The Ruskin Golden Eagles 2023. Courtesy Ali Nassir and the Ruskin Booster Club.

A new coach and new players, Ruskin must rely on seasoned defensive backs 

With a new coach, a new quarterback, and few returning starters around the roster, Ruskin could struggle through another one or two-win season.

  • Ruskin Golden Eagles
  • Class 5, District 7
  • 2022 results: 2-8

By Max Goodwin

Ruskin won two games last year against Wyandotte and Winnetonka. The season ended with a 32-13 loss against Raytown South in playoffs. 

It’s been 13 years since the last time Ruskin High School won more games than that in a season. This year’s seniors agreed to a hopeful goal of winning more games than they lost this season. That would be one of the best seasons in a long time at Ruskin.

Last season, one of the units of strength for Ruskin was the defensive backs, and most of them have returned for this season. 

“They’re very athletic guys,” Coach Tim Callaghan said. “Our receivers and secondary, those guys are all returning.”


New football coach Tim Callaghan was honored by the Greater Kansas City Football Coaches Association last season.

Coach: Tim Callaghan retired last season from Shawnee Mission West after 20 years as head coach. He won a Kansas Class 6A state championship in 2012 at West and was inducted into the Greater Kansas City Football Coaches Hall of Fame this summer. 

He knows what it takes to turn around a high school football program and build it up.

When he took over at Shawnee Mission West, the team went 2-7 in his first season. The next year, they went 8-2. A couple of years later, they reached a state championship game. After winning a state championship in 2012, it unraveled in time.

“I try to be the same guy whether we’re winning or losing,” Callaghan said. “I try to push forward and do what I can to make the kids better so that they can believe in themselves.”

Being at Ruskin, with a young group of kids hungry for success, has him thinking back to when he first came in at Shawnee Mission West. He looks forward to a similar challenge here.

“I’m probably a better builder than I am a maintainer,” Callaghan said. “I like the challenge of building and kids that have that hunger in their hearts.”

William Perkins has built the foundation of the football program at Ruskin and moves into a role as Assistant Athletic Director. 

Players to watch: Wide receiver Preston Black (senior) and wide receiver Pierre Smith (senior). 

Preston Black and Pierre Smith are both seniors, playing both defensive back and wide receiver. These two will be important playmakers for the Golden Eagles on both sides of the ball. They’ve been leaders of the team through early season practices, says Callaghan. 

Junior Leonard Butler IV plays running back and has looked good so far. “He’s a really good solid runner,” Callaghan said. Junior Zymire Johnson will be the other piece of Ruskin’s rushing attack.

Coach Tim Callaghan with team players during the August 25 games against St. Joseph. Photo courtesy Ruskin High School Journalism team

2023 Outlook: If Ruskin meets its goal of winning half its games, it will be because of skilled receivers and defensive secondary units. With such a young and inexperienced team, they will have to rely on this returning group. 

Ruskin is still deciding who the starting quarterback will be this season and may use both at times between senior Kain White and sophomore Adarious Brown. 

“They’ll probably share some time early on to figure it out and see if one of them pulls away,” Callaghan said.

As he learns the ropes at Ruskin, Callaghan has been impressed with the early season work ethic of the kids. They’ve shown up for early practices before school to avoid the heat. Ruskin has a bit of an easier schedule this year than usual, and with the work they’ve put in to prepare, there might be a chance for them to go .500 this season. 

With a new coach, a new quarterback, and few returning starters around the roster, Ruskin could struggle through another one or two-win season.

Ruskin’s First Two Games: Ruskin has lost its first two games by a wide margin against good teams. There were sure to be some growing pains as a new coach took over the program. Ruskin can win at Wyandotte tonight against a team they defeated 41-6 last season. 

The season’s third game looks to be another tough spot for the Golden Eagles as they face a team that usually contends for a state title in Smithville. More winnable games are ahead in the second half of the season for Ruskin.

You can find a live stream of Ruskin football games on the Hickman Mills School District page.


         Date        Opponent (2022 record)                 Result/time

  • Aug. 25   –   Central (St. Joseph)  (5-5)   –   L, 14-49
  • Sept. 2  –   at Oak Park (8-3)     –     L, 0-44
  • Sept. 8  –   at Wyandotte (2-7)   –    7 p.m.
  • Sept. 15  –  Smithville (12-2)    –     7 p.m.
  • Sept. 22   –   Raytown South (4-7)     –   7 p.m.
  • Sept. 29   –    at Kearney (10-1)    –   7 p.m.
  • Oct. 6   –    Grandview  (5-5)    –     7 p.m.
  • Oct. 13   –   at Winnetonka (0-10)    –   7 p.m.
  • Oct. 20   –    Excelsior Springs (4-7)   –   7 p.m.
  • Oct. 27   –   Class 5 State Tournament

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