Good just got tougher

By Dion Clisso PrepsKC Managing Editor
Posted: August 16, 2018 - 2:20 PM



The Suburban Conference grew by two teams this year which caused a little more movement than normal. The Suburban Red lost Raytown but gained Lee’s Summit and Staley so a good league just got even better.

Liberty and Park Hill South have been the last two champions, and both could be in the mix this year. With Staley now in the league the Falcons will also be a factor in what could be a tight race that goes down to the final week of the regular season.

Below is a preview of each of the teams in the Suburban Red.

Lee’s Summit

Head Coach: Eric Thomas, 9th season

2017 record (overall/conference): 5-6/2-4 (Suburban Gold)

Returning Starters (Off/Def): 4/9

Biggest Challenge: The overall numbers are down a little at Lee’s Summit. The quality of players and level of experience is good, but the lower numbers could influence depth during the season. Depth became an issue last year as the Tigers had to go to a whole new offense at the end of the season. Even with that Lee’s Summit played its best football at the end knocking No. 1 seed Lee’s Summit West out of the district tournament.

Outlook: The past few years it has been Lee’s Summit’s offense that has led the way. The Tigers have produced some of the best quarterbacks in the Metro during Thomas’ nine-season run but this could be the year the defense steps up and leads the way. There are nine returning starters led by defensive linemen Drew Epperson, Dylan Ham, Darrius Robinson and Clayton Couch so Lee’s Summit should be in almost every game this year. If the offense can find its footing the Tigers could be on their way to a winning season.

Coach’s thoughts: “I think we have a great group of young men. They are fun to come to work with every day. They are a fun-loving group but at the some point they know how to get to work and how to have great effort and understand the practice environment. It’s just been a lot of fun this summer.”

2018 Schedule:
8/24 @ Liberty
8/31 Belton
9/7 @ Staley
9/14 Blue Springs
9/21 Park Hill South
9/28 @ St. Joseph Central
10/5 Lee’s Summit North
10/12 @ Liberty North
10/19 @ Truman

Liberty

Head Coach: Chad Frigon, 8th season

2017 record (overall/conference): 8-3/5-0 (Conference champion)

Returning Starters (Off/Def): 6/5

Biggest Challenge: The Jays are coming off two straight years of success capped off by last year’s Suburban Red championship. Gone are stars like running back Robert Rawie and quarterback Thomas Heinrichs but left behind is a group that has won 15 games in the last two seasons. The question for this season is if the past two years are part of a culture change or just a group of talented players.

Outlook: Liberty has some good players who contributed last year led by tailback Jackson Lowery, linebacker/fullback Nate Gray and receiver Evan Streich. Those seniors should be leaders of a younger group that features a lot of linemen that could turn out to be a pretty good group. If those younger players take the steps forward like the last two senior classes did the Jays could be in position for their third straight winning season.

Coach’s thoughts: “We did lose those seniors, but they definitely left a good culture within our team. Our seniors and juniors that were on the field last year are trying to live up to that and carry that same standard with them. It’s been exciting to see those kids step into leadership roles.”

2018 Schedule:
8/24 Lee’s Summit
8/31 @Park Hill
9/7 Truman
9/14 @ Liberty North
9/21 Lee’s Summit North
9/28 @ Park Hill South
10/5 @ Lee’s Summit West
10/12 St. Joseph Central
10/19 Staley

Liberty North

Head Coach: Greg Jones, 2nd season

2017 record (overall/conference): 4-6/3-2

Returning Starters (Off/Def): 3/3

Biggest Challenge: It’s year two for Liberty North with coach Jones at the helm. While the expectations and processes are now in place there isn’t a lot of starting experience back. The Eagles have gotten bigger and stronger in the offseason, but they lack Friday night experience. Getting used to the speed of the game on the varsity level will be a test the first few weeks.

Outlook: The strength of the senior class is on the line on both sides of the ball along with the linebackers. Some of the skill players are younger so the offense has room to grow. Jones style of play good defense and special teams win the turnover battle and solid offense is probably what this team needs to be successful. In a crowded league Liberty North could be a team that could work its way near the top if the younger players mature as the season goes on.

Coach’s thoughts: “The main thing is the kids know the expectations now. I’ve shared this with a few people not that one way is right, and one way is wrong. It’s just when you skin a cat different than someone else it takes people a while to figure out how you want it done…This year when the kids get on the field they know what our expectations are and it’s a lot better.”

2018 Schedule:
8/24 @ Lee’s Summit North
8/31 Truman
9/7 @ Park Hill
9/14 Liberty
9/21 St. Joseph Central
9/28 @ Staley
10/5 @ Blue Springs
10/12 Lee’s Summit
10/19 @ Park Hill South

Park Hill South

Head Coach: Mike Sharp, 4th season

2017 record (overall/conference): 4-6/3-2

Returning Starters (Off/Def): 7/9

Biggest Challenge: After a year of learning the Panthers should be ready to take a step forward and be a competitor in the conference race and in the Missouri Class 5 playoffs. The test will be for South’s players to convert the youth and talent into wins on Friday night.

