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    Nixa High School wide receiver Nicos Oropeza catches a touchdown pass as the Eagles play West Plains High School during the 2016 Parkview 7 on 7 Tournament held at JFK Stadium in Springfield, Mo. on June 16, 2016.

    Nixa High School wide receiver Nicos Oropeza catches a touchdown pass as the Eagles play West Plains High School during the 2016 Parkview 7 on 7 Tournament held at JFK Stadium in Springfield, Mo. on June 16, 2016.

    A Nixa High School player throws the ball as the Eagles played West Plains High School during the 2016 Parkview 7 on 7 Tournament held at JFK Stadium in Springfield, Mo. on June 16, 2016.

    A Nixa High School player throws the ball as the Eagles played West Plains High School during the 2016 Parkview 7 on 7 Tournament held at JFK Stadium in Springfield, Mo. on June 16, 2016.

    A Nixa High School defender touches a West Plains player as the Eagles played West Plains High School during the 2016 Parkview 7 on 7 Tournament held at JFK Stadium in Springfield, Mo. on June 16, 2016.

    A Nixa High School defender touches a West Plains player as the Eagles played West Plains High School during the 2016 Parkview 7 on 7 Tournament held at JFK Stadium in Springfield, Mo. on June 16, 2016.

    It’s rare for a high school football team to send a player to a NCAA Division I team.

    Nixa High School wide receiver Nicos Oropeza catches a touchdown pass as the Eagles play West Plains High School during the 2016 Parkview 7 on 7 Tournament held at JFK Stadium in Springfield, Mo. on June 16, 2016.

    Nixa High School wide receiver Nicos Oropeza catches a touchdown pass as the Eagles play West Plains High School during the 2016 Parkview 7 on 7 Tournament held at JFK Stadium in Springfield, Mo. on June 16, 2016.

    Nixa did it three times in two years.

    Running back Alec Murphy is on scholarship at Mississippi State. This spring, tight end Chase Allen signed with Iowa State and highly-touted kicker/punter Logan Tyler signed with Florida State. On top of that, six more Eagles signed with college football teams in lower divisions.

    “We’ve been lucky to have some good players, that’s for sure. We’ve had some really athletic young men that work hard and play hard, and are good kids,” Nixa coach Richard Rehagen said.

    A Nixa High School player tries to escape a West Plains defender as the Eagles played West Plains High School during the 2016 Parkview 7 on 7 Tournament held at JFK Stadium in Springfield, Mo. on June 16, 2016.

    A Nixa High School player tries to escape a West Plains defender as the Eagles played West Plains High School during the 2016 Parkview 7 on 7 Tournament held at JFK Stadium in Springfield, Mo. on June 16, 2016.

    According to ScholarshipStats.com, an estimated 1.12 million kids play high school football in the United States. There are 129 teams in NCAA Division I, and those teams may award 85 scholarships each, for a total of 10,965 scholarships. That means that slightly less than one percent of high school football players are awarded Division I scholarships.

    Three of the few are from Nixa. Rehagen chalks it up to coincidence.

    “We’re just lucky to have them, that’s the way I look at it. We’re lucky to have those type of players,” Rehagen said.

    Having elite college prospects can be an inspiration to other, younger players to work hard in practice.

    “I think they watch those guys go and get some opportunities on beyond that are pretty good,” Rehagen said.

    Nixa finished the 2015 season 7-6 with a district championship capped with a 48-46 loss to Carthage in Class 5 playoff quarterfinals.

    Photos: Nixa vs. Webb City football

    The Eagles are tasked with replacing eight college players from the Class of 2016, but returns a good backfield duo in running back Nicos Oropeza and quarterback Andrew Rivera.

    Oropeza led the Eagles in rushing last season with 1,654 yards and 21 touchdowns on 292 carries for an average of 5.7 yards per carry.

    “Nicos Oropeza is coming back. He’ll be a three-year starter for us. We’re counting on him to be one of our leaders,” Rehagen said.

    Rivera entered the lineup when Tyler struggled through a torn meniscus. Rivera completed 48 of 80 passes (60 percent) for 752 yards, six touchdowns and just one interception. Rivera also rushed for three touchdowns.

    “(Rivera) finished the year for us. I think he had five starts last year,” Rehagen said.

    Nixa opens the 2016 season at home Aug. 19 against Willard.​

    Nixa All-American makes it official with Florida State

     


    tmp1467467008914.jpgtdunhamusatodayNixa High School wide receiver Nicos Oropeza catches a touchdown pass as the Eagles play West Plains High School during the 2016 Parkview 7 on 7 Tournament held at JFK Stadium in Springfield, Mo. on June 16, 2016.A Nixa High School player throws the ball as the Eagles played West Plains High School during the 2016 Parkview 7 on 7 Tournament held at JFK Stadium in Springfield, Mo. on June 16, 2016.A Nixa High School defender touches a West Plains player as the Eagles played West Plains High School during the 2016 Parkview 7 on 7 Tournament held at JFK Stadium in Springfield, Mo. on June 16, 2016.Nixa High School wide receiver Nicos Oropeza catches a touchdown pass as the Eagles play West Plains High School during the 2016 Parkview 7 on 7 Tournament held at JFK Stadium in Springfield, Mo. on June 16, 2016.A Nixa High School player tries to escape a West Plains defender as the Eagles played West Plains High School during the 2016 Parkview 7 on 7 Tournament held at JFK Stadium in Springfield, Mo. on June 16, 2016.tmp1467467008914.jpgtdunhamusatodayNixa High School wide receiver Nicos Oropeza catches a touchdown pass as the Eagles play West Plains High School during the 2016 Parkview 7 on 7 Tournament held at JFK Stadium in Springfield, Mo. on June 16, 2016.A Nixa High School player throws the ball as the Eagles played West Plains High School during the 2016 Parkview 7 on 7 Tournament held at JFK Stadium in Springfield, Mo. on June 16, 2016.A Nixa High School defender touches a West Plains player as the Eagles played West Plains High School during the 2016 Parkview 7 on 7 Tournament held at JFK Stadium in Springfield, Mo. on June 16, 2016.Nixa High School wide receiver Nicos Oropeza catches a touchdown pass as the Eagles play West Plains High School during the 2016 Parkview 7 on 7 Tournament held at JFK Stadium in Springfield, Mo. on June 16, 2016.A Nixa High School player tries to escape a West Plains defender as the Eagles played West Plains High School during the 2016 Parkview 7 on 7 Tournament held at JFK Stadium in Springfield, Mo. on June 16, 2016.

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    Central High School will rejoin the Ozark Conference, restore the league to 10 teams, and potentially resuscitate old rivalries.

    Central High School's 19 different sports teams will join the Ozark Conference at the start of the 2018-2019 school year.

    Central High School’s 19 different sports teams will join the Ozark Conference at the start of the 2018-2019 school year.

    The move will provide stability for both Central and the conference. Bulldogs coaches sometimes struggled to fill their schedules since Central left the OC 17 years ago to become an independent athletic program. Springfield Public Schools Athletic Director Randy Stange likes the idea of Central teams being able to automatically fill parts, if not all, of their schedules against Class 4, 5 and 6 opponents.

    “I think it gives stability to their schedule, no question about that, and I think overall it’s a good fit,” Stange said. “It’s good for the Ozark Conference as well, so it brings us up to 10 teams.”

    Joplin will leave the Ozark Conference for the Central Ozark Conference at the start of the 2018-2019 school year, so Central will replace the Eagles immediately.

    Central applied to join the Ozark Conference this past spring, and officials from nine high schools voted to bring in the Bulldogs.

    Central High School left the Ozark Conference in 1999. Dr. Edsel Matthews was the Springfield Public Schools athletic director at the time, and said the move came about through collaboration of Central’s coaches.

    “They had gone through a period of time for about four or five years where they were last in the all-sports trophy and were not competitive,” Matthews said. “They felt like their numbers were down.”

    Prior to the 1999-2000 school year, officials considered the possible ramifications on sports that typically produce more revenue, football and basketball. Present day scheduling concerns were not as prevalent because other southwest Missouri conferences had fewer teams.

    “The Central Ozark Conference also didn’t have the number of teams they have now, so they were able to play some of those schools,” Matthews said.

    Newly hired Central football coach Sean Nevills looks forward to the Bulldogs joining the Ozark Conference and having the other four Springfield Public Schools high schools on the schedule each season.

    “A big part of it is it’s a measuring stick against other teams in the area,” Nevills said. “You look at past schedules, we haven’t played the teams down the street.”

    Central filled its football schedule this year with games at Jefferson City, Nevada and Nixa. The Bulldogs will also host Chaminade and homeschool football power Lighthouse Christian.

    Finding football opponents is a tough task for any independent team, or even a team with fewer conference opponents than there are weeks in the season—regardless of the sport, Stange said.

    “Across the board, joining a conference gives those playing opponents within the conference a good thing,” Stange said.

    Central competes in the Missouri State High School Activities Association Class 5 in football and basketball with a reported enrollment of 1,612 students.

    In addition to the five Springfield teams, the Ozark Conference will include Lebanon, West Plains, Waynesville, Rolla and Camdenton starting in 2018.

    Joplin High School announced in April that it will leave the Ozark Conference and join the Central Ozarks Conference effective in the 2018-2019 academic year.

    According to a press release, COC superintendents voted to add Joplin to the conference.

    With an enrollment of 2,216 students, Joplin will become the largest high school by student population in the Central Ozarks Conference Large Division, unseating Nixa with its enrollment of 1,733.

    Central High School fields varsity teams in a total of 19 different boys and girls sports.


    tmp1467749227630.jpgtdunhamusatodayCentral High School's 19 different sports teams will join the Ozark Conference at the start of the 2018-2019 school year.tmp1467749227630.jpgtdunhamusatodayCentral High School's 19 different sports teams will join the Ozark Conference at the start of the 2018-2019 school year.

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    Central High School’s football team will trade some long drives for trips across town.

    This season, the Bulldogs will travel 95 miles to Nevada and 136 miles to Jefferson City for varsity football games.

    The Chaminade Red Devils, the 2015 state champions which could likely start the 2016 season as the No. 1-ranked Class 5 team in Missouri, will travel 210 miles to play the final game of the regular season at Harrison Stadium.

    This is why a move to the Ozark Conference is an enormous victory for Central High School — and for the conference itself.

    A move to the Ozark Conference will ease scheduling problems for Central sports teams.

