Its time to start taking a look at how I see some of the conference in southwest Missouri stack up this football season.
I am going to start with a conference that although very familiar to me, will become a lot more so starting next year- The Big 8.
There are not many other leagues in the state, well, probably none, where a defending state champ is overshadowed by a smaller class school in the same league. But Lamar and the Big 8 are not your typical school and conference.
The Tigers are the six-time defending Class 2 State Champs and are the odds on favorite to make it seven in a row. Their double wing offense that features two possible QBs has proven almost impossible for its opponents to stop. Add one of the best defenses in SW Missouri and you gets a small idea of what has fueled this dynasty. With a load of experience back its the easy choice to predict them in the top spot of the league again this year.
If there is a team that can contend with the Tigers it might just be Cassville. The Wildcats were improved last year and will be counting on the experience of the returning starters to get them back to top spot that they once occupied.
From here it gets a little tougher to predict. I really like what Tom Cox is once again building in Mount Vernon. He may have lost QB-Garrett Hadlock and WR- Jarrett Massie to graduation but Andrew Montemayor and company are ready to pick up where they left off. They faced a tough schedule right out of the gate, facing Reeds Spring, Springfield Catholic, and Monett the first three weeks.
All Monett did last year was win the Class 3 State Championship. And despite losing a ton of production there is no way I could justify not picking them in the top half of the league. Returning starters may be small in numbers but being part of “winning it all” can wear off on a team and the Cubs will probably be able to take advantage of that. Many overlooked them last year and look what the end result was.
I am going to go with Seneca in the next spot. This is a team that I really look to start to bounce back. The Indians have a great football tradition and after playing a lot of young kids last year are probably ready to take advantage of all the experience those players have gained.
Aurora fills the next spot, in my opinion. The Houn Dawgs are just a couple years away from a state semi-final appearance but had rough go of it last year. Its a program that will bounce back but it might take another year.
That leaves McDonald County and East Newton. Although the Patriots showed a little life last year, these are a couple of programs that have been searching for answers in recent years. They both have new coaches at the helm. For the simple fact of not knowing any better I will give the slight edge to the bigger school and go with the Mustangs in the seven spot.
So my absolutely worthless prediction looks like this…
- Mount Vernon
- McDonald County
- East Newton
This will be the last Big 8 Champ with the conference as we know it. Next year Nevada, Reeds Spring, Hollister, Springfield Catholic, Logan-Rogersville, and Marshfield join the league and they will split into two divisions. Mount Vernon and Aurora will leave the other six schools and join the former COC-small members in the east while the remained members are joined by Nevada in the west.