Trinity - Where do I start? Quarterback, Isaiah Williams is arguably the best dual-threat quarterback in the area with too many offers to count. Explosive receivers Marcus Washington and Bryce Childress will scare secondaries. On defense, Shammond Cooper is one of the best linebackers in the area and led the team in tackles last year. Oh, and all of those mentioned players have several D1 offers too and so do more. All in all the Titans have elite athleticism across the board and will give head coach Cory Patterson a headache, a positive one. When you look at their roster, this is a young team dominated by underclassmen, albeit heavily talented ones that know how to win. It’ll be interesting to see if teams can hang around with them through halftime, unlike last year. They averaged 56 points per game in the regular season, and they have the tools to put up similar numbers again.
Lutheran North - Losing to Trinity in the district finals could be one of the best things to happen to the 2017 Crusaders. That, and returning a bunch of talented individuals and a seasoned core of players will help out big time. Lutheran North has arguably the best all-around player in Missouri, Ronnie Perkins. The defensive end and tight end has just under 50 D1 offers, but there’s way more than just him. Donovan Marshall and Canaan Brooks are two of highest rated running backs in Missouri, while they have a capable set of receivers to throw to with new quarterback Josh Hopkins taking over. Defensively is where they are absolutely stacked. There’s Perkins and D’vion Harris at defensive end with some more D1 targets Isaiah Azubuike and Devin Ruffin at linebacker. If they can play near their potential, then they’ll be scary good.
MICDS - If you look at their stats before seeing their results, you would think the Rams were not a 9-3 team in 2016 and Metro League conference champions. Ultimately, results are what matters the most to a degree in high school sports and MICDS is back with more to look forward to. Talent stands out first with several skill athletes returning including Graham Bundy Jr who is a dual-threat quarterback and was clutch all season long. Preston Buchanan, Ryan Thompson, and Tyler Purdy are three more explosive athletes that return on offense. Look out for basketball stud Austin Thompson to make an impact as well playing football for the first time since he was a freshman. The Rams need to replace some key losses on defense but look for linebacker Jayson Love and defensive end Henry Gillis to make strong impacts.
McCluer South-Berkeley - The Bulldogs have been mainstays in the local small school rankings for over the past couple of years and this season looks to be no different. Before losing 42-0 to Monett in the Class 3 semifinals, MSB laid waste to just about all of their opponents, and they have the players to do it again if they can step up and lead by example. Quarterback Tavion Willis was one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the area last year. He threw for 1,968 yards, 21 touchdowns, and three interceptions. Starting running back, Devon Blanchard scored 13 touchdowns on the ground and ran for just under 700 yards. The Bulldogs do lose their top three receivers but will have most of their line back and athletes like Charles Wilkins, Antonio Nelson, Kevon James, and Daevon Trust.
Miller Career - The Phoenix quietly went places last season and ultimately made it as far as the Class 3 semifinals. Now they have expectations to keep it up this year, but it will be harder. They lose their quarterback, running back, and defensive leader Joseph Stevenson, but they have guys coming back. Antoine Garrett and John Tutwiler were the two leading receivers and key defenders on defense in the secondary. They’ll have larger roles this season. Michael Marbley and Garrett Barton are key players that return on defense. Look for Skye Henderson to be an impact player on both sides of the ball, especially at linebacker. He’s a slept on talent. The Phoenix will have one of the better defenses in the small schools as they were ferocious last season and return enough to get back to their ways. Miller Career may fall early on with CBC in week 1, but again they could very possibly quietly win games and go for another playoff run.
Lutheran South - They proved last year that they had turned a corner in their program, now they want to dominate. The Lancers are excited about 2017 and were praying that it would be in 2014 when Cody Schrader and KeShon Spraggins were starting as freshman. Now they’re vastly experienced and talented senior leaders with a good cast of characters ready to charge at the opposition. Lutheran South brings back the majority of their starters on all sides of the ball including, Vito Orlando at quarterback along with Spraggins, Darrick Scott, and R.J. Benkelman at wide receiver. Schrader has been one of the most productive running backs in St. Louis these past two seasons, and he will get plenty more chances this year. The Lancers struggled on defense at times, but return seven starters. Overall, South has been trying to develop a winning culture for the past several years, and one could say it’s been leading up to 2017.
John Burroughs - Few saw the Bombers winning less than six to seven games last year. Practically nobody would’ve predicted 4-7. Burroughs received a brutal reality check in the 2016 season, and it didn’t help that several starters went down with injuries. If they can limit injuries this year, then state aspirations will be back online, from an outsider point of view at least. Tyler Foote and Jake Bain knows what it takes to win a state championship and to finish with a losing season the next year. Both three-year starters, Foote is built almost like a lineman, but is the quarterback (South Dakota commit) and has thrown for over 4,000 yards and 52 touchdowns in his career. Bain (Indiana State commit) has rushed for over 3,000 yards and scored 37 rushing touchdowns in his career. Derrick Miller, a D1 prospect will be the No. 1 target for Foote at wide receiver. The Bombers return three of their five linemen and half of their defense.