    Central High School's move to the Ozark Conference in 2018 will eliminate non-conference football games against teams such as Willard.

    Central High School’s move to the Ozark Conference in 2018 will eliminate non-conference football games against teams such as Willard.

    In football, trouble finding games becomes virtually nonexistent.

    Newly hired Central football coach Sean Nevills will steer the Bulldogs through two seasons of independent scheduling, but his task of finding nine games before the playoffs grows more simple in 2018.

    “It makes the job easy. If I can put it any way, simply positively, it makes the job a lot easier,” Nevills said.

    Nevills looks forward to playing against Parkview, Hillcrest, Glendale and Kickapoo, all Springfield schools and all members of the Ozark Conference.

    Nevills believes the move will make football more popular among Springfield kids and fans.

    “It’s good for the area in general. It kind of builds those rivalries with our own schools. It keeps the Friday night lights on in Springfield. It helps promote football in the area, having all the teams in one conference,” Nevills said.

    Central’s football team last played a regular season football game against another SPS team in 2011, when the Bulldogs suffered losses to both Parkview and Glendale. The 2018 season offers the chance to see which team is best in the city.

    “A big part of it is, it’s a measuring stick against other teams in the area,” Nevills said. “You look at past schedules, we haven’t played the teams down the street.”

    Central’s sub-varsity football teams also faced scheduling concerns in the past.

    Bulldogs coaches sometimes struggled to fill their schedules since Central became an independent athletic program in 1999. The Bulldogs’ football, boys basketball, girls basketball coaches were among the faculty members who requested that Central leave the Ozark Conference due to mounting losses against Ozark Conference teams.

    The football Bulldogs went a combined 42-119 in 15 seasons as an independent sports team.

    Central’s move from independence to the Ozark conference began when Joplin High School announced in April that it will leave the Ozark Conference and join the Central Ozarks Conference effective in the 2018-2019 academic year.

    According to a press release, COC superintendents voted to add Joplin to the conference.

    Joplin will become the largest high school by student population in the Central Ozarks Conference Large Division, unseating Nixa.

    The move will be immediately felt in football and will allow Ozark Conference teams to exclusively schedule each other for all nine weeks of the regular season.

    Springfield Public Schools Athletic Director Randy Stange now oversees half of the teams in the Ozark Conference, and all five of Springfield’s high schools are now united in one league.

    “We had Joplin make their move, and this keeps us at 10 teams,” Stange said.


    Central Bulldogs 2016 varsity football schedule

    Friday, Aug. 19, Rogersville at Central

    Friday, Aug. 26, Central at Jefferson City

    Friday, Sept. 2, Central at Nixa

    Friday, Sept. 9, Carthage at Central

    Friday, Sept. 16, Reeds Spring at Central

    Friday, Sept. 23, Central at Nevada

    Thursday, Sept. 29, Lighthouse Christian at Central

    Friday, Oct. 7, Clinton at Central

    Friday, Oct. 14, Chaminade at Central


    tmp1468452907079.jpgtdunhamusatodayCentral High School's move to the Ozark Conference in 2018 will eliminate non-conference football games against teams such as Willard.tmp1468452907079.jpgtdunhamusatodayCentral High School's move to the Ozark Conference in 2018 will eliminate non-conference football games against teams such as Willard.

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    Springfield football coaches got to experience what their players go through five days per week.

    Parkview opens the 2016 football season with a home game against Kickapoo. On Monday, the entire Vikings coaching staff attended a training session on injury prevention.

    Parkview opens the 2016 football season with a home game against Kickapoo. On Monday, the entire Vikings coaching staff attended a training session on injury prevention.

    They went to class.

    Springfield Public Schools high school and middle school coaches met together Monday at Parkview High School to attend “Heads Up” training from USA Football.

    Heads Up Football trainers talked to the coaches about blocking techniques, tackling techniques, concussion symptoms, hydration and heat issues, proper helmet and pad fitting and what to do if a player suddenly goes into cardiac arrest.

    They will meet each other as adversaries on Aug. 19, the first Friday night of the high school football season, but Parkview coach Anthony Hays and Kickapoo coach Kurt Thompson attended training in the same auditorium as USA Football trainer Rob Droege, a former offensive tackle for the Missouri Tigers and now an assistant coach at Kirkwood, led the discussion.

    “We have major movies coming out about concussions and things like that, and there is definitely a lot of talk about the safety of the game. I think it’s still safer than my trip home in the car, probably,” Hays said. “But I think there is a place to make the game safer.”

    The Heads Up tackle is broken down into five components to encourage defensive players to tackle opponents in a way that minimizes risk to the head, neck and spine.

    Teaching Tackling 2016

    According to the Center For Disease Control, an estimated 300,000 high school athletes in the United States sustain concussions each year. A study in the American Journal of Sports Medicine published in 2015 examined five years of concussion reporting in the NCAA. The researchers found that football players have a concussion rate of 6.71 per 10,000 athletes.

    Thompson first attended a USA Football clinic through his involvement in the Ozarks Football League, a spring league for sixth, seventh and eighth graders. Thompson has been coaching for more than 20 years, but says the latest research on head injuries in football has changed his approach to coaching.

    “Without a doubt, it’s changed the way we prepare our kids to play, and it’s a whole lot different. If a kid comes to you and tells you he’s got a headache, you’ve got to address it right then and there,” Thompson said. “Back in my (football playing) experience, I had a headache every day.”

    Thompson believes football is a safer sport now than it has ever been.

    “I don’t think there has been a safer time for a boy to play middle school and high school football with everything that’s embedded in what to do if there is head trauma,” Thompson said.

    Thompson is impressed with the Heads Up program.

    “It’s a great thing,” Thompson said. “There are some very good people who have done a lot of research and put this together.”

    Hays was glad to see so many middle school coaches in the room.

    “We have coaches from every level here. We can all be on the same page, use the same terminology. Anything that, I think, makes our game safer in this day and age is a plus,” Hays said. “Anything we can do to reduce injuries, major injuries, specifically head injuries, we need to look into it and do it.”


    tmp1468877709839.jpgtdunhamusatodayParkview opens the 2016 football season with a home game against Kickapoo. On Monday, the entire Vikings coaching staff attended a training session on injury prevention.tmp1468877709839.jpgtdunhamusatodayParkview opens the 2016 football season with a home game against Kickapoo. On Monday, the entire Vikings coaching staff attended a training session on injury prevention.

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    Even though it’s 90-plus degrees and school doesn’t start for another month, high school football season isn’t that far away.

    Teams can’t be too ready to drive to the red zone, or face third-and-long and other football situations. Football teams are officially within a month of the first game of the season.

    That’s why 12 varsity teams put on their helmets and pads Wednesday to spend two full days playing football.

    Reeds Spring wide receiver Joel Gertson (right) gains yards after the catch against the Versailles defense during a football scrimmage at the 2016 Branson Team Camp at Pirate Stadium.

    Reeds Spring wide receiver Joel Gertson (right) gains yards after the catch against the Versailles defense during a football scrimmage at the 2016 Branson Team Camp at Pirate Stadium.

    Branson High School hosted the sixth annual Branson Team Camp at Pirate Stadium this week to offer teams a chance to drill and scrimmage in different formats.

    “There are some good football teams here,” Branson football coach Dan Henderson said. “They keep coming back, so it’s a good camp.”

    To promote player safety under a National Weather Service heat advisory, scrimmages were limited to 25 minutes with 10 minutes of time for water breaks in between, and camp sessions took place during morning hours.

    Teams such as Branson, Mount Vernon, Reeds Spring, Neosho and Willow Springs took on some out-of-area teams in jamboree style scrimmages, red zone scenarios and a “third down challenge,” in which an offense got one play to go seven yards against another team’s defense. Whichever team succeeded on the play stayed on the field to take on a challenging unit from another team.

    “It’s just to see different people. There are a lot of things that we need to work on, and you can’t do it in intersquad situations,” Henderson said.

    The camp’s goal is simple: provide each team with as many “game like” plays as possible.

    Mount Vernon, coming off a 4-6 campaign, marked its third year in a row to take part in the Branson Team Camp. Veteran coach Tom Cox, who like Henderson is in his third year with his program, noted how the “team camp” concept evolved due to changes in the rules on how often a football team can practice in the summer.

    “It’s so different now than when I was coaching before. We couldn’t do anything before,” Cox said. “They took five days away from us this year and we still have 20, and five of those can be in full pads, so it does change things.”

    Some of the out-of-area visitors included some of Henderson’s former foes from his time at School of the Osage: Eldon, Versailles and Blair Oaks, plus Lutheran North, Berryville, Arkansas and Harrison, Arkansas.

    “These guys that are coming in, the advantage they get other than getting to play is the team bonding—getting on a bus together, staying in a motel together, going down to the Rec Plex and swimming together, those bonding things,” Henderson said.

    Still, Pirates quarterback Ryan Still had plenty of reps with wide receivers Luke Masters and Chad Utzman and running back Hunter Weber.

    Like Branson, Mount Vernon has some question marks on the offensive line, where turnover was heavy in the offseason. There’s one way to fix it.

    “We do exactly what we’re doing today. I told them, ‘we’re going to run things that may not fit the situation here, but we want to make it as tough on you as possible out here,’” Cox said. “We want to win more on Friday night than we do this Branson camp scrimmage.”

    Mt. Vernon tight end Tristan Dennis (left) advances the ball against the Eldon defense in a scrimmage at the 2016 Branson Team Camp.

    Mt. Vernon tight end Tristan Dennis (left) advances the ball against the Eldon defense in a scrimmage at the 2016 Branson Team Camp.

    The Mountaineers bring back a senior aerial threat combination in quarterback Garrett Hadlock to wide receiver Jarrett Massie. The challenge will be for Cox, who calls Mount Vernon’s offensive plays, to find successful touches for up-and-comers Andrew Montemayor, Sammy Robinson and sophomore Will Boswell.

    “I’m going to have to be a little more creative in getting these other guys the ball, because we have a lot of other guys who are capable of making plays,” Cox said.

