back on track. Just being around them this summer and their work ethic and their attitude and just how hard they are working to get things back to where we were a few years ago.”

2017 Schedule:
8/18 Park Hill South
8/25 Smithville
9/1 @ Belton
9/8 Kearney
9/15 @ Shawnee Mission South
9/22 @ Raytown South
9/29 Grandview
10/6 @ Platte County
10/13 @ William Chrisman