After a year of what could go wrong, did go wrong, Blue Valley looks to make it all right in 2019.
The Tigers suffered injury after injury to top players, such as starting two-way all-staters in Alex Totta and Eric Olson, and sustained a rugged 4-5 campaign in 2018.
But now the slate is clean, and those injuries presented chances for underclassmen returning this year.
“Last year’s injuries allowed many of the kids to assume leadership positions,” stated third-year coach Allen Terrell. “We learned a ton and are ready to compete for the state championship.”
One good starting place is quarterback Jake Wolff. The 6-foot-2, 195-pound junior has been heralded as one of the top young quarterbacks in the region, and is set to take the reigns as the starter.
“He’s received a ton of interest from Division I’s across the country,” Terrell touted. “He’s a team leader and very football smart. We expect great things from him this year.”
Wolff will have one of the city’s rising top targets to throw to in junior wide receiver Dorian Stephens. As just a sophomore, Stephens led the Tigers with 25 receptions, good for 395 yards and three touchdowns. Stephens already holds offers from Kansas and K-State.
Senior Beau Palmer (6-foot-3, 205) will garner a lot of carries at running back, as he stepped in last year for 166 yards on 36 carries.
Up front, senior center Evan Taylor (6-foot-2, 265) and fellow senior left tackle Trevor Lister (6-0, 225) return at offensive line.
“Evan’s our smartest football player on the field and an excellent technician. He’s the unquestionable leader of our offensive line,” Terrell said. “Trevor will move from guard to tackle, but is a very physically gifted player.”
Defensively, Mason Richman will grab the headlines at defensive end, and for good reason. The 6-foot-6, 255-poud senior committed to Iowa, and also will cross over occasionally to nab balls at tight end.
“Mason is an experienced, physical football player,” Terrell analyzed. “He has worked extremely hard in his career in getting his body to the point it is at now. We are excited for his senior season.”
Junior Sterling Smithson (6-foot-3, 305) also will help anchor the line at defensive tackle.
“Sterling’s already attracting attention from local Division I schools, and will not come off the field much for us this year,” Terrell predicted.
Palmer will lead the linebacker corps, after named a second-team all-EKL selection in 2018.
“Beau is a team leader and as important to our success as anyone we will put on the field,” Terrell stated. “His ability to be a dominant defensive player and also help us out running the ball effectively makes him so valuable. His work ethic and quiet leadership has been tremendous this offseason.”
In the secondary, senior free safety Caden McCumber (6-0, 185) will be the leader coming into the season.
“Caden started for us at outside linebacker ast season and was one of our statistical leaders on defense,” Terrell said. “Because of his experience and ability, we have moved him back to free safety.”
The schedule again will be a beast, with three preseason 810 Varsity Top 10 teams (Bishop Miege, St. Thomas Aquinas, Rockhurst) and four teams that made the state title game or were champs (Miege, Aquinas, Rockhurst, Blue Valley North).
“Our conference is ridiculously strong and then there’s Rockhurst, so it’s a challenge,” Terrell stated. “These guys have worked extremely hard this off-season. That isn’t different than everyone else in the league.
“But we hope the difference for us this year is the unity that this group has with each other. Our guys love each other and play for each other extremely hard. On a team of talented players with many stars, nobody cares who gets the credit or attention. They all genuinely want success for each other. They are an honor and joy to coach every day.”