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What Steve Said: Steve Bubalo 8/31Photo Credit: Steve Bubalo

A lot of the same familiar thoughts went through my head as Week 1 of the season got underway this past Friday.

It’s always good to hear a raucous crowd again for the first time each season, to be under the lights on Friday night watching student athletes play their tails off.

It’s always not-so-good the first week or two, as those weeks are still hot and muggy and uncomfortable, and I can only imagine what it’s like for the players. That inevitably led to multiple players going down with cramps throughout the game.

That first week always has its share of ups and down, some sloppy play, turnovers, and penalties, as teams and players get acclimated.

But what I thought about most was this – let’s hope we can finish this season.

This comes with the obvious caveat that of course, there are more important things in the COVID conversation than a football season. That goes without saying.

That being said, the COVID cloud still hangs over this season, just like it did 2020.

Having been a student athlete at one point, I can only imagine what a unique and difficult situation last season must have been. To be a senior and have a single game cancelled would have been annoying and frustrating. To have your season end without being able to take the field would have been crushing.  

Here’s hoping that not only the students, but also the adults in the room – coaches and school administrations – are being diligent in doing everything they can to make this season one with very few, if any, sicknesses and cancellations.

As for the play on the field, the Week 1 results and subsequent rankings set up what should be some fun storylines this season.

It goes without saying but Class 6 is going to be a dogfight. Five of the teams in the Top 10 are from the Kansas City area. Ray-Pec leads the way as the defending state champs, but several teams are going to be nipping at the Panthers’ heels.

Class 5 has Raytown leading the way with what could be the most dangerous rushing attack in the area. They clocked in at No. 3 in the rankings and will be one of the most exciting teams to watch. One team I want to keep an eye on from Class 5 is Fort Osage. The Indiana were just outside the rankings but received votes. After a couple of un-Fort-like seasons, I’m curious to see if the Indians teams that were a mainstay in the state rankings are back. They have a battle with No. 9 Staley this week that could show us.

In Class 4, everyone appears to be chasing Smithville. The Warriors nearly made it to the state championship game a season ago, and with so much experience returning, it’s no surprise to see them atop the rankings.

And as they have for the last few seasons, Odessa, for now at least, is the cream of the crop in the area for Class 3. The Bulldogs were undefeated last season – a year after going 15-0 and winning a state title – before COVID derailed their hopes at repeating. Head Coach Mark Thomas has that program humming right now, but teams like St. Pius X and Summit Christian are ones to watch, as they also sit inside the Top 10.

The Eagles are an interesting case of a team that is looking to integrate some new players at key spots after losing some key seniors, but after watching them score 54 points in a win over St. Michael last Friday, it might be a case of them reloading instead of rebuilding. Multiple Eagles had big plays, and those newcomers should only get more comfortable as the season goes along.