I’ve mentioned several times in this space over the years how Class 6 football in Kansas City has been dominated by three schools – Rockhurst, Blue Springs South and Blue Springs.
Obviously, I’m not breaking any news with this statement, but when you thought of big-class football in the area, those three schools always came to mind. They were the elite, as one of them almost always has represented the area in the state title game the last 20-plus years.
Well, as the saying goes, times, they are a-changin’.
You could see the shift starting to happen a little bit in 2019, with Liberty North knocking off Rockhurst in the playoffs, as well as Ray-Pec advancing to the state semifinals.
Last season was the big breakthrough, with Liberty knocking off both Blue Springs South and Blue Springs in the playoffs. Rockhurst didn’t make it out of the first round. Liberty North and Ray-Pec played in the state semifinal game, with the Panthers claiming a dramatic win and becoming the first school since Oak Park in 1996 that wasn’t one of The Big Three to represent Kansas City in the Class 6 state championship game.
The Panthers went on ahead and shocked everyone, beating nationally ranked DeSmet 23-0 to win the state title.
That momentum for schools like Ray-Pec, Liberty North, Lee’s Summit North, Park Hill, Lee’s Summit West, Liberty and Park Hill South (who was Class 5 last season) has continued into 2021. These schools have had some successes at times in Class 6, and really shined in the lower classes before moving up, are now becoming the top dogs. Meanwhile, The Big Three are in a state of flux. I must admit, it’s fascinating how the tables have turned.
Now, before I go any further, and it probably doesn’t need to be said, but I anticipate Rockhurst, Blue Springs South and Blue Springs will find their way back toward the top. And probably soon. Shoot, maybe they’ll surprise some people come playoff time this season, but to see them sit at a combined 3-12 is not something I would have excepted just five or 10 years ago.
Meanwhile, the seven teams mentioned above are a combined 26-8, all with winning records, and four of them (Liberty North, Lee’s Summit North, Park Hill South, Ray-Pec) are ranked in the Top 10.
I can’t wait to see how the next few years turn out. Will those seven programs be able to sustain this level of success? How quickly will Rockhurst, Blue Springs South and Blue Springs return to their status as some of the best teams in the state? I, for one, hope the answer to those two questions are a resounding ‘yes’ and ‘very quickly’. To have that kind of parity in the area for Class 6 will just make things more exciting.
In the meantime, let’s all enjoy the ride of the 2021 season and see whose turn it is this time around. Will Ray-Pec return to the top? Or will another team be the 2021 version of the Panthers? It’s going to be fun to watch it play out.