Friday, 17 January 2020
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***BREAKING NEWS***    High School Basketball Postponements for Jan. 17    ***
Local Sports News
High School Football Season Preview: Northeast Kansas League
By Jonny Kane and Justin Fluke
Copyright: MSC Sports

The 2019 high school foootball season is set to kickoff Friday evening and with that we at Kanzland Radio want to start our coverage this week with a preview of each league throughout Northeast Kansas and today we take a look at the NEKL. 

It was a bit of a down year for the Northeast Kansas League in 2018 with just three teams finishing with winning records while three teams still made the second round of the postseason. Jackson Heights once again ended the year on top of the league standings for a third straight season with a 4-0 mark, which included a 14-0 win over Maur Hill-Mount Academy in week three. The Cobras won two playoffs games to complete their best season since 2002. The Ravens went on to finish 5-1 in league play despite that loss and reached the second round of the playoffs before falling to Rossville. While McLouth went just 2-2 in league they found a way to make it to the second round of the playoffs with a 48-26 win over Jayhawk-Linn while Pleasant Ridge took third in the league but struggled down the stretch. ACCHS made the switch back to the Northeast Kansas League and had a solid first year showing winning two games which broke a long winless streak. The 2019 season sets up to be a two-team race at the top, but after that the remainder of the league standings are up for grabs which should make for more competitive games in 2019!

The JACKSON HEIGHTS COBRAS have won the League for three straight years and are easily the favorite to repeat with a huge line that is not only strong and physical, but now very experienced. Coming off their best season since 2002, Coach Caleb Wick returns for his seventh campaign and must only replace four senior starters from a year ago. Besides one of the best group of lineman in the state, Cooper Williams is back to lead the wishbone backfield and some younger players showed great promise coming on last year to help make the 2019 season even better for the green and gold. 

MAUR HILL-MOUNT ACADEMY took another step in the right direction in 2018 as the Ravens went 7-1 in the regular season and picked up an opening round playoff win over Mission Valley after claiming a district title. The Ravens fell just short of second round upset of perennial power Rossville falling 21-14, ending the year at 8-2 which was the most wins for the program in over 10 years. The Ravens have turned into one of the most consistent programs throughout Northeast Kansas under the reign of coach Jermaine Monroe, but there will be a new head man this season as Monroe has left the program and accepted a position at Topeka West. Taking over for Monroe is a familiar face, as Brandon Wilkes is back after coaching the Ravens for years from 2011 to 2012 with seven starters back on each side and high expectations in 2019.

PLEASANT RIDGE saw a one-win improvement for the Pleasant Ridge Rams in the 2018 season going 5-4 overall and 4-1 in league play. The Rams took a huge step in the right direction last year and eighth year head coach Pat McCollim believes the program closed the gap between them and some of the top programs in the state by playing Nemaha Central and Rossville close despite falling just short of the ultimate goal of winning playoff games. Pleasant Ridge did graduate five key starters and will need some younger players to step up and play varsity roles this year to achieve the goal of not only competing for a league title and district title but also win playoff games.

ACCHS snapped a two-year losing skid last season in their first year back in the NEKL and are set to take the next step. ACCHS was much more competitive in 2018, but still went through stretches where a lack of confidence and inexperience showed. The Tigers didn’t have the biggest roster either last season or suffered injuries at key positions that seemed to hurt the morale of the team in a couple of games. That shouldn’t be the case in 2019 with third-year head coach Corey Thomas back with high hopes of being not only competitive once again in the NEKL but a chance to have a winning season in 2019.

JEFFERSON COUNTY NORTH finished with a losing record for the first time under head coach Jeff Schneider struggling against tough competition resulting in a 2-7 record in 2018. The Chargers started the year with no experience at skill positions and with the strength of schedule JCN faced there was little opportunity to grow and get better quickly. Unlike last season where the Chargers struggled with experience at the skill positions it’s a flip this year, as the entire backfield returns while Coach Schneider will have to find a way to replace four starting linemen.

OSKALOOSA suffered a season to forget in 2018 failing to win a game while being forced to forfeit the final three games of the year. Oskaloosa had not only new faces at several positions but also a new head coach as Matthew Johnson took over the program for longtime head man Scott Whaley. Luckily for the Bears the 2018 season is in the books and coach Johnson enters year two with all 11 starters back on both sides of the ball with high hopes of not only picking up wins in 2019 but once again being competitive in the NEKL.

MCLOUTH saw improvement last season finishing 5-5 taking advantage of senior-laden squad to build a winning season and advance to the second round of the playoffs. McLouth racked up key wins over West Franklin and Central Heights which gave the Bulldogs their opportunity to pick up their first playoff victory since 2012 in a win over Jayhawk-Linn. But unfortunately for coach Gary Freeman 10 impactful seniors have since graduated leaving the Bulldogs with several question marks heading into the 2019 season.

It was a week to week question last year if HORTON would have enough healthy and eligible players to play a game on Friday night. After a winless campaign, the good news is that Coach Mark Friess returns for a second year with the program and they have almost 20 athletes out for football.  The trouble is all the skill position players graduated and the Chargers will be very young and inexperienced in the backfield while battling through a brutal schedule.   

©2020 MSC Sports
Hiawatha, KS 66434
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