Outlook: The players are there especially on the defensive side of the ball. Leading the way is Clemson commit Etionsa Reuben along with Addison Snowball and Xavier Jackson. Those three make up what could be one of the best defensive lines in the Metro. Offensively Ta’Von Tusa will be a good tailback that will anchor a talented group. South is only one year removed from winning the conference and finishing 10-2 with those losses coming to Park Hill and Staley. This could be another year where South is challenging the top of the Suburban Red and Missouri Class 5.

Coach’s thoughts: “Our senior class and junior class that is supporting them are just an old group of kids that really enjoy hanging out with each other. We’ve had a tremendous offseason. Our kids are very ready for this season to kind of try to put ourselves back on the map but also, they are truly just a lot of fun. At the end of the day I don’t how many games that wins us but day in, day out we are going to have a good time.”

2018 Schedule:

8/24 Raymore-Peculiar
8/31 @ Platte County
9/7 @ St. Joseph Central
9/14 Staley
9/21 @ Lee’s Summit
9/28 Liberty
10/5 @ Truman
10/12 @ Blue Springs South
10/19 Liberty North

St. Joseph Central

Head Coach: Regi Trotter, 1st season

2017 record (overall/conference): 4-7/2-3

Returning Starters (Off/Def): 5/5

Biggest Challenge: Central’s numbers are in the 80s so having depth will be an issue. Several players will go both ways so keeping them healthy while building quality depth will be crucial as the season goes on.

Outlook: This is the fourth head coach in as many years, so the seniors have had a different person leading the way each year. Coach Trotter was on staff last season along with several of the assistant coaches, so the transition might be a little easier this year. Building trust on both sides will be key to the early part of the season as Central gets used to a new coach.

Coach’s thoughts: “I really appreciate how they’ve come to work this summer. Especially our top end guys they’ve put in a lot of good work this summer and I think we are going to be ready to and have a good year. Who knows how far that good year goes but I think the guys have put some good work in to make sure they try and do the best they can.”

2018 Schedule:
8/24 @ Smithville
8/31 Lee’s Summit North
9/7 Park Hill South
9/14 @ Truman
9/21 @ Liberty North
9/28 Lee’s Summit
10/5 @ Staley
10/12 @ Liberty
10/19 Winnetonka

Staley

Head Coach: Phil Lite, 3rd season

2017 record (overall/conference): 14-0/5-0 (Suburban White and Missouri Class 5 champions)

Returning Starters (Off/Def): 4/5

Biggest Challenge: Anytime you take players like Johnny Raybourn, J.D. Benbow, Zach Elam and Tyler Miller of any team it will have big holes to fill. Staley has been in that situation before and found players to step up and be successful. The Falcons have some of the best numbers of any program in the Metro so there are players there. Now the coaching staff just needs to get the new players in the right spot and ready for Friday nights.

Outlook: The Falcons return several key players like offensive lineman Jackson Pfender, linebacker Parker Heyne and several others who were key contributors to the state championship run. Staley will probably take a step back early but should still be in the mix as one of the better Class 5 Missouri teams in the Metro.

Coach’s thoughts: “This has probably been our best summer in 11 years with kids showing up. We are averaging well over 100 kids in the weight room every day this summer. We’ve made tremendous strides in our strength and our speed. We feel like we’ve got good kids in our program and we just have to find the right sports for them.”

2018 Schedule:
8/24 @ Truman
8/31 Kearney
9/7 Lee’s Summit
9/14 @ Park Hill South
9/21 @ Lee’s Summit West
9/28 Liberty North
10/5 St. Joseph Central
10/12 @ Park Hill
10/19 @ Liberty

Truman

Head Coach: Charlie Pugh, 2nd season

2017 record (overall/conference): 2-9/0-5

Returning Starters (Off/Def): 6/3

Biggest Challenge: The Patriots have struggled with numbers the last few years. The numbers are better, but Truman is still on the smaller side of Class 5 teams in terms of players out for football. The Patriots will have to work to build on the increase they have and

Outlook: Truman is coming off a season with just two wins but one of those came in the first round of the postseason. The Patriots then played well in their loss to Fort Osage in the district semifinals before seeing their season end. There are three starters back on the offensive line. Junior Aaron Porter, senior Jesus Carbajal and sophomore Devron Rivera should lead an offense that has a second-year quarterback in Carter Brown. There are some players back with experience, so the Patriots could be improved even if their record doesn’t take a big jump forward.

Coach’s thoughts: “Our strength in terms of our team and our experience comes on the offensive side of the ball. That’s where we are hoping to have some greater success with the teams that we play. It’s a tough schedule for anybody in Kansas City but we can only control what we do and how we perform. We are excited and looking forward to the challenge.”

2018 Schedule:
8/24 Staley
8/31 @ Liberty North
9/7 @ Liberty
9/14 St. Joseph Central
9/21 @ William Chrisman
9/28 @ North Kansas City
10/5 Park Hill South
10/12 @ Columbia Hickman
10/19 Lee’s Summit