SBLive’s Missouri Top 25: De Smet Jesuit headlines preseason statewide football power rankings

By Chris Geinosky

SBLive’s preseason Top 25 teams in Missouri high school football …

1. De Smet Jesuit

Many of the state’s top college recruits of the past few years have come through the De Smet program in St. Louis, and that trend will continue with the likes of Kaleb Purdy, Jordan Coleman, Mac Markway and Christian Gray. The highly talented Spartans earned the Class 6 state championship in 2019 with a perfect 14-0 record followed by a state runner-up showing in a shortened 2020 season during which the team played only seven games due to effects of COVID-19.

2. Jackson

After suffering an overtime loss in the state title game in 2019, Jackson put together one of the most dominant seasons ever seen in the Show-Me State. The Indians’ high-octane offense scored 781 points in 14 games (56 per game) last year, which ranks as the fifth-most in state history according to the MSHSAA record book. Jackson scored 49 points in every game, except for the Class 5 final, which ended in a 42-7 blowout.

3. Raymore-Peculiar

In each of the past two seasons, Raymore-Peculiar has advanced to the Class 6 state championship game. Led by Simone Award-winning quarterback (most outstanding player in the Kansas City area) Conrad Hawley, the Panthers claimed runner-up honors in 2019 followed by the state title in 2020. Ray-Pec lost much of last year’s top-end talent to graduation, including Hawley, but still stands as the defending state champion.

4. Christian Brothers College

Another staple of success from the St. Louis area, Christian Brothers has an impressive cumulative record of 130-26 in the past 13 seasons under the guidance of head coach Scott Pingel. During that time, the Cadets have produced more than 100 all-state award-winning players. CBC has reached the state title game five times during Pingel’s tenure, the last time coming in the championship season of 2018.

5. Liberty

Powered by an experienced offensive line and standout running back Wentric Williams III, who is also a state champion grappler on the Blue Jays’ two-time reigning large-class state title wrestling team, Liberty turned in a 10-2 record last season. The losses came against eventual Class 6 state champion Ray-Pec and crosstown rival Liberty North, and now the Jays have a large contingent of starters back.

6. Francis Howell

Francis Howell owns a long run of consecutive winning seasons. Led by dual college prospect Brett Norfleet (6-7, 225 pounds), who is receiving NCAA D-1 looks in baseball and football, the Vikings posted a 9-2 record last year and a 10-2 mark in 2019, suffering season-ending postseason losses at the hands of powerhouse De Smet on both occasions.

7. Liberty North

After beginning the 2020 campaign with back-to-back losses, Liberty North reeled off nine consecutive victories before finally losing again, falling to eventual state champion Ray-Pec in the Class 6 semifinals. Guided by highly regarded head coach Greg Jones, the Eagles have gone 20-4 over the past two seasons, with three of those losses coming against Ray-Pec.

8. Webb City

No team in the state has been as successful — or as consistent — as Webb City. Led by legendary head coach John Roderique, the Cardinals have posted an amazing 298-28 record since 1997 while dominating the southwest Missouri region. Recently enshrined in the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, Roderique has coached a state record 12 state championship teams, the most recent in 2017 and 2019.

9. Fort Zumwalt North

It has been a while since Fort Zumwalt North has suffered a losing season — since 2012, to be exact. In the eight years since, the Panthers have racked up a combined 86-14 record, while losing two games or fewer in the past seven seasons. North has claimed seven consecutive district titles but has reached a state championship game only once during the stretch (runner-up in 2016).

10. Lee’s Summit North

One of the most talented teams — on paper — in the state’s best and deepest conference (Greater Kansas City Suburban Gold), Lee’s Summit North is a program that has been on the brink of a breakthrough in recent years. After last season ended with a COVID-19 forfeit, the Broncos return almost their starters on both sides of the ball.

11. Blair Oaks

Which program in the state of Missouri has suffered the fewest losses in recent years? That honor belongs to small-class Blair Oaks. A team that has jumped back and forth between Class 2 and Class 3, the Falcons have lost a mere five games in the past six seasons. The reigning Class 3 state champions have played in three state title games in the past four years, winning it all in 2018 and 2020 and finishing as the state runner-up in 2017.

12. Holt

No one knows what could have been for Holt last season. After winning the program’s first postseason game in nearly a decade, the Indians saw their season end with a forfeit due to “COVID-19 issues.” Holt finished 8-2 and will be hungry this fall, considering there’s a long list of returning starters led by dual-threat quarterback Cooper Brown.

13. Rockhurst

When you think of Rockhurst football, you think of legendary head coaches. Tony Severino (2018 Missouri Hall of Fame inductee) led the Hawklets to seven state championships during his 37-year run with the school before his retirement in 2019. Rockhurst found his replacement in Kelly Donohoe (2019 Missouri Hall of Fame inductee), who went 191-53 and won four state titles in 20 years at Blue Springs, a longtime rival of the Hawklets.