    Each football team’s booster club funded the costs of attending the two-day team camp.


    tmp1469057231344.jpgtdunhamusatodayReeds Spring wide receiver Joel Gertson (right) gains yards after the catch against the Versailles defense during a football scrimmage at the 2016 Branson Team Camp at Pirate Stadium.Mt. Vernon tight end Tristan Dennis (left) advances the ball against the Eldon defense in a scrimmage at the 2016 Branson Team Camp.tmp1469057231344.jpgtdunhamusatodayReeds Spring wide receiver Joel Gertson (right) gains yards after the catch against the Versailles defense during a football scrimmage at the 2016 Branson Team Camp at Pirate Stadium.Mt. Vernon tight end Tristan Dennis (left) advances the ball against the Eldon defense in a scrimmage at the 2016 Branson Team Camp.

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    Wolves Stadium looks a lot different, but the style of football hasn’t changed at Reeds Spring High School.

    An aerial photograph shows what used to be the turf at University of Cincinnati installed at Reeds Spring High School and made over for the Wolves.

    An aerial photograph shows what used to be the turf at University of Cincinnati installed at Reeds Spring High School and made over for the Wolves.

    The school district agreed to buy synthetic turf previously used by the University of Cincinnati at a cost of $450,000. Cincinnati installed the artificial field turf in 2013. The university replaced it because the Bearcats now shared the field stadium with a professional soccer team, which requires different field markings.

    This turf originally cost $1.1 million. Wolves Stadium also got a new scoreboard.

    It’s a far cry from the lumpy grass that once was Carl Langley field, and lightyears from the well-worn practice field sandwiched between an agriculture building and a parking lot. Wolves coach Lance Gosch said the players were excited for their first practice on turf.

    “They loved it. Oh, they loved it. It’s been good for us, it’s been good for everybody at school,” Gosch said. “Our grass was in dire need of something, so to get the turf has been awesome,” Gosch said.

    Gosch believes the new turf paid off last week as his team prepared to compete at the Athletes U Branson Team Camp.

    “Last week we had a lot of rain and we had camp last week. If we’d have been on our practice field, we’d have been in trouble,” Gosch said.

    Reeds Spring went 10-2 and fell to Aurora in a Class 3 district championship game a season ago. Gosch said there is “not much” returning from the 2015 roster, but the Wolves have some experience.

    “We’ve got some young kids who have done a nice job in camp. The big thing coming in is we lost all four of our linebackers from last year, and so we’re making sure they get some quality reps and try to find those four,” Gosch said.

    Reeds Spring showed its ability to attack from the 3-4 defense multiple times during the Branson camp, which should encourage fans of a team that spent much of last season in the statewide top 10 in the Class 3 Missouri Media Rankings. Gosch was also happy to see new players step up for a taste of varsity football.

    “We’ve got a lot of young kids who have never really played on a Friday night, haven’t seen that varsity speed, and so it’s been good for us just kind of getting kids exposed to that,” Gosch said.

    The Wolves run a flex bone offense which relies heavily on the option run game from the Wishbone of old. On offense, two key ball carriers return in Keenan Haynes and Korey Robinette, and both looked impressive in Branson.

    “Korey is not a real vocal kid, but he’s probably one of our hardest workers in the weight room,” Gosch said. “Our strength will probably be on the back end, both offensively and defensively, because we’ve got some skill there and plus they’ve got some experience.”

    Wait, Reeds Spring football is getting its new turf from where?

    Quarterback Nick Haddock, who accounted for more than half of Reeds Spring’s total offense running and passing the ball in 2015, has graduated and will be replaced by senior J.P. Gardner.

    “Nick was a big loss, but J.P. was behind Nick last year and got a little bit of time in some games,” Gosch said. “(Gardner) does a good job reading our offense. He’s got a decent arm, he’s long legged so he’s deceptively fast. He’s made some nice runs this week.”

    The Reeds Spring school district will pay for the turf with the use of a lease purchase over the next several years. Even though the turf is a few years old, the district will receive an eight-year warranty. The estimated cost of maintaining the turf compared to the present grass is approximately $20,000 per year more than the school had been paying to maintain grass.

    This football season, Reeds Spring fell into Class 3 District 4 with Aurora, Cassville, East Newton, Hollister, Monett, Mt. Vernon and Seneca.

    The Reeds Spring defense, seen at the 2016 Athletes U Branson Team Camp, will have a new set of linebackers in 2016.

    The Reeds Spring defense, seen at the 2016 Athletes U Branson Team Camp, will have a new set of linebackers in 2016.

    Reeds Spring Wolves 2016 football schedule

    Friday, Aug. 19 Mt. Vernon at Reeds Spring

    Friday, Aug. 26 Reeds Spring at Cassville

    Friday, Sept. 2 Bolivar at Reeds Spring

    Friday, Sept. 9 Reeds Spring at Rogersville

    Friday, Sept. 16 Reeds Spring at Central

    Friday, Sept. Hollister at Reeds Spring

    Friday, Sept. 30 Marshfield at Reeds Spring

    Friday, Oct. 7 Reeds Spring at Buffalo

    Friday, Oct. 14 Reeds Spring at Springfield Catholic


    tmp1469279707949.jpgtdunhamusatodayAn aerial photograph shows what used to be the turf at University of Cincinnati installed at Reeds Spring High School and made over for the Wolves.The Reeds Spring defense, seen at the 2016 Athletes U Branson Team Camp, will have a new set of linebackers in 2016.tmp1469279707949.jpgtdunhamusatodayAn aerial photograph shows what used to be the turf at University of Cincinnati installed at Reeds Spring High School and made over for the Wolves.The Reeds Spring defense, seen at the 2016 Athletes U Branson Team Camp, will have a new set of linebackers in 2016.

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    Dalton Cloyd carried the ball and bruised his way into the end zone.

    tmp1469488267659.jpgtdunhamusatodayThe Fair Grove Eagles celebrate winning the 10-yard overtime challenge at the 2016 Evangel University team football camp.tmp1469488267659.jpgtdunhamusatodayThe Fair Grove Eagles celebrate winning the 10-yard overtime challenge at the 2016 Evangel University team football camp.

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    It was fitting for Strafford’s football team to train at Evangel University.

    Members of the Strafford High School football team gather at the end of a scrimmage as part of the 2016 Evangel University football team camp.

    Members of the Strafford High School football team gather at the end of a scrimmage as part of the 2016 Evangel University football team camp.

    In the past three years, seven Strafford players have committed to play football for the Crusaders. Coach Tim Hester, an Evangel alumnus, made sure to get Strafford into Evangel’s team football camp, where players scrimmaged against 11 other teams over two days.

    Hester wanted his players to get as many reps as possible.

    “We are very young. Our freshmen and our sophomores outnumber our juniors and seniors,” Tim Hester said. “We have seven seniors, so we’ve got a very young group. They’ve got a lot to learn.”

    In 2015, Strafford went 5-6 and fell to Mountain View-Liberty in the second round of the Class 2 playoffs. Two seasons ago, Strafford went 12-1 and reached the playoff quarterfinals.

    Senior Danny Novakovich moves from wide receiver to the backfield to fill a void left by Jacob Eden graduating.

    “Now he’s our starting running back,” Hester said of Novakovich.

    With Chanler Collins’ departure, Junior Kensen White looks to take over at quarterback in the Strafford spread.

    “This is (White’s) first year as a varsity quarterback,” Hester said. “He was behind Chanler Collins for two years, so the speed is different out here for a first-year quarterback, but I see some good things out of him.”

    Strafford starts two-a-day practices Aug. 1. It falls into Class 2 District 3 this season with Ava, Cuba, Diamond, Houston, Mountain View-Liberty, Mountain Grove and Willow Springs.

    The latest set of Strafford graduates to commit to the Crusaders includes quarterback Collins, linebacker Samuel Morton and defensive back Eden. Those guys, as well as Dallas Hester, Brady Collier and Dalton Taylor are giving an inexperienced group of current Indians something to look up to.

    “I just think they like the program here and they see the future is bright here at Evangel,” Hester said. “That’s awesome for Evangel and awesome for those kids.”

    Defensive lineman Jacob Wade, wide receiversHester and Collier and defensive back Taylor are also on the Evangel team. Dallas Hester, coach Tim Hester’s son, led Evangel in receiving as a true freshman with 40 receptions for 734 yards and seven touchdowns in 11 games.

    Back at Strafford High School, a rebuilding project is underway.

    Fair Grove football is back to being a Class 2 power

    Strafford High School football schedule 2016

    Friday, Aug. 19 Springfield Catholic at Strafford

    Friday, Aug. 26 Strafford at Mountain Grove

    Friday, Sept. 2 Strafford at Marionville

    Friday, Sept. 9 Stockton at Strafford

    Friday, Sept. 16 Strafford at Pleasant Hope

    Friday, Sept. 23 Strafford at Fair Grove

    Friday, Sept. 30 Skyline at Strafford

    Friday, Oct. 7 Strafford at Hollister

    Friday, Oct. 14 Ash Grove at Strafford


    tmp1469746266865.jpgtdunhamusatodayMembers of the Strafford High School football team gather at the end of a scrimmage as part of the 2016 Evangel University football team camp.tmp1469746266865.jpgtdunhamusatodayMembers of the Strafford High School football team gather at the end of a scrimmage as part of the 2016 Evangel University football team camp.

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    The Glendale Falcons started their summer offseason football program with some great news.

    Glendale High School football coach Mike Mauk.

    Glendale High School football coach Mike Mauk.

    Coach Mike Mauk learned in the first week of May that he was cancer free.

    Mauk was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in June 2015. He underwent 12 rounds of chemotherapy and surgery for treatment. His last round of chemotherapy ended with a PET scan and a diagnosis of full remission.

    When Mauk learned the news, he thought of the people who kept his cancer fight in their thoughts and prayers throughout the 2015 football season.

    “The first things I thought about were all the players, coaches, opponents and community members that had been praying for me and wishing me good health,” Mauk said. “I really believe in the power of prayer and it meant an awful lot that there were a lot of people that extended that to me, and I was very appreciative.”

    After that, Glendale’s football players got to work preparing for the 2016 season, and they hope to have the Falcons’ first winning season since 2011.

    Glendale’s five-wide receiver, hurry up offense will feature junior quarterback Alex Huston, who completed 65.7 percent of his passes for 5,608 yards and 69 touchdowns in 11 games last fall.

    A trio of senior wide receivers also returns in Von Oeser, Jeremy Almeida and Luke Montgomery. Montgomery attained all-state status as a junior with 123 receptions for 1,936 yards and 27 touchdowns.

    Glendale wide receiver Luke Montgomery caught 123 passes for 1,936 yards and 27 touchdowns in 11 games in 2015.

