When the season started at the end of August, I didn’t know what to expect, let alone thought we’d get to see the season end by playing all 12 state championship games on both sides of the metro.
As COVID-19 cases spiked throughout the Kansas City area, some districts questioned playing the season. Some decided to plug away, especially on the Missouri side. Now several teams did have to end their season a few rounds into the playoffs, erroring on the side of caution.
As for the 2020 season, it will go down in the books as one of the best the Kansas City area has seen. Why?
Once proud programs like St. Pius X and Raymore-Peculiar rose from the ashes and played for state championships, Ray-Pec defeated DeSmet in the Class 6 title game, while the Warriors came up short against perennial power, Lamar, in the Class 2 title game.
* Even though Pius came up short in the Class 2 state title game, the season wasn’t a complete failure. The Warriors had a lot of ‘firsts’ this season. What do I mean by ‘firsts’? It’s quite simple really. Pius claimed its first Midland Empire Conference championship … maybe ever? They defeated Maryville, a team who had owned the Warriors in recent years for the first time since 2001.
I will say this, having one of the Metro’s once proud programs back in the fold will make for some exciting football down the road, especially if the Warriors continue developing under coach Anthony Simone Jr.
* Ray-Pec’s win over DeSmet really opened my eyes to just how good this Panthers team was. The Panthers (12-2), dominated the Spartans from start to finish behind senior quarterback Conrad Hawley and sophomore standout Jaidyn Doss. Doss, the 2020 Otis Taylor Award winner, could not be slowed down in the playoffs. The 6-foot, 195-pound receiver led the Panthers balanced, high-octane offense in receptions (46), yards (976) and touchdowns (seven), but it's what he did against DeSmet that showed me he’s capable of playing at the next level.
Knowing his team needed more speed at the running back position, first year coach Sean Martin moved Doss to running back. Doss’ elite speed and size would prove plentiful against the Spartans stout defense. Doss carried the ball 10 times for 190 yards, scoring three touchdowns against the defending champs. Doss’ versatility moving forward will be beneficial for a team that will have to replace its leading rusher, Phillip Fager, next season.
* On the Kansas side, St. James ended one of the country's longest streaks when it defeated six-time defending state champion Bishop Miege in the Class 4 semifinals en route to its first-ever state championship. Don’t expect this to be a fluke title, the Thunder have been building a stout program over the years and they now know that they can hang with the Stags, even though the Stags had a down year, especially by their standards.
* Another bright spot on the Kansas side this season was Mill Valley. The Jaguars, at the beginning of the season, were the Metro’s best team. They were ranked No. 1 in Class 5 and made a statement when they destroyed the eventual Class 6 champs, Derby, Week 1.
After a 2-0 start to the season, Mill Valley dropped two straight games against Bentonville, Ark. and Gardner-Edgerton, before rattling off seven straight wins to close out the season and winning its second straight Class 5 championship behind one of the Metro’s most prolific offenses led by Cooper Marsh and Jacob Hartman.