St. Mary’s - Corey Bethany wasn’t too shabby for his first year as a high school football head coach. The Dragons return the core of their group that went 7-4 and produced an explosive, diverse offense. They may not be as diverse this season out of the gate, but they have the explosive tools back. Gus Dattoli threw for 2,635 yards, 26 touchdowns, and six interceptions. He’s also not afraid to take off and run. Tony Burks, Lavel Harris, Jalen Bethany, and Justin White all return at wideout. Burks caught nine touchdowns and had over 1,000 receiving yards, making him one of the most productive in the area. Losing Jordan and Corbin Lee in the backfield will hurt. Linebackers, Will Menendez and Albert Huff, were two of the leading tacklers last year.
Cardinal Ritter - The Lions struggled with consistency, but this year they have the talent plus experience to pull off a strong season. Back is Jared Phillips and Jared Price. Phillips caught 24 passes for 307 yards and four touchdowns. Price ran for 620 yards and nine touchdowns. The big man back is junior Jameson Williams, a D1 target and up and coming wide receiver/slotback. Defensively, Ritter has a lot coming back. Anthony Baker, Keith Jones, Quavon Windham, and Donell Sharp are a handful of standouts that will heavily feature. I like this squad, and they have the potential to go places, but they need to get through the AAA Small Conference and take care of business in their non-conference schedule which is tough with St. Mary’s, Duchesne, and an Ottawa Marquette squad from Illinois.
Lutheran St. Charles - Straight outta St. Peters and yes that is a fooling school title, but these Cougars aren’t as confusing, yet more direct. In 2015 they finished with a 7-4 record and last year 8-3. Before that their last winning record was in 2008. The program has turned a corner, and this 2017 squad has the makings to continue their winning trend. Bryce French ran for 1,365 yards and scored 22 total touchdowns. The junior quarterback, Hunter Grills through for just under 1,000 yards with 14 touchdowns and seven interceptions. On the ground, he found the end zone seven times. His favorite receiver, Dylan Hawk is back, who caught five touchdown passes a year ago. Hunter Osborne will lead the defense at strong safety/linebacker. Depth is perhaps the Cougars main weakness, but have a lot of young talent that they’ll utilize and to fill in numbers. Nonetheless, they have a strong starting eleven.
- St. Charles West
CBC - Despite losing star wide receiver, Kamryn Babb, and cornerback, M.J. Anderson for the season the Cadets are still loaded for a state championship run. They bring back most of their linemen on both sides of the ball along with Brett Gabbert at quarterback and sport an embarrassment of riches at the wide receiver position, especially Nebraska commit Cameron Brown. This is still the year for CBC to wreak havoc on everybody they come across and will only improve as the season goes on. They say last season was the year to beat the Cadets because they were young in certain areas, but now is the season to watch out for them.
Kirkwood - The reigning Class 6 state champions. The Pioneers lost a good chunk of big name players, but they’ve looked promising this offseason, and it’s more than likely they continue the trend. New quarterback, Ryan Kraichely, a six-foot, five-inch senior is poised to have a strong season. Kirkwood returns all three of their running backs that had the most production on the ground beside quarterback Reece Goddard. Defensively, the Pioneers may be better than last season with most of the secondary and line returning.
Vianney - The reigning Class 5 state champions and reside in the city of Kirkwood no less. The Golden Griffins shocked the state of Missouri last year, but now they have a target on their backs. Tionne Harris, Mickey Morrell, Kyren Williams return on offense and then there’s Jordan Guilfoy, Nate Thurman, and Tayvian Weary on defense. Cam Coleman was due to return as a junior, but transferred to IMG Academy in Florida, however, look out for junior Percy Mitchell to make an impact. Vianney lost the majority of their offensive line to graduation, but coach Paul Day has a good record of developing linemen.
Hazelwood Central - Coming off an undefeated regular season, but another season-ending loss to CBC in the district finals, the Hawks will be strong again, but with a tad more experience. Dallas Craddieth has tons of Division-1 offers, but more importantly is a four-year starter on defense and three years on offense at wide receiver. Another impact returner is running back Raphael Bell, who rushed for 1,483 yards and 16 touchdowns a season ago. There will be some open positions on defense, but as always the Hawks will have plenty of depth. They will be the favorites to win another Suburban North outright title again too but will have their eyes on to break through districts down the road.