    Glendale wide receiver Luke Montgomery caught 123 passes for 1,936 yards and 27 touchdowns in 11 games in 2015.

    Mauk kept his players apprised of his battle with cancer as he progressed toward remission.

    “That was really great to hear (Mauk) is cancer free. Through him, we were inspired to play better. Toward the end of the season when he was going through that, we won three of our last four games and he was really an inspiration,” Montgomery said. “We played for him, and this year he’s healthy. I think that represents our football team, he’s going to get better and we’re better.”

    Mauk said he still feels some of the effects of chemotherapy.

    “I feel a lot better than what I did last year, there’s no doubt about that, but at the same time it’s tough not being 100 percent,” Mauk said.

    The Falcons were 2-8 in Mauk’s first season in Springfield and 4-7 last season. Glendale’s offensive skill position players, linebackers and defensive backs spent their summer on a 7-on-7 tournament tour that included stops in Iowa, Kansas, Arkansas and Hoover, Alabama, site of USA Football’s national 7-on-7 tournament.

    Coach Mauk’s son says surgery went well; family thankful for prayers from coaches, fans and kids

    Glendale scored an average of 48.7 points per game in 2015, but its defense surrendered 53.6 points per game in 2015.

    “You don’t win in this league (the Ozark Conference) unless you play good defense, and so we’re trying to improve in that capacity and having a little experience is going to be helpful,” Mauk said. “We’re playing against some very good teams throughout the course of the year.”

    The Falcons return leading tackler Kyle Doran at middle linebacker. Doran had 60 solo tackles as a junior and appears primed to lead the Glendale defense. Mauk described Doran as “just a hard-working, very dedicated person who is a good leader for the other guys to follow and emulate. He kind of sets the tone.”

    Mauk will try to coach up the Falcons’ defense without the thought of cancer treatment looming in his mind. He hopes for Glendale’s first winning season in five years, or even a first district championship since 2011. However, his cancer scare offered a chance to rethink football.

    “I think it keeps things in perspective. Winning is important, but it’s not the only thing. I think realizing that those relationships that you build with people through the whole process of what we do, what we go through, what we experience is really important,” Mauk said.

    Glendale Falcons football 2016 schedule

    Friday, Aug. 19: Glendale at Joplin

    Friday, Aug. 26: Glendale at Hillcrest

    Friday, Sept. 2: West Plains at Glendale

    Friday, Sept. 9: Glendale at Lebanon

    Thursday, Sept. 15: Kickapoo at Glendale

    Thursday, Sept. 22: Glendale at Parkview

    Friday, Sept. 30: Rolla at Glendale

    Friday, Oct. 7: Glendale at Waynesville

    Friday, Oct. 14: Camdenton at Glendale


    tmp1470872831915.jpgtdunhamusatodayGlendale High School football coach Mike Mauk.Glendale wide receiver Luke Montgomery caught 123 passes for 1,936 yards and 27 touchdowns in 11 games in 2015.tmp1470872831915.jpgtdunhamusatodayGlendale High School football coach Mike Mauk.Glendale wide receiver Luke Montgomery caught 123 passes for 1,936 yards and 27 touchdowns in 11 games in 2015.

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    The bright lights of Friday night return to the Ozarks with the start of a brand new high school football season.

    Chris Lawson (left) and the Kickapoo Chiefs reached the Class 6 playoff semifinals in 2015.

    Chris Lawson (left) and the Kickapoo Chiefs reached the Class 6 playoff semifinals in 2015.

    Players will fasten their chin straps for nine weeks of running, passing, catching, tackling and blocking to lead up to the playoffs in October. Before they get started, the News-Leader salutes a group of athletes believed to be primed for big seasons on the gridiron.

    The 2015 American Family Insurance Preseason ALL-USA Ozarks football team recognizes returning varsity players poised to lead their teams through the season. Players are selected by the News-Leader staff for this preseason honor. Selections are based off 2015 success, particularly playoff experience. The list is not intended to serve as a college prospect ranker nor a popularity contest.

    A pair of field generals headline this year’s preseason ALL-USA Ozarks team at the quarterback spot. Bolivar’s Connor Sechler enters his third season as a starter, having passed for 2,335 yards and 18 touchdowns last season. The Liberators won the Central Ozarks Conference Small Division for a 13th consecutive time. His teammate Brandon Emmert looks to be Sechler’s No. 1 target. A third Liberator, Zach Howard, has been selected on the defensive line.

    Kickapoo quarterback Chris Lawson passed for more than 1,500 yards en route to the Class 6 playoff semifinals. The grandson of former Parkview Vikings coach Benny Lawson will be a leader in Kickapoo’s quest to repeat as Ozark Conference champions.

    Speaking of Kickapoo, senior defensive back Travis Vokolek will be all over the field for the Chiefs, who have two more preseason ALL-USA Ozarks selections in offensive lineman Grant Martin and all-state kicker Joshua Scheiderer.

    News-Leader unveils ALL-USA Ozarks football team

    Nicos Oropeza returns to Nixa’s backfield for his senior season coming off rushing for 1,654 yards and 21 touchdowns as a junior. He stands to finish his high school career with more success in the Eagles’ split back veer offense. Nixa also has big expectations for defensive lineman Layne Jennings, who made 54 tackles including 10 tackles for loss last season.

    Glendale wide receiver Luke Montgomery headlines the pass catchers fresh off his eye-popping 1,936 receiving yards and 27 touchdowns in 2015. He’s joined by Mt. Vernon’s Jarrett Massie, who is a touchdown threat on virtually any play.

    American Family Insurance ALL-USA Ozarks

    American Family Insurance ALL-USA Ozarks

    American Family Insurance Preseason ALL USA Ozarks football 2016

    QB-Chris Lawson, Kickapoo

    QB-Connor Sechler, Bolivar

    RB-Nicos Oropeza, Nixa

    RB-Kyle Bouldin, Lockwood

    RB-Dalton Cloyd, Fair Grove

    FB-Nathan Burlage, Ozark

    WR-Luke Montgomery, Glendale

    WR-Jarrett Massie, Mt. Vernon

    ATH-Joshua Powell, Hillcrest

    TE-Brandon Emmert, Bolivar

    OL-Martin Eidson, Willard

    OL-Bryan Cole, Republic

    OL-Colton Skyles, Ava

    OL-Colby Lathrop, Lebanon

    OL-Grant Martin, Kickapoo

    DL-Rudy Tapia, Willard

    DL-Layne Jennings, Nixa

    DL-Grant Schoen, Springfield Catholic

    DL-Zach Howard, Bolivar

    LB-Jaytin Gutierrez, Rogersville

    LB-Danny Novakovich, Strafford

    LB-Kyle Doran, Glendale

    LB-Hayden Weddle, Lebanon

    LB-Josh Pipkin, Ash Grove

    DB-Jake Redus, Marionville

    DB-Clayton Dunning, Aurora

    DB-Korey Robinette, Reeds Spring

    DB-Marcus Walton, Parkview

    DB-Travis Vokolek, Kickapoo

    DB-C.J. Loveall, Parkview

    K-Joshua Scheiderer, Kickapoo

    K-Anthony Guynn, Fair Grove


    tmp1470958515419.jpgtdunhamusatodayChris Lawson (left) and the Kickapoo Chiefs reached the Class 6 playoff semifinals in 2015.American Family Insurance ALL-USA Ozarkstmp1470958515419.jpgtdunhamusatodayChris Lawson (left) and the Kickapoo Chiefs reached the Class 6 playoff semifinals in 2015.American Family Insurance ALL-USA Ozarks

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    Dee Smith, of Logan-Rogersville (32), runs past a Central defender during the jamboree at Logan-Rogersville High School on Friday, August 12, 2016.

    Dee Smith, of Logan-Rogersville (32), runs past a Central defender during the jamboree at Logan-Rogersville High School on Friday, August 12, 2016.

    Ben Blake, of Logan-Rogersville (5), is wrapped up by Ozark defenders during the jamboree at Logan-Rogersville High School on Friday, August 12, 2016.

    Ben Blake, of Logan-Rogersville (5), is wrapped up by Ozark defenders during the jamboree at Logan-Rogersville High School on Friday, August 12, 2016.

    Ryker Strong, of Logan-Rogersville (18), tries to shake free of Ozark's Reed Herrold during the jamboree at Logan-Rogersville High School on Friday, August 12, 2016.

    Ryker Strong, of Logan-Rogersville (18), tries to shake free of Ozark’s Reed Herrold during the jamboree at Logan-Rogersville High School on Friday, August 12, 2016.

    Four football teams in the midst of rebuilding phases met Friday night in Rogersville for a final tune-up for the 2016 season.

    Rogersville hosted Hillcrest, Central and Ozark in a preseason jamboree. The four teams combined for 10 wins in the 2015 season, and all four are hungry to improve this fall.

    The Ozark Tigers went 1-9 in coach Chad Depee’s first year with the program, but looked strong defensively by holding Rogersville scoreless in 12 plays. Senior Devin Mayes and junior Nathaniel Burlage scored rushing touchdowns.

    “There’s no scoreboard, but we all know, hey, you’re trying to get the ball across the goal line and you want to keep the opposing offense out,” Depee said of the jamboree scrimmage format.

    Ozark looks to rebound from a tough 2015 season running the 3-4 defense and flex bone offense that Depee brought with him from Monett.

    “Our kids, I hope, are feeling more confident in everything that we do, day in and day out,” Depee said. “No secret, it was rough last year.”

    Rogersville only lost five seniors to graduation in May from a team that went 3-7 a year ago. Coach Doug Smith was excited to have so many returning players to a roster of 53.

    “They’ve all got a little bigger, a little stronger, a little quicker understanding the game a little bit more, but they’re still juniors and sophomores,” Smith said. “You can see we need a lot of rebuilding still, but our kids’ attitudes are really good and they come to work every day.”

    Quarterback Bronson Tavenner passed for 1,223 yards and eight touchdowns as a sophomore.

    “The game has slowed down for (Tavenner) because now he understands his reads, he understands the offense, and so he’s a bright spot. There are a lot of things we can do more as we go along, and he’s way ahead of where he was last year,” Smith said.

    Wide receiver Cole Vandersnick, expected to be one of Tavenner’s top targets, sat out of the jamboree with a collarbone injury.

    Wildcats linebacker Jaytin Gutierrez made 132 tackles last season and is expected to be a defensive leader in his senior year.

