After weeks of uncertainty off the field, Lincoln Prep is ready to follow-up on its record-setting campaign from last year.
On Friday, a loaded Lincoln Prep squad, led on offense by senior quarterback Howard Brown and on defense by linebacker Jermaine Hamilton-Jordan, will take on St. Joseph Benton in Prep KC’s BeYOUnion.com Game of the Week.
The contest is like no other in recent memory. The coronavirus threatened to derail the season. Yet, the Blue Tigers, 11-1 just one year ago, remain poised to make a run at a conference, district and state championship.
The visiting Cardinals won only two games last season.
“This is the time of year where you get tired of hitting each other and are just ready for a game,” Lincoln Prep head coach William Lowe said. “Our kids are experienced for the most part and have handled everything well.”
The talent on Lincoln Prep is undeniable. The Blue Tigers count at least four, if not five, Division I prospects on its roster, and others with a chance to play college football next year.
Lowe was asked how the team has handled the beginning of a season that could be shut down or interrupted at any moment.
“We don’t spend time at practice talking about the negatives that COVID may have on our season,” he said. “Instead we use that time to focus on being together as a team, having fun, and improving each day we are able to get on the field. Our expectations are to stay focused and take each day as it comes.”
Playmakers are plentiful at East
Venerable East head coach Greg Smith thought he had seen it all during his tenure as a high school football coach. That was before a global pandemic put the season in jeopardy.
“The first few weeks of practice have been tough this year with everything going on and so much uncertainty about safety,” Smith said. “But kids have slowly continued to come out and this first game we go into it with 28 players.”
Despite being short on numbers, the Bears were highly competitive last year, finishing the last quarter of the season with three wins.
“I could see us being very competitive and winning some games that people have counted us out on,” Smith said. “We have some senior players that are going to be major contributors this year.”
The Bears will take on Van Horn on Friday. The Falcons escaped East last year with a one-point win in overtime to open the season.
This season, East is led by Chris Thornton, who is making the switch from wide receiver to quarterback. On defense, the ball-hawking Thornton was a first-team all-league and all-district performer at safety one season ago.
Tight end and defensive end David Toban and LaDavion West, who will play tight end and outside linebacker, are players to watch, as are lineman LauNell Snow and running back Deion Miles, a first-team all-conference player on offense.
Miles will also play safety alongside Thornton, providing the Bears with a formidable pair on the back end of the defense.
“With these guys and a good group of young players, East will be an exciting team to watch,” Smith said.
COVID-19 hurts numbers at KC Central
Second-year KC Central head coach DJ Pittel knew there was work to be done to bring the Blue Eagles to respectability in the Interscholastic League.
But, “Covid-19 has really hit us hard,” Pittel said. “We will have 20 on the roster this year and we are a perfect example of what happens to inner city youth when they have nothing to do. We had tremendous momentum going into Spring break. Complete buy in and we had 20-25 in the weight room each morning at 5:30 am. Then we were quarantined. With the instability of our neighborhood and the lack of communication we have lost a bunch of players.”
Pittel said he has already established an identity for his squad.
“We will be the Iron Blue Eagles this year,” he said. “We will be playing old school Ironman football. We will have nine players who will have the task of playing both ways. We look forward to the challenge that will bring. There won’t be a lack of playing time that is for sure.”
Walter Taylor IV will be back at the helm of the Blue Eagle offense. Losing Zion Handson, who is now playing college football at Peru State, will be a major blow. Sophomore Hameed Kweli will be given the opportunity to pick up the load left by Handson. Senior Diante Morton returns with his 11 all-purpose touchdowns. His big play ability will be key to the Central’s success.
The Blue Eagles will also lean on H-back Da'Marcus Hawkins and second-team All-IL OL Joron McCorkle. A big addition will be OL Xavier Smith.
Middle linebacker Jaylin Stennis will be the man leading the defense. His experience will be a huge asset, Pittel said. The defensive secondary will be the strength of the defense. Corners Michael Johnson and Malik Warrick will bring a ton of experience and safeties Morton and James King both return.
“We will compete every time we take the field,” Pittel said. “Numbers may be down but we will play with heart.”
Central will play Southeast on Saturday. The Knights are led by first-year head coach Julius Foster, a former assistant at Lincoln Prep.
Another IL team, Northeast, opens on the road at perennial state power Cameron.