14. Lutheran North

No team in Missouri has as many top-end college recruits as Lutheran North. According to 247sports.com, the Crusaders have five of the top 30 seniors in the state on their roster: Toriano Pride, Ali Wells, Caldra Williford, Jaylin Carson and Jaylen Banks. North advanced to the state semifinals in 2017 and 2018, claimed the Class 2 state championship in 2019, and then reached the state quarterfinals after moving up a division to Class 3 last year.

15. MICDS

It appears MICDS (Mary Institute and St. Louis Country Day School) is back on track. The Rams have played for a state championship in two of the past three seasons, including last year. The program is now led by head coach Fred Bouchard, who has compiled a 208-49 record and five state titles in 21 years, highlighted by his time building the programs at Harrisonville and Staley.

16. Carthage

Winning has become tradition at Carthage. Since moving up to Class 5, the Tigers have advanced to the state semifinals four times in five years, capped by the state championship season of 2019. Carthage attempted to repeat last year but finished the campaign 9-1 after suffering a season-ending defeat to Webb City, which also moved up a classification.

17. Helias Catholic

Years of frustration finally came to an end last year for Helias, when the Crusaders and head coach Chris Hentges completed an undefeated season with a Class 4 state championship. It marked the program’s first state title since 1998 — the final year Hentges’ father, Ray, served as the team’s head man. During the 22-year drought between state crowns, Helias had to settle for state runner-up honors on five occasions (1999, 2008, 2009, 2012 and 2013).

18. Lamar

Over the past decade, no program has matched the success of Class 2 stalwart Lamar. Winners of eight state championships in the past 10 years (including seven straight from 2011-17), the Tigers have compiled an impressive cumulative record of 132-11 during the stretch. Lamar posted three consecutive undefeated seasons in 2015, 2016 and 2017 and has four other one-loss state championship campaigns to its credit, including in 2020.

19. Smithville

Smithville has not endured a losing campaign in a decade. The Warriors have taken their success up a notch in recent years, reaching the state semifinals in two of the past three seasons, including last year, when they suffered a heartbreaking,13-10 last-minute defeat at the hands of Helias. Now, Smithville needs to take one more step to join the state’s elite, and there might be enough talent this year to make it happen.

20. Nixa

After a state runner-up showing in 2014, Nixa fell into a five-year run of mediocrity. That was until the Eagles welcomed head coach John Perry. Perry brought impressive credentials with him from Pearl High School in Mississippi (107-48 record and two state championship game appearances) and instantly turned around Nixa’s fortunes. In 2020, the Eagles went 9-3 and reached the Class 6 semifinals, where they narrowly fell to Ray-Pec, 18-15.

21. Chaminade College Prep

After a few years of mediocrity, Chaminade broke through with a district championship last year. The Red Devils suffered a playoff loss to eventual state champion Jackson in the quarterfinals, but now they return several experienced players, including three high-profile seniors receiving D1 college looks: Cameron Epps, Elijah Griffin and Jimmy Lansing.

22. Platte County

Platte Country’s program can be best described in one word: consistent. The steady Pirates have suffered one losing season in the past 11 years. In the past four seasons, Platte County has reached the state semifinals three times and played for a state championship in each of the past two, which includes 2020, the team’s inaugural campaign moving up to the Class 5 level.

23. Cardinal Ritter College Prep

Don’t be fooled by the 4-4 record posted by Cardinal Ritter last season. Coming off a Class 3 state runner-up finish in 2019, the Lions missed most of the 2020 regular season because of COVID-19. Ritter advanced all the way to the state semifinals anyway, and as it turned out, the losses came against four of the best teams in the state: eventual Class 3 state champion Blair Oaks, Class 4 state champ Helias, Class 5 title winner Jackson and Class 6 Francis Howell.

24. Odessa

Entering the postseason last year, Odessa owned the state’s longest win streak at 24, and the Bulldogs had won 36 of 37 games overall dating to the 2018 season. It all came to an end when the defending Class 3 state champions saw their 2020 season — and hopes to repeat — end with a postseason forfeit due to COVID-19.

25. Lee’s Summit West

The fifth member of the Greater Kansas City Suburban Gold Conference to crack the preseason top 25 — joining Lee’s Summit North, Liberty, Liberty North and Raymore-Peculiar — Lee’s Summit West has been trending upward. The Titans, who have three state titles to their credit (2007, 2010, 2013), handed eventual state champ Ray-Pec its only loss of the 2020 season and defeated Rockhurst for the first time in school history last year.

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