The Midland Empire Conference has a long history of producing state championship caliber teams. The past two years have been no different as St. Pius X advanced to the Class 2 title game in 2020 and the Class 3 game in 2021.
This year could be more of the same even though league powers Maryville and St. Pius X are younger. Chillicothe returns almost all of its starters off an 8-win team and other teams like Cameron, St. Joseph Benton, St. Joseph Lafayette and Savannah all look to be improved.
It is going to be a hard-fought season in the MEC. Let’s take a look at each team and the virtual media day.
Head Coach: Wes Bell, 1st season
2021 record (overall/conference): 3-8/1-5
Returning Starters (Off/Def): 5/5
Biggest Challenge: The Dragons get a new coach after the retirement of Jeff Wallace. Cameron is learning new systems for offense and defense. Learning new concepts and technology will be the biggest challenge for the players as the season begins.
Outlook: This is a young team that will be learning on the job and the team is making strides. The Midland Empire is a tough place to learn but there is good focus from the players and coaches. Community support is strong and if the young players can continue to grow this could be a tough team to play as the season goes on.
Coach’s thoughts: “We are learning how to do things in a new way. Young program that is learning a new process and they are learning on the fly. Been a good summer, we are hoping to carry that momentum into the season and continue to build on our foundation. We will have to stay healthy, take care of the football, no self-inflicted penalties, and avoid giving up big plays for TD’s.”
8/26 Lincoln College Prep
9/2 @ Southeast
9/9 St. Pius X
9/16 @ Chillicothe
9/30 @ Savannah
10/7 St. Joseph Lafayette
10/14 @ St. Joseph Benton
10/21 @ Marshall
Head Coach: Chad Smith, 2nd season
2021 record (overall/conference): 8-4/4-3
Returning Starters (Off/Def): 9/9
Biggest Challenge: When a team returns almost all of its starters off a team that made it to the district title game the biggest challenge is managing expectations. Chillicothe isn’t going to sneak up on anyone this season so being ready to play every night will be key.
Outlook: The Midland Empire has been ruled by Maryville and St. Pius X the last few seasons but the Hornets look ready to make it a three-team race. Chillicothe is deep and experienced and should challenge for a district and conference title.
Coach’s thoughts: “We should be very good up front this season…The offensive line overall has great size and is getting off the ball faster with better pad level all the time. We have really worked at our overall team speed in the off season especially with our skill players…All of these guys play defense as well. Our defensive coaches have worked hard to fine tune our defensive scheme.”
9/2 @ Kirksville
9/9 @ Maryville
9/23 @ St. Pius X
9/30 @ St. Joseph Lafayette
10/21 @ St. Joseph Benton
Head Coach: Matt Webb, 11th season
2021 record (overall/conference): 7-5/5-1
Returning Starters (Off/Def): 8/8
Biggest Challenge: The five losses were the most for a Maryville team since finishing 4-6 in 2006. Even with those losses the Spoofhounds advanced to the district final losing to Richmond. Bouncing back should be easy but the league is getting better and the non-conference schedule is tough as always.
Outlook: Maryville is a young team that returns experience. The Spoofhounds played their best football late in the season so this year should see an extension of that good play. Look for Maryville to again be playing deep into the postseason.
Coach’s thoughts: “Always exciting to start a new year. Our strengths over the off-season has been our team cohesiveness, guys have really jelled and come together. We’ve had a great summer overall with team camps at NWMSU, and South Dakota State. Always look forward to daily pushing and improving to continue our tradition.”
8/26 @ Blair Oaks (at UCM)
9/16 @ St. Pius X
9/23 @ Cameron
9/30 St. Joseph Benton
10/7 Lutheran North
10/14 @ Savannah
10/21 @ St. Joseph Lafayette
Head Coach: Anthony Hays, 1st season
2021 record (overall/conference): 4-7/2-4
Returning Starters (Off/Def): 8/5
Biggest Challenge: Change in the offseason brings a learning curve to go along with a group of new starters on both sides of the ball. How quickly that learning takes place will determine how quick a start the Savages have in 2022.
Outlook: Excitement is high in a town that loves its football. With a returning quarterback along with several skill players and offensive linemen this should be a team that can score. The defense needs to replace some players so that will be something to watch early in the season. This should be a year of improvement for the Savages.
Coach’s thoughts: “I am really excited to be in Savannah! The school and community loves football and it is evident in our participation numbers. We have nearly 100 kids out for football that are committed to building a successful football program. We are believing that great things are in store for this 2022 season.”
8/26 @ California
9/2 East Buchanan
9/9 @ Kirksville
9/16 St. Joseph Lafayette
9/23 @ St. Joseph Benton
10/7 @ Chillicothe
10/21 St. Pius X
St. Joseph Benton
Head Coach: Kevin Keeton, 5th season
2021 record (overall/conference): 1-9/0-7
Returning Starters (Off/Def): 8/9
Biggest Challenge: The Cardinals have had a hard time finding wins over the last decade so just learning how to win is something that will be focused on with a group that returns experience.
Outlook: Benton is finally in a position where they are playing veteran players who have experience and allowing younger players time to learn. The last few years the youth was thrust into roles it my not have been ready for because they were needed. With lots of starters back on both sides of the ball this team could take some major steps forward.
Coach’s thoughts: “I really like how far we have come in the last 2 years. These kids have been through the fire with the coaches and the locker room has an authentic feel right now.”
8/26 @ Northeast
9/2 St. Joseph Central
9/9 @ St. Joseph Lafayette
9/16 Kansas City Central
9/30 @ Maryville
10/7 @ St. Pius X
St. Joseph Lafayette
Head Coach: Scott Finley 1st season
2021 record (overall/conference): 6-4/4-2
Returning Starters (Off/Def): 4/5
Biggest Challenge: This is the third coach in the last four years for the Fighting Irish so this group is used to change. There is talent but it is young so there has already been a lot of learning and that should continue during the season.
Outlook: There is talent and several athletes from other sports have come out for football for the first time. There will be a decent amount of underclassmen that will start so this team should get better as the season goes on.
Coach’s thoughts: “We have a group of very talented underclassmen that will start at the varsity level for the first time. That will likely mean we will have nights that we overperform and nights that we underperform due to inexperience and not realizing our full potential.”
9/2 @ Pleasant Hill
9/9 St. Joseph Benton
9/16 @ Savannah
10/7 @ Cameron
10/14 @ St. Pius X
St. Pius X
Head Coach: Anthony Simone Jr., 3rd season
2021 record (overall/conference): 12-2/6-0
Returning Starters (Off/Def): 7/8
Biggest Challenge: The Warriors will be young but this group has gotten a lot of extra practices the last few years with two runs to the state championship game. The veteran group that led the past two seasons is gone so a lot will be asked of this group of players.
Outlook: St. Pius X is very talented but will be replacing some key spots like quarterback and tailback. There is experience on the line of scrimmage and the defense is anchored by one of the best players in the metro Jayshawn Ross. There may not be a third straight trip to the state championship game this season but another deep run is not out of the question.
Coach’s thoughts: “We are young, but we are super talented. We lost a lot of awesome SR’s last season, and they left us with some major voids. It’s going to be tough, but I truly feel like we have the guys to fill those voids. It will be a process with this young group but all of us coaches feel like this group of young men has the potential to be one of the best groups we‘ve had here and that’s saying a lot.”
8/26 Pembroke Hill
9/2 @ St. Michael
9/9 @ Cameron
9/30 @ St. James Academy
10/7 St. Joseph Benton
10/14 St. Joseph Lafayette
10/21 @ Savannah