By Max Goodwin
Rockhurst and state champion Raymore-Peculiar face off
Like last season, the two football powerhouses in south KC will take the field against each other in the first game of the season.
Both schools had new coaches last season. Sean Martin had been around the Ray-Pec district for decades in different coaching and physical education roles. In his first season as head coach, Ray-Pec won its first Class 6 title since 2006.
“I was just happy for the team, the school, and the community that we could do that in such a challenging year,” Martin said when asked what winning a state championship in first year as coach meant to him.
Kelly Donohoe was a legendary coach at Blue Springs High School and for two decades was often the toughest rival of Rockhurst. That all changed when legendary Rockhurst High School coach Tony Severino retired at the end of the 2019 season. Unfortunately, Rockhurst and Donohoe did not get the chance to compete for a state title.
After a sudden heartbreaking end to Rockhurst’s season when the Hawklets had to forfeit the first District playoff game because of a positive Covid case. Rockhurst was 5-3 on the season, with impressive wins.
They kick off the season August 27 at Ray-Pec.
New fields and facilities at Ruskin and Center
Ruskin High School sports teams will be playing home games on a brand new synthetic field this season, as part of a redevelopment of school facilities which were financed through School district bonds and KCMO Public Improvement Advisory Committee (PIAC) funding.
Ruskin Principal Torrence Allen said safety concerns had arisen with the previous field which was installed in 2008, before Ruskin and Hickman Mills High Schools merged. The old field still had ‘Cougars’ written in the orange of Hickman Mills on it. Many of the students attending Ruskin today don’t remember Hickman Mills High School, so it was also time for Ruskin to have just the blue and yellow of the Ruskin Golden Eagles detailing the field, both Principal Allen and Ruskin head coach William Perkins said.
Ruskin has seen an increase in players interested in playing football this season with enthusiasm about the new field.
Over at Center High School, the Yellowjackets just played their first season on their own new synthetic turf field, paid for in part by a grant from the Chiefs. Center coach Bryan DeLong said the new field made an immense difference in keeping kids safe and allowing them to get more practice time in. Center was one of the few schools left playing on natural grass before last year.
In the past, the team was forced to practice on a separate field to preserve the grass on the game day field. Practice would have to be canceled after any considerable amount of rain as the practice field next to Holmes Road at Center would flood. It was also a bit uneven, with small dips and hills giving the potential for knee and ankle injuries.
Now, athletics events at both schools will be played on fresh new turf.
Grandview begins season with new coach
Dan Joiner thought it would be a great fit when Grandview High School reached out to him. He was well aware of the school’s football program. He grew up near Grandview, and had family who graduated from and lived in Grandview.
With a new athletic director at Grandview this year in Justin Remington, and several more coaching changes, Joiner said it’s nice in some ways to come into the new situation with other new members of the athletic staff at Grandview. It allows them to start fresh.
Last season, Joiner was an assistant with North Kansas City High School. Before that he was the head coach at Odessa High School. He also was a past assistant at the University of Central Missouri. Last season, Joiner’s son, Danny Joiner, played at North Kansas City and went on to earn a scholarship to Army.
As he was hired early in the offseason, Joiner had the opportunity to go through summer with Bulldog players and coaching staff implementing new offensive and defensive schemes the team will use this season. Joiner takes over a Grandview team that had a 7-6 record last season.