Eureka - 2017 looks to be a good one for the Wildcats as they return a load of starters on both sides of the ball. Everything was going great until they lost quarterback Michael Orso for the season with an injury in the middle of the 2016 season and never were the same. The good news is junior Tyler Kennedy got a bunch of game time and is ready to lead the offense. The headliner for Eureka though, is senior running back Hassan Haskins. He rushed for over 1,500 yards, scored 19 touchdowns on the ground, and found the end zone 21 times in total. The Wildcats defense returns plenty of talent and experience that gave up an of average of 15 points per game. Ben Hunnius, D’Antoine McMillan, and Brendan Carter are a host of starters that return, including Haskins who recorded a staggering 12 sacks last year. Simply put, if Eureka can put it all together, then they will give the aforementioned Class 6 teams a scare in the playoffs.
Parkway North - You won’t see an as much ground and pound with the Vikings this year because they got athletes and fast ones at that. Still, they have one of the best defensive tackles in the country in Michael Thompson and emerging offensive linemen Tyson Collins. North’s defense was their backbone last year, and it could still very well be, but the offense they’ll produce is scary good, especially for Class 4. At quarterback is highly rated safety, Jalani Williams, but he’s been the signal caller before when he was called to duty his freshman year. The jury is still out on his accuracy, but we know you can’t let him get loose in the open field. He’s spoiled for choice at wide receiver. Jason Hawkins, C.J. Boone, Jacob Abell, and Anthony Wilson all probably finished running their 100-yard dash times before I finished typing this sentence. Jekeel Suber will bring his speed and strength at running back with a seasoned offensive line accompanied by Collins and Thompson. The defense might be their weakness as they replaced some key players that were huge for them last year, but knowing North, they’ll find a way… Maybe a way to the state championship trophy.
Ladue - The current senior class has been a part of two state semifinals, and they’re poised to go all the way this year. One of the leader’s of that group is the quarterback, Jordan Jackson who is one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the area. He was just shy of 3,000 total yards last season including 2,300 passing yards and threw 22 touchdowns. Not only is his arm a threat but so is his legs, which means defenses will need to get pressure on him quickly or else he’ll take off. His big target this season is junior Dale Chesson, an explosive receiver and the younger brother of Kansas Chief Jehu, who is the lone returning starter from a loaded core a season ago. The offense has the potential to be just as effective as last year because the Rams return four starters on the offensive line that improved game by game. Ladue returns the majority of their defensive linemen that rotated in and out. Losing Chino Davis at running back and linebacker will hurt, but a majority of the defense is back that surrendered an average of 17 points per game last season.
Fort Zumwalt North - You thought that losing Cade Brister to graduation would spell trouble for the Panthers right? That’s still a possibility because they won’t replace him for a long time, but the big picture is North has a heck of a program that isn’t slowing down anytime soon. The Panthers return almost everybody on a defense that surrendered 21 points per game in 14 games that saw them go all the way to the Class 5 state championship. The offense is led by Jack Ederer at quarterback, a converted wide receiver and he’ll have Vernell Rue and speedy sophomore Cairo Payne as targets. They do have an x-factor, and that is six-foot, 270 pounder Jaylin Vaughn as a running back, who apparently runs a 4.70 40-yard dash. He’s also a talented linebacker. If the Panthers veteran line can open up holes for him and Ederer to run through then, they’ll force teams to pick their poison.
Chaminade - Despite having big names like Trevor Trout and Marcus Greer, the Red Devils lost a ton of production from last seasons team that went 9-2. They do have a lot of young talent, albeit unproven players like quarterback Brady Cook and L.J. Fortune just to name a few. However, there is a proven young face in Jabin Johnson, an explosive wide receiver/free safety who transferred from Kickapoo in the offseason. Another impact player will be Jakobi Buchanan at running back.The Metro Catholic Conference won’t do them any favors and could very well finish with a losing record this season with so many new players and a small senior class, but if their talented youngsters learn quickly then perhaps they’ll live up to their ranking and climb.
Marquette - A shock for some people, but here are the facts: Through the last two seasons the Mustangs are 16-6, and I have a strong feeling that they’ll keep it up in 2017. Wendell Bronner Jr. is going to have a big year for the Mustangs. The six-foot, 187-pound running back didn’t get a whole lot of reps last season with Xavier Jackson and Jordan Robertson in front of him. The Mustangs lose a good senior class that helped turn the program around, having said that I like what I see coming up. I’m particularly impressed with the coaching staff that has won the respect of the players over the last couple of seasons, which is not an easy task. The Marquette football program is a sleeping giant that has always had talent, but now they’re getting the most out of it.