    “(Gutierrez) is a great effort guy. I would assume every night he will play well; he has for the past two years,” Smith said.

    Bronson Tavenner, of Logan-Rogersville (15), runs with the ball during the jamboree at Logan-Rogersville High School on Friday, August 12, 2016.

    Bronson Tavenner, of Logan-Rogersville (15), runs with the ball during the jamboree at Logan-Rogersville High School on Friday, August 12, 2016.

    Hillcrest, coming off a 1-9 campaign in the Ozark Conference, took a different approach to the jamboree. Coach John Beckham did not put any of his returning starters from last season in the scrimmage. The move protects them from possible injuries and offers younger players the chance to gain experience.

    “Honestly, the kids had fun. We have a lot of young guys — the first time they played on Friday night, so that’s a good thing,” Beckham said.

    Hillcrest has a quarterback battle going between senior Erik Savage, who played wide receiver as a sophomore and junior, and Hayden Parton, who threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to senior Brock Roggow against Rogersville.

    Central’s first play from scrimmage under new coach Sean Nevills resulted in a three-yard loss. The Bulldogs celebrated a big gain two plays later, when quarterback Danny Adams found junior Tyrone Walker on a streak down the left sideline for 19 yards and a first down.

    Walker also looked sharp on defense as a free safety and recorded a tackle for loss against Ozark.

    “Our defense looked really, really good,” Nevills said. “Just in general, all of the guys had great energy. Obviously, we’re leading up into Game 1, so now is the time to have that energy going into Game 1, and they all had it.”

    Central hosts Rogersville next Friday for the first game of the 2016 season. Hillcrest hosts Camdenton that night in its season opener, while Ozark will also play at home against Carthage.


    tmp1471055235382.jpgtdunhamusatodayDee Smith, of Logan-Rogersville (32), runs past a Central defender during the jamboree at Logan-Rogersville High School on Friday, August 12, 2016.Ben Blake, of Logan-Rogersville (5), is wrapped up by Ozark defenders during the jamboree at Logan-Rogersville High School on Friday, August 12, 2016.Ryker Strong, of Logan-Rogersville (18), tries to shake free of Ozark's Reed Herrold during the jamboree at Logan-Rogersville High School on Friday, August 12, 2016.Bronson Tavenner, of Logan-Rogersville (15), runs with the ball during the jamboree at Logan-Rogersville High School on Friday, August 12, 2016.tmp1471055235382.jpgtdunhamusatodayDee Smith, of Logan-Rogersville (32), runs past a Central defender during the jamboree at Logan-Rogersville High School on Friday, August 12, 2016.Ben Blake, of Logan-Rogersville (5), is wrapped up by Ozark defenders during the jamboree at Logan-Rogersville High School on Friday, August 12, 2016.Ryker Strong, of Logan-Rogersville (18), tries to shake free of Ozark's Reed Herrold during the jamboree at Logan-Rogersville High School on Friday, August 12, 2016.Bronson Tavenner, of Logan-Rogersville (15), runs with the ball during the jamboree at Logan-Rogersville High School on Friday, August 12, 2016.

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    Three-sport athlete Chris Crotinger was poised to have a big junior year, but in just the second week of the fall football season, his dreams snapped.

    Marshfield linebacker Chris Crotinger (left) returned to football for his senior year after missing most of his junior season due to a torn ACL in his left knee.

    Marshfield linebacker Chris Crotinger (left) returned to football for his senior year after missing most of his junior season due to a torn ACL in his left knee.

    “I was just running and this ground is kind of uneven,” Crotinger said of the practice field behind Marshfield High School. “I just took a bad plant with my left knee and I just felt it give way, and it was all tears from there.”

    Crotinger led Marshfield in tackling as a sophomore in 2014. He played the season opener against Ava in 2015 but suffered a devastating injury in the first practice after the first game.

    “It was the worst pain I’ve ever felt in my life,” Crotinger said. “It was by far the worst. I was pretty good at not getting injured up until that point. It was just the worst injury possible.”

    Three letters of the alphabet can be downright scary for athletes when strung together:

    A-C-L.

    The anterior cruciate ligament is one of four main ligaments found in the knee. According to research on ACL injuries in high school sports published in the Journal of Athletic Training, more ACL injuries occurred in football than eight other high school sports from 2007 to 2012.

    ACL injury rates among local athletes remain steady, says Mercy Springfield Manager of Sports Medicine Brandon Hetzler. “In our department, we’ve always seen a lot of ACLs. We see quite a few.”

    The difference, local experts say, is that the athletes they are treating for torn or strained ACLs are trending younger.


    ACL injury trends

    On the Kansas City Chiefs’ roster alone, Jamaal Charles, Jeremy Maclin, Donnie Avery, Justin Houston and Eric Berry are among the players who have suffered torn ACLs in their NFL careers. They are all well-paid adults who managed to reach the professional ranks without significant injuries.

    Many young football players are not so lucky.

    Mercy Sports Medicine Administrative Director Jim Raynor said that while the volume of ACL injuries in sports hasn’t necessarily increased, the demographics are shifting.

    “What we do notice is an increasing trend in younger athletes sustaining these injuries,” Raynor said. “Now we’re seeing it in the middle school and in the last couple of years we’re seeing it in elementary-age kids.”

    Marshfield senior Chris Crotinger's surgically repaired left knee.

    Marshfield senior Chris Crotinger’s surgically repaired left knee.

    Hetzler and Raynor agree with USA Football Medical Director Patrick Kersey that a potential link to ACL tear-sufferers becoming younger is the evolution of youth sports.

    “Kids aren’t training like they used to, they aren’t getting the P.E. they used to in school,” Hetzler said, noting that there is more emphasis on competition and winning in youth sports than there used to be. “They’re playing at a highly competitive level before they’re moving well and they have a highly significant strength level.”

    Young athletes are also faster, stronger and more powerful than they were in the past, Raynor added.

    “Most kids that are out there, if they’re engaging in a performance program or a strength conditioning program, the emphasis is always on power development,” Raynor said. “Very few programs concentrate on being able to absorb that force.”

    Hetzler estimated that half of the ACL tears among football players occur as the result of a block or tackle, and half occur as Crotinger’s did, in a non-contact scenario.

    “It’s really a split when it comes to football. It’s not a contact sport, it’s a collision sport,” Hetzler said.

    High school football, middle school coaches learn to reduce head injuries


    The cost of a comeback

    “Anterior cruciate ligament injuries are among the most devastating injuries a young athlete can sustain,” according to the Journal of Athletic Training. “Knee injuries, especially of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), are among the most economically costly sport injuries, frequently requiring expensive surgery and rehabilitation.”

    Marshfield senior linebacker Chris Crotinger during practice Aug. 8, 2016.

    Marshfield senior linebacker Chris Crotinger during practice Aug. 8, 2016.

    When Crotinger received his diagnosis, he learned that he would miss his junior football, wrestling and track and field seasons.

    “I’m not going to lie, I cried a couple of times in the same night. It’s just devastating because sports have always been what I’ve been about, I’ve always loved sports and football is my favorite of the three that I play,” Crotinger said.

    ACL injuries can sometimes be difficult to diagnose. Parkview linebacker Keondre Montgomery suffered a right knee injury the third week of July at the Southwest Baptist University team camp. The Vikings were scrimmaging against Joplin when Montgomery and a teammate tried to reach an opposing ball carrier at the same time.

    “One of my teammates came in and hit me in my knee from the side. My knee buckled inward and it popped a few times, and I attempted to stand up but I fell back down,” Montgomery said.

    Montgomery had X-rays and is waiting for the results of an MRI to find out what’s wrong with his knee. He has been held out of practice since the injury and said he is still in pain.

    Parkview sophomore linebacker Kiondre Montgomery

    Parkview sophomore linebacker Kiondre Montgomery

    Crotinger’s diagnosis was quicker, but the road to recovery was not.

    “I had to go through a lot of rehab before I even got surgery,” Crotinger said. “I got surgery and I had to go through about six months worth of rehab.”

    The medical bills tied to a torn ACL will vary depending on an individual’s insurance coverage, according to Mercy spokeswoman Sonya Kullmann.

    Crotinger’s rehab stint ran longer than the usual six months because he hyper-extended his left knee, and ran into a financial issue.

    “It was actually extended because of an insurance problem, so it was a lot of extra rehab that I had to go to,” Crotinger said. “I wasn’t for sure if I was going to be coming back or not. It was pretty traumatic.”

    Other factors also contribute to the length of a post-surgery rehab regimen.

    “The skill of the surgeon is definitely a major player, and then the process and collaborative effort between the rehab clinician, the physician and the coaching staff,” Raynor said.

    Parkview sophomore linebacker Kiondre Montgomery spends practice at JFK Stadium on the sideline with a bandage covering his injured right knee.

    Parkview sophomore linebacker Kiondre Montgomery spends practice at JFK Stadium on the sideline with a bandage covering his injured right knee.


    Back on the field

    There is one way for an athlete to know their risk of tearing an ACL, and that is if they have already suffered a torn ACL in their career.

    “Once you’ve torn your ACL, I think the national average for re-tears is about 6 to 20 percent,” Hetzler said.

    Hetzler and Raynor report a lower re-injury rate at Mercy than the national average and credit the evolution of ACL injury treatment over the past seven years.

    “It has morphed and changed very consistently over the past seven years. There’s certain things we‘ve held fast to, but it’s a process that has morphed and changed,” Hetzler said.

    Young athletes who undergo surgery to repair a torn ACL generally begin their rehabilitation programs immediately and attend therapy sessions three times per week for six to nine months. At the end of the treatment cycle, each athlete undergoes a functional test “to determine that it is safe for them to return back to their sport.”

    While Montgomery awaits a diagnosis and remains on the Parkview sideline, Crotinger is fully cleared for his senior year at Marshfield.

    Crotinger shook off the most painful moment of his athletic career. He is one of the first volunteers for every practice drill the Bluejays run. If he isn’t in the action, he is clapping, cheering and pumping up his teammates. Crotinger is trying to make the most of every moment of his senior year.

    “I enjoy every rep I take. I haven’t missed a day of practice since (coming back from injury). I know it’s all going to be over before I know it, and I don’t want to be that senior that looks back and goes, ‘Man, I wish I would have tried a little bit harder,’” Crotinger said.

    Marshfield's Chris Crotinger tackles a teammate during a practice drill Aug. 8, 2016 at Marshfield High School.

