For all the years I've covered high school football in Missouri, it felt strange sitting on the sidelines last Friday. OK, fine, I only spent the last eight years covering Friday night lights in the Show-Me-State, including last fall in my first year with PrepsKC.
Now that I've returned to my roots and gone full JOCO on everyone, I figured I’d enjoy an extra week of summer, take care of things at my 8-5, team up with my wife to take care of the two kiddos, both of whom are under the weather, and just anxiously awaiting another seven days for the start of prep football in Kansas.
But I just couldn't help myself last week. I kept track of the boys of fall on the Missouri side and stayed up far too late tracking my favorite sports staff’s game coverage across the state (shout-out to my friends in Liberty, Joplin, and Jeff City). Of course, I consumed the content here on PrepsKC, too. How about that Liberty-Blue Springs overtime affair?!
So, without further ado, the wait is over. It's go time, Kansas. The young men strap on the pads in a meaningful contest starting Thursday for the first time in 2021.
Much like Missouri’s opening week, the Kansas side of the metro area has plenty of anticipation attached to it. And although we aren’t quite near the end of this exhausting pandemic, which as we all know has caused fits on organized sports at all levels, there is more fun to be had this fall.
For example, fans of the Blue Valley schools will enjoy competing against programs in other districts. And since my esteemed colleague Chris Duderstadt stole some of my thunder last week in previewing some of the matchups to look out for — go read his column, by the way — I’ll take a bit of a more personal approach in this space.
As Chris smartly points out in his column, there are plenty of headliners to kick off the 2021 campaign. And a couple of them involve the private schools in the area. Here’s where I come in.
Since we’re all about transparency around here, it’s important to note that I’m a graduate of St. James Academy. It was once again noted in this week’s PrepsKC podcast, but I figured I’d let it be known here, as well. So, yes, seeing Tom Radke — the Kansas City Chiefs’ KC area coach of the year winner — lead the Thunder to their first state championship was special. I watched every second of the title game and it was a blast. LaJames White, Dakota Burritt, and company made a heckuva run, even knocking off perennial power Bishop Miege in the process.
St. James will take the field for the first time since they topped Arkansas City 56-34 back in late-November with one of their toughest tasks of the 2021 slate — St. Thomas Aquinas, a rival the Thunder has yet to defeat. I know that latter fact well as my sister attended the Overland Park school.
Miege returns to the gridiron without the distinction of defending state champions for the first time since 2014. And the Stags will have a worthy opponent as well in Week 1, with a Thursday tilt at Blue Valley North, who reached the 6A state championship last season.
There are plenty of teams and players to look out for this year, and I’ll encourage you one more time to read Chris again here. Defending 5A state champions Mill Valley. Olathe North. Blue Valley Northwest. Shawnee Mission Northwest. Lawrence. Basehor-Linwood. Tonganoxie. De Soto. Paola. And so much more.
Overall, this should be another awesome year of high school football. League titles are up for grabs. State championships to be won. Braggin rights to be earned. Strap it in, ladies and gentleman.
This fall will be a good one. Let’s do this, Kansas.