During the offseason, we’ll check out one team per week that looks like a sure bet to be among the best in the nation this fall.
This week’s team: Staley (Kansas City, Mo.)
Projected 2012 Preseason Ranking: Top 50. While the Falcons didn’t win the highest division in Missouri’s Show-Me Bowl last December, they made a strong case that they were the state’s top overall squad. Not only were they unbeaten, but they posted a win against Blue Springs (Mo.) early in the season and Blue Springs was a team that also notched a win early in the season against Class 6 state champion Blue Springs (Mo.) South (Blue Springs, Mo.). This year’s Staley team once again will feature the talents of Trent Hosick (6-2, 220), one of the top-ranked quarterbacks in the nation. A Missouri commit, Hosick rushed for 2,403 yards and 31 touchdowns as a junior and passed for 1,422 yards and 10 scores.
Team Strengths: Hosick’s return automatically makes the Falcons a choice to be one of Missouri’s best teams for this fall. He has committed to Missouri after getting offers from most schools from the Big 12 and Big Ten. For the team to repeat and be higher in the rankings, however, a replacement will need to step up for graduated standout Morgan Steward. He rushed for 2,226 yards and scored 36 times in his senior season. A good bet to become that feature back is Tre Childs, who averaged nearly eight yards per carry as a backup. Another plus will be the return of all-state offensive lineman Austin White. The defense also could be in rebuilding mode and will need some younger players, including sophomore linebacker Parker Mertz, who played varsity as a freshman, to become team leaders.
Another Missouri team to watch: Webb City (Mo.) begins 2012 as a two-time defending Class 4 state champion and with on a 30-game winning streak. It’s hard to tell how the Cardinals would fare against bigger schools, but early in the season they are going up against Har-Ber (Springdale, Ark.), a solid Class 7A program from Arkansas. This year’s team at Webb City also is loaded with returning standouts, led by running back Phoenix Johnson, who rushed for 1,920 yards and scored 33 touchdowns last fall. Three others who earned Class 4A all-state honors as juniors are defensive lineman Jose Speer, kicker Alex Easley, linebacker Nate Brown and tight end Kohl Slaughter.