    Marshfield’s Chris Crotinger tackles a teammate during a practice drill Aug. 8, 2016 at Marshfield High School.

    ACL injury facts

    • Knee and ankle injuries are the most commonly suffered injuries in sports
    • In a Journal of Athletic Training study, football players suffered 11.5 ACL injuries per 100,000 “athletic exposures,” that is one football player participating in one game or one practice
    • 1.15 football players in the United States injures an ACL per 1,000 practices and games conducted

    tmp1471058346214.jpgtdunhamusatodayMarshfield linebacker Chris Crotinger (left) returned to football for his senior year after missing most of his junior season due to a torn ACL in his left knee.Marshfield senior Chris Crotinger's surgically repaired left knee.Marshfield senior linebacker Chris Crotinger during practice Aug. 8, 2016.Parkview sophomore linebacker Kiondre MontgomeryParkview sophomore linebacker Kiondre Montgomery spends practice at JFK Stadium on the sideline with a bandage covering his injured right knee.Marshfield's Chris Crotinger tackles a teammate during a practice drill Aug. 8, 2016 at Marshfield High School.tmp1471058346214.jpgtdunhamusatodayMarshfield linebacker Chris Crotinger (left) returned to football for his senior year after missing most of his junior season due to a torn ACL in his left knee.Marshfield senior Chris Crotinger's surgically repaired left knee.Marshfield senior linebacker Chris Crotinger during practice Aug. 8, 2016.Parkview sophomore linebacker Kiondre MontgomeryParkview sophomore linebacker Kiondre Montgomery spends practice at JFK Stadium on the sideline with a bandage covering his injured right knee.Marshfield's Chris Crotinger tackles a teammate during a practice drill Aug. 8, 2016 at Marshfield High School.

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    Bolivar quarterback Connor Sechler returns to lead the Liberators offense in 2016.

    Bolivar quarterback Connor Sechler returns to lead the Liberators offense in 2016.

    One of five high school football games will be chosen as the first Murney Associates News-Leader Game of the Week of the 2016 season.

    The Game of the Week will be announced in Tuesday editions of the News-Leader throughout the football season. Here are the five finalists for Week 1:

    Willard (0-0) at Nixa (0-0)

    Central Ozark Conference squads meet at Eagle Stadium for a game with potential to harken back to the days of yore, to a simpler time when linemen were mean and nasty and running backs pounded the football between the tackles. Willard’s single wing meets Nixa’s split back veer in a clash of teams rooted in old school systems. The outcome could be decided on the line, where Martin Eidson and Rudy Tapia lead Willard against Layne Jennings, Ben Lambton and the Eagles.

    Bolivar (0-0) at Republic (0-0)

    Glen Johnson takes over as Bolivar’s head coach following the offseason departure of Lance Roweton, now the principal at Halfway High School. Quarterback Connor Sechler and tight end Brandon Emmert lead the Liberators into Republic, where junior quarterback Riley Watkins is back to conduct the Tigers’ single wing offense under coach Wes Beachler. Republic record-setter Jerney Jones has graduated and walked on the football team at Mizzou, so David Feil looks to be the new feature back for the orange and black Tigers.

    Mountain Grove (0-0) at Aurora (0-0)

    Aurora hosts a rematch of a 2015 Class 3 quarterfinal game that the Houn’ Dawgs won 14-12. Quarterback Payton Evans returns for Coach Kale Kilgo’s Aurora team, having completed 66.3 percent of his passes for 2,236 yards and 19 touchdowns as a junior. Mountain Grove has a new coach in Rich Adkins, and returns quarterback Carter Otwell and running back Trystan Short to the lineup.

    Kickapoo (0-0) at Parkview (0-0)

    Kickapoo’s Ozark Conference title defense begins with a 3.5 mile trip north to Parkview. The Vikings will have a new quarterback in Mario Sanchez and a new stable of running backs following the graduation of all-state Anthony Riley Jr. Kickapoo returns several key starters from its 12-1 team that reached the Class 6 playoff semifinals last year including quarterback Chris Laweson, running back Maverick McGee and linebacker Travis Vokolek.

    Mt. Vernon (0-0) at Reeds Spring (0-0)

    Mt. Vernon aims to improve from last season’s 4-6 record in what will be the second year of coach Tom Cox’s second stint with the Mountaineers. Quarterback Garrett Hadlock returns and will have a big target to throw the ball to in all-state wide receiver Jarrett Massie. Reeds Spring comes off a 10-2 season and returns several key starters including running backs Korey Robinette and Keenan Haynes. The Wolves’ triple option from the flexbone gave defenses fits throughout the season, so Mt. Vernon will have its hands full on the road. Plus, the game marks the first at Carl Langley Field at Wolves Stadium since field turf purchased from the University of Cincinnati has been installed.

    High school football schedule for Friday, Aug. 19

    (All games begin at 7 p.m.)

    Rogersville at Central

    Kickapoo at Parkview

    Glendale at Joplin

    Camdenton at Hillcrest

    Lebanon at Rolla

    West Plains at Waynesville

    Springfield Catholic at Strafford

    Lighthouse Christian at East Newton

    Bolivar at Republic

    Carthage at Ozark

    Willard at Nixa

    Branson at Neosho

    Mt. Vernon at Reeds Spring

    Marshfield at Ava

    Buffalo at Fair Grove

    Mountain Grove at Aurora

    Webb City at Carl Junction

    Skyline at Lexington

    Ash Grove at Houston

    Barat Academy at Cabool

    Liberal at Lockwood

    Willow Springs at Miller

    Jasper at Sarcoxie

    Cassville at Lamar

    Seneca at Nevada

    Greenfield at Union Christian Academy

    Saturday, Aug. 20

    California at Monett


    tmp1471219868448.jpgtdunhamusatodayBolivar quarterback Connor Sechler returns to lead the Liberators offense in 2016.tmp1471219868448.jpgtdunhamusatodayBolivar quarterback Connor Sechler returns to lead the Liberators offense in 2016.

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    Kickapoo’s Ozark Conference title defense starts with a short jaunt across Springfield to play Parkview.

    News-Leader Game of the Week brought to you by Murney Associates, Realtors

    News-Leader Game of the Week brought to you by Murney Associates, Realtors

    The Chiefs and Vikings matchuip has been named the first News-Leader Game of the Week presented by Murney Associates, Realtors for the 2016 high school football season. Parkview coach Anthony Hays expects a large and vibrant crowd for Friday night’s 7 p.m. season opener.

    “It’s a cool atmosphere. Two in-city schools Week 1, every seat in this place (JFK Stadium) is going to be full,” Hays said.

    The Parkview Vikings open the 2016 season Aug. 20 at JFK Stadium against Kickapoo.

    The Parkview Vikings open the 2016 season Aug. 20 at JFK Stadium against Kickapoo.

    Kickapoo returns several key starters from its 12-1 team that reached the Class 6 playoff semifinals last year including quarterback Chris Lawson, running back Maverick McGee and linebacker Travis Vokolek.

    “I think (Kickapoo) is going to be very quality. They are going to be just as good this year, they’ve got a lot of those key components coming back. I like it because you get tested right off the bat,” Hays said.

    Lawson passed for 1,578 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2015, and also rushed for five touchdowns and 548 yards.

    McGee split carries with Malachi Stout, Kickapoo’s all-time touchdown leader. Even in Stout’s shadow, McGee still rushed for 892 yards and eight touchdowns.

    Parkview’s offensive line retains five starters from last season in center Jacob Kuhnert, Ben Grandon at right guard and Jeffery Styles at tackle along with tight ends Seth White and Brady Hill. The group will be tasked to block for new starting quarterback Mario Sanchez, a junior.

    The game begins at 7 p.m. Fans who can’t make it to the game can follow along on the News-Leader.com Friday Scoreboard presented by Murney Associates, Realtors.

    Kickapoo went 12-1 in football in 2015 and opens the 2016 season on the road at Parkview.

    Kickapoo went 12-1 in football in 2015 and opens the 2016 season on the road at Parkview.

    High school football schedule for Friday, Aug. 19

    (All games begin at 7 p.m.)

    Rogersville at Central

    Kickapoo at Parkview

    Glendale at Joplin

    Camdenton at Hillcrest

    Lebanon at Rolla

    West Plains at Waynesville

    Springfield Catholic at Strafford

    Lighthouse Christian at East Newton

    Bolivar at Republic

    Carthage at Ozark

    Willard at Nixa

    Branson at Neosho

    Mt. Vernon at Reeds Spring

    Marshfield at Ava

    Buffalo at Fair Grove

    Mountain Grove at Aurora

    Webb City at Carl Junction

    Skyline at Lexington

    Ash Grove at Houston

    Barat Academy at Cabool

    Liberal at Lockwood

    Willow Springs at Miller

    Jasper at Sarcoxie

    Cassville at Lamar

    Seneca at Nevada

    Greenfield at Union Christian Academy

    Saturday, Aug. 20

    California at Monett


    tmp1471360274357.jpgtdunhamusatodayNews-Leader Game of the Week brought to you by Murney Associates, RealtorsThe Parkview Vikings open the 2016 season Aug. 20 at JFK Stadium against Kickapoo.Kickapoo went 12-1 in football in 2015 and opens the 2016 season on the road at Parkview.tmp1471360274357.jpgtdunhamusatodayNews-Leader Game of the Week brought to you by Murney Associates, RealtorsThe Parkview Vikings open the 2016 season Aug. 20 at JFK Stadium against Kickapoo.Kickapoo went 12-1 in football in 2015 and opens the 2016 season on the road at Parkview.

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    Members of the Parkview football team stretch as coach Anthony Hays (standing) leads them through "spotlight drill," a daily exercise in encouragement.

    Members of the Parkview football team stretch as coach Anthony Hays (standing) leads them through "spotlight drill," a daily exercise in encouragement.

    Parkview closes each football practice with what the Vikings call the “spotlight drill,” an exercise in positive reinforcement.

    It’s not a conditioning drill, but something for players to do while stretching their legs at the end of practice. With the players sitting in a circle, coach Anthony Hays calls on the Vikings one at a time for any “shout-out” they would like to give.

    They host Kickapoo to open the season Friday night at 7 p.m. in the News-Leader Game of the Week presented by Murney Associates. Among the kudos given at a recent practice as Parkview prepared to meet the Chiefs:

    The entire scout team offense was recognized for emulating Kickapoo’s offensive scheme.

    A player in the midst of a position change applauded assistant coach Pete Hanson for being patient.

    Defensive back Warren Atkins got some props because “he’s just working his butt off.”

    On the Parkview defense, the secondary appears to be a strength. State champion high jumper Marcus Walton moves to cornerback opposite Atkins. Senior C.J. Loveall led Parkview in tackles with 102 last season, and returns at safety. Scottie Davis transferred to Parkview from Central in the offseason and also looks to be in the mix in the defensive secondary.

    On offense, Parkview has a new quarterback in Mario Sanchez.

    “Mario is a junior and he has been running our system all the way up. He was our freshman quarterback, he was our J.V. quarterback, and so now he’s getting into that role as a varsity quarterback,” Hays said.

    A new stable of running backs will replace graduated all-state rusher Anthony Riley Jr., who gained more than 2,000 yards as a senior. In one game against Glendale, Riley carried the ball 50 times for 329 yards and five touchdowns.

    Riley is now playing football for NCAA Division II Quincy University.

    Senior Josh McCann and sophomore Blake Delacruz join a thunder and lightning combination to fill out the Parkview stable.

    “We have Aerion Hawkins who is a bruiser-type back,” Hays said. “We have Jevin Huddleston who is the lead leg on our 4-by-100 (meter), 4-by-200 relay teams, so he’s a really, really fast kid. He hits the edge and he’s gone.”

    Riley’s workload will be too much for any one running back to replace, so a group of Vikings will share the spotlight in the offensive backfield.

    “We feel like we lost one really, really good back, but we have four young guys that are all very capable coming up, so we might see the carries distributed more evenly. There won’t be that 50 handoff game like we gave Riley last year,” Hays said.

    News-Leader Game of the Week

    News-Leader Game of the Week

    News-Leader Game of the Week presented by Murney Associates

    Kickapoo (0-0) at Parkview (0-0)

    Friday, Aug. 19, 7 p.m.

    JFK Stadium, Parkview High School

    1333 S. Grant Avenue, Springfield


    tmp1471389324660.jpgtdunhamusatodayMembers of the Parkview football team stretch as coach Anthony Hays (standing) leads them through tmp1471389324660.jpgtdunhamusatodayMembers of the Parkview football team stretch as coach Anthony Hays (standing) leads them through "spotlight drill," a daily exercise in encouragement.News-Leader Game of the Week

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    Kickapoo starts the 2016 football season as one of the top 5 teams in Missouri’s largest class of high schools.

    Kickapoo starts the 2016 high school football season as the No. 5-ranked Class 6 team in Missouri in the Missouri Media Rankings.

    Kickapoo starts the 2016 high school football season as the No. 5-ranked Class 6 team in Missouri in the Missouri Media Rankings.

    The first Missouri Media football rankings of the season puts the Chiefs at No. 5 in Class 6 football, based on the votes by a 14-member panel of reporters from around the state. Kickapoo went 12-1 in 2015 and reached the Class 6 playoff quarterfinals.

    Elsewhere in the Springfield area, Nixa starts the season as the No. 8-ranked Class 5 team in the state coming off of a 7-6 season, a district championship and a trip to the playoff quarterfinals.

    In addition to Kickapoo, West Plains is also a ranked Ozark Conference team. The Zizzers checked in at No. 7 in Class 4 and have been placed in a “district of doom” that includes Class 4 No. 1 Webb City, No. 3 Carl Junction, and Bolivar and Camdenton teams also receiving votes.

    In Class 1 football, Skyline starts the year as the No. 6 team in the state, and another group of Tigers from Lockwood checks in right behind Skyline at No. 7.

    Missouri Media football rankings

    Statewide high school football rankings, as compiled by a 14-member panel of sportswriters and broadcasters.

    First-place votes in parenthesis.

    CLASS 6

    Rank, team, 2015 Rec., Pts.

    1. CBC (9), 13-1, 135

    2. Blue Springs (4), 6-6, 109

    3. Kirkwood, 11-2, 100

    4. Jefferson City, 9-2, 91

    5. Kickapoo, 12-1, 67 

    6. Blue Springs South (1), 14-0, 54  

    7. Park Hill, 11-2, 51

    8. Lee’s Summit West, 6-5, 41

    9. Hazelwood Central, 9-3, 38    

    10. Francis Howell, 11-1, 28

    Also receiving votes:  Eureka (10-1), 27; SLUH (8-3) 26; Rockhurst (4-6), 3

    CLASS 5

    Rank, team, 2015 Rec., Pts.

    1. Chaminade (12), 12-2, 137

    2. Staley (2), 9-2, 116

    2. Battle, 10-3, 116

    4. Liberty North, 8-3, 98

    5. Fort Zumwalt North, 11-1, 88

    6. Pattonville, 8-4, 53

    7. Fort Osage, 13-1, 52

    8. Nixa, 7-6, 40 

    9. Belton, 8-4, 24

    10. Vianney, 7-4, 16

    Also receiving votes:  Carthage (11-2), 13; Liberty (3-7), 7; Glendale (4-7), 6; Rockwood Summit (10-3), 4

    CLASS 4

    Rank, team, 2015 Rec., Pts.

    1. Webb City (9), 14-1, 135

    2. Kearney (5), 14-1, 128

    3. Carl Junction, 9-2, 110

    4. Westminster, 13-1, 89

    5. Hannibal, 12-1, 79

    6. Harrisonville, 12-1, 71

    7. West Plains, 10-2, 48

    8. Parkway North, 7-4, 37

    9. Platte County, 8-4, 22

    10. Cape Girardeau Central, 9-5, 18

    Also receiving votes: Ladue (7-3), 14; Affton (11-2), 7; Bolivar (9-2), 6; Camdenton (3-7), 6

    CLASS 3

    Rank, team, 2015 Rec., Pts.

    1. John Burroughs (13), 14-1, 139 

    2. Maryville (1), 12-1, 112

    3. Blair Oaks, 13-1, 98

    4. Odessa, 13-2, 93

    5. Oak Grove, 9-3, 82

    6. Mexico, 10-2, 59

    7. Monett, 8-3, 56

    8. McCluer South-Berkley, 7-5, 29

    9. Osage, 5-6, 21

    10. Center, 10-2, 20

    Also receiving votes: Park Hills Central (10-3), 17; Lutheran South (6-5), 10; Eldon (7-4), 9; Reeds Spring (10-2), 9; Aurora (9-5), 6; Chillicothe (7-4), 4; St. Charles West (5-5), 3; Wright City (8-4), 3

    CLASS 2

    Rank, team, 2015 Rec., Pts.

    1. Lamar (14), 1-0, 140, 1

    2. Mt. View-Liberty, 12-1, 122

    3. Centralia, 11-2, 98

    4. Palmyra, 11-3, 88

    5. Lutheran North, 8-5, 72

    6. Brookfield, 11-2, 53

    7. Mountain Grove, 10-3, 48

    8. Lafayette County, 12-2, 46

    9. Malden, 14-1, 33

    10. Trinity, 6-4, 25

    Also receiving votes:  Fair Grove (8-4), 19; Cardinal Ritter (10-2), 10; Summit Christian Academy (10-2), 9; California (6-4), 5; Highland (4-7), 1; Father Tolton Catholic (10-2), 1

    CLASS 1

    Rank, team, 2015 Rec., Pts.

    1. Valle Catholic (14), 15-0, 140

    2. Marceline, 12-2, 117

    3. Hamilton-Penney, 11-4, 112

    T4. Lincoln, 11-1, 78

    T4. Mark Twain, 11-1, 78

    6. Skyline, 13-1, 7-6

    7. Lockwood, 9-1, 39

    8. Thayer, 10-2, 29

    9. Polo, 8-3, 26 

    10. Scotland County, 6-5, 20

    Also receiving votes:  East Buchanan (11-1), 17; South Shelby (6-7), 15; Cass-Midway (10-3), 12; West Platte (6-7), 5; Marionville (10-2), 4; Westran (7-5), 2


    tmp1471450292012.jpgtdunhamusatodayKickapoo starts the 2016 high school football season as the No. 5-ranked Class 6 team in Missouri in the Missouri Media Rankings.tmp1471450292012.jpgtdunhamusatodayKickapoo starts the 2016 high school football season as the No. 5-ranked Class 6 team in Missouri in the Missouri Media Rankings.

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    Hillcrest junior quarterback Stefan Bozman hands off to Blake Stoker during a preseason jamboree scrimmage at Rogersville.

    Hillcrest junior quarterback Stefan Bozman hands off to Blake Stoker during a preseason jamboree scrimmage at Rogersville.

    Hillcrest football coach John Beckham was not optimistic about his team going into the 2015 season.

    His suspicions were correct.

    The Hornets went 1-9 with a lone win over Rolla standing out as a bright spot.

    Attitudes changed in the offseason. Beckham reported that this year’s Hillcrest team put in a much better effort throughout the summer.

    “I was really pleased with our effort this summer and our attendance was good. A lot of young guys came in and worked hard and attitudes were good. They are a coachable bunch of kids, they really are,” Beckham said. “I’ve enjoyed working with them.”

    Hillcrest returns talent at the offensive skill positions with junior wide receivers Josh Powell and Erik Savage. The versatile Savage can play wideout, running back, defensive back, punter and kick returner. He has also worked out as a quarterback through the offseason and is competing with junior Haden Parton for the starting job.

    In a preseason scrimmage at Rogersville, Parton connected with senior Brock Roggow on a 23-yard touchdown pass against Rogersville.

    Beckham wasn’t certain who would get the start, and hinted at the possibility of using both Parton and Savage at quarterback. Because he is a returning starter on offense and defense, Beckham held Savage out of the preseason scrimmage.

    “I thought Haden played pretty well to be quite honest with you, I thought he did some good things,” Beckham said.

    Hillcrest also returns senior 200-pounder Malachi Beckham at running back.

    The Hornets open the season at home Friday against Camdenton at 7 p.m. at Shumate Stadium. John Beckham hopes the Hornets show better tackling than they did in the Rogersville jamboree.

    “I’m not pleased with our tackling. I just didn’t think we tackled well, and we weren’t physical like we need to be. We’re going to have to work on that,” Beckham said. “One thing about Camdenton, they’re always physical.”


    tmp1471474041147.jpgtdunhamusatodayHillcrest junior quarterback Stefan Bozman hands off to Blake Stoker during a preseason jamboree scrimmage at Rogersville.tmp1471474041147.jpgtdunhamusatodayHillcrest junior quarterback Stefan Bozman hands off to Blake Stoker during a preseason jamboree scrimmage at Rogersville.

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    Kickapoo High School junior Travis Vokolek poses for a portrait prior to a Chiefs practice at Pottenger Stadium in Springfield, Mo. on Aug. 17, 2016.

    Kickapoo High School junior Travis Vokolek poses for a portrait prior to a Chiefs practice at Pottenger Stadium in Springfield, Mo. on Aug. 17, 2016.

    Kickapoo’s top returning defensive player saw a change come to the Chiefs in the offseason.

    Travis Vokolek’s father, former Missouri State defensive coordinator D.J. Vokolek, is now on the Kickapoo coaching staff. That means Travis, who logged 82 tackles in 13 games last season, sometimes catches an earful on the practice field and again later at home.

    “It’s different. I’m glad he’s here, he’s in my ear every day,” Travis Vokolek said. “He wants what’s best for the team and he’s helping me out, helping everyone else to be the best that we can be.”

    Kickapoo went 12-1 last season and reached the Class 6 playoff semifinals. They became the first Springfield Public Schools team to win 12 games in a season.

    “We definitely want to get back to where we were last year, and we know that we can. We’ve got some underclassmen that are going to have to step up,” Vokolek said.

    The success of 2015 served as a motivator for this past summer.

    “It’s been stuck in all of the guys’ heads,” Vokolek said of the desire to return to the playoffs.

    Kickapoo coach Kurt Thompson said his team didn’t have many discussions about the success of 2015. The veteran coach, who is in the second year of his second stint at Kickapoo, said he worked to shift his players’ focus forward.

    “(Looking back) doesn’t help us win any football games this year. A lot of them had a lot to do with that, and we’re proud of that point, but this is a new year and we have to go out and be the best team that we can be,” Thompson said.

    American Family Insurance Preseason ALL-USA Ozarks football selections

    While the Kickapoo roster took a hit from the 2016 graduation, the Chiefs will have more than 20 seniors and return some key leaders.

    “The guys who were juniors last year — we’re all stepping up this year. We have our four captains: Mav (McGee), Chris (Lawson), me and Grant Martin. We’re taking leadership,” Vokolek said.

    Lawson will again be the starting quarterback with McGee at running back and Martin on the offensive line.

    “Travis is what you want. He studies the game and plays hard, and gives you all the effort he has,” Thompson said.

    Thompson welcomed D.J. Vokolek to his staff when the elder Vokolek opted not to return to the coaching staff at the University of Buffalo.

    D.J. Vokolek played four years at linebacker for Nebraska-Kearney.

    He spent nine seasons as associate head coach and defensive coordinator at Missouri State. He also assisted with the Bears’ safeties.

    Prior to his near-decade at Missouri State, D.J. Vokolek spent three seasons (2003-05) at Northern Iowa as assistant head coach and linebackers coach. In 2005, he served as defensive coordinator and helped lead the Panthers to the FCS National Championship game.

    It’s perhaps no surprise that Travis Vokolek is a defensive standout. It’s in his genetic makeup.

    Game of the Week: At the end of each Parkview football practice, some positive encouragement

    “He’s kind of a hybrid position. He’s our adjustment guy, he might be an outside linebacker, a down safety and play high safety at times. He’s a guy that adjusts us and gets us in the fronts that we need to be in,” Thompson said.

    Vokolek holds football scholarships from Army, Missouri Southern and Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. He hopes to pick up more recruiting interest as the season progresses.

    Game of the Week

    Game of the Week

    Kickapoo opens the season Friday with a visit to Parkview for a 7 p.m. kickoff at JFK Stadium. The game has been picked as the News-Leader Game of the Week presented by Murney Associates.


    tmp1471475008506.jpgtdunhamusatodayKickapoo High School junior Travis Vokolek poses for a portrait prior to a Chiefs practice at Pottenger Stadium in Springfield, Mo. on Aug. 17, 2016.Game of the Weektmp1471475008506.jpgtdunhamusatodayKickapoo High School junior Travis Vokolek poses for a portrait prior to a Chiefs practice at Pottenger Stadium in Springfield, Mo. on Aug. 17, 2016.Game of the Week

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    Ozark junior running back Curt Gracey tries to shuck a Central defender during the 2016 Rogersville preseason jamboree at Wildcat Stadium

    Ozark junior running back Curt Gracey tries to shuck a Central defender during the 2016 Rogersville preseason jamboree at Wildcat Stadium

    Ozark played shutout defense on a Friday night, and while touchdowns don’t matter in preseason scrimmages, standing tall meant much to the Tigers and their fans.

    It meant confidence is returning to a team that last had a winning season in 2012.

    The Tigers didn’t surrender any touchdowns in 36 defensive plays against Rogersville, Central and Hillcrest in a preseason jamboree at Rogersville. Ozark offered glimpses of the ruthlessly aggressive style of defense Monett was known for during coach Chad Depee’s tenure with the program.

    Depee (pronounced “de-PAY”) came to Ozark a year ago, and the Tigers went 1-9. Ozark surrendered an average of 36.4 points per game.

    The 3-3-5 defense relies on speed, deception and well-disguised blitzes, but it isn’t easy to learn quickly.

    “It was night and day type of change, but now they’re getting it. We’ve just got to continue to try to stay healthy and get a little better at what we do,” Depee said.

    Depee described the Ozark defense’s progress in the offseason as, “light years compared to a year ago.”

    Hillcrest hopeful after strong football offseason program

    Easton Hanks, Hayden Williams and Mason Evans all had interceptions in the jamboree.

    Depee expects to see the Tigers mature and improve as the 2016 season progresses.

    “We’re still a real young team, but (the Ozark players) are highly motivated and they want to compete. You’ve always got a chance,” Depee said.

    Depee also installed a new offense, the flex bone. Fullback Nathanial Burlage emerged as Ozark’s leading rusher.

    “He’s a hundred percenter type kid in everything that he does,” Depee said of Burlage.

    Burlage is just a junior.

    “Last year in a weird deal we went through and we got a lot of kids hurt through that position, and here is a sophomore kid, he rises up and says, ‘I’ll take that position,’ and endured and did a really good job for us,” Depee said.

    Ozark junior fullback Nathaniel Burlage (33) led the Tigers in rushing yards in 2015.

    Ozark junior fullback Nathaniel Burlage (33) led the Tigers in rushing yards in 2015.

    Burlage will share the backfield with Curt Gracey, Landon Draper and Devin Mayes, among others who will share carries.

    The road to rebuilding starts with a tough test. Carthage visits Ozark Friday night at 7 p.m. The Carthage Tigers were 11-2 last season and reached the Class 5 playoff semifinals.

    “Carthage is coming to town. They’re pretty dadgum good and we know we’ll have our hands full but our kids, I hope, are feeling more confident in everything that we do, day in and day out and will rise to the occasion and step up,” Depee said.

    Ozark Tigers football 2016 schedule

    Friday, Aug. 19: Carthage at Ozark

    Friday, Aug. 26: Ozark at Neosho

    Friday, Sept. 2: Carl Junction at Ozark

    Friday, Sept. 9: Ozark at Branson

    Friday, Sept. 16: Ozark at Republic

    Friday, Sept. 23: Willard at Ozark

    Friday, Sept. 30: Ozark at Webb City

    Friday, Oct. 7: Nixa at Ozark

    Friday, Oct. 14: Bolivar at Ozark


    tmp1471565946086.jpgtdunhamusatodayOzark junior running back Curt Gracey tries to shuck a Central defender during the 2016 Rogersville preseason jamboree at Wildcat StadiumOzark junior fullback Nathaniel Burlage (33) led the Tigers in rushing yards in 2015.tmp1471565946086.jpgtdunhamusatodayOzark junior running back Curt Gracey tries to shuck a Central defender during the 2016 Rogersville preseason jamboree at Wildcat StadiumOzark junior fullback Nathaniel Burlage (33) led the Tigers in rushing yards in 2015.

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    News-Leader Game of the Week

    News-Leader Game of the Week

    News-Leader Friday night scoreboard brought to you by Murney Associates, Realtors

    High school football schedule for Friday, Aug. 19

    Kickapoo 55, Parkview 26 FINAL

    • Parkview: Blake Delacruz 12 car, 82 yards, 25-yd TD run   
    • Kickapoo: Chris Lawson 18-of-24, 237 yards, 2 TD

    • Kickapoo: Maverick McGee 18 carries, 163 yards, 3 TD

    -News-Leader Game of the Week presented by Murney Associates, Realtors

    Rogersville 31, Central 6 FINAL

    Glendale 61, Joplin 31 FINAL

    Camdenton 39, Hillcrest 33 FINAL

    Lebanon 31, Rolla 14 FINAL

    West Plains 42, Waynesville 0 FINAL

    Springfield Catholic 35, Strafford 28 FINAL

    Lighthouse Christian 37, East Newton 14 FINAL

    Republic 27, Bolivar 18 FINAL

    Ozark 28, Carthage 14 FINAL

    Nixa 19, Willard 13 FINAL

    Neosho 42, Branson 21 FINAL

    Reeds Spring 47, Mt. Vernon 34 FINAL

    Ava 42, Marshfield 13 FINAL

    Fair Grove 49, Buffalo 7 FINAL

    Mountain Grove 35, Aurora 21 FINAL

    Carl Junction 23, Webb City 7 FINAL

    • Webb City: Seven turnovers
    • Carl Junction’s first win over Webb City since 1977

    Lexington 35, Skyline 0 FINAL

    Ash Grove 35, Houston 0 FINAL

    Jefferson (Festus) 26, Cabool 24 FINAL

    Lockwood 50, Liberal 21 FINAL

    Willow Springs 40, Miller 21 FINAL

    Sarcoxie 27, Jasper 12 FINAL

    Lamar 50, Cassville 0 FINAL

    • Luke Hargman 4 carries, 137 yards, 2 TDs

    Seneca 41, Nevada 14 FINAL

    Mountain View-Liberty 39, Cape Girardeau Central 20 FINAL

    Greenfield 50, Union Christian Academy 34 FINAL

    Saturday, Aug. 20

    California at Monett (7:30 p.m.)


    tmp1471637706954.jpgtdunhamusatodayNews-Leader Game of the Weektmp1471637706954.jpgtdunhamusatodayNews-Leader Game of the Week

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