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High school football previews: Jaguars look to build on last year’s momentum

Cody Thorn
Special to The Examiner
Blue Springs South's Luke Fellers, front, hauls in a pass in last year's game against crosstown rival Blue Springs. Fellers will be throwing the passes this season as the starting quarterback for the Jaguars, who look to build on a strong finish to last season.

Blue Springs South will look to carry over the momentum from the final six weeks of last season into the 2020 campaign.

While the Jaguars suffered a fourth straight losing season since winning the Class 6 title in 2015, there are reasons for optimism heading into year two under the guidance of Matt Klein.

Blue Springs South went 3-3 over the final six games and reached the district semifinals for the third year in a row.

“We were playing our best football at the end of the year,” said Klein, who enters his eighth year as a head coach at the high school level with stops at Knob Noster and Marquette. “We came a long way at the end. We were competing in the Suburban Gold at the end of the year and making strides. We turned the corner … we turned it around and this November, December, January and February. We were having a really good offseason. We were rolling and we felt like we almost had all our kids signed up for track or baseball and boom … this (coronavirus pandemic) hits and we were doing virtual workouts.”

Klein returns 18 letter-winners and multiple starters on both sides of the ball. That list includes three-year starters in Aden Birdwell, Luke Fellers and Ben Bryan and two-year starters in Isaiah Frost and Jayden Steele.

Birdwell (defensive line) and Fellers (defensive back) were second-team all-conference picks on defense, while Frost (wide receiver) and Bryan (defensive line) were honorable mention selections for the Jaguars.

“This senior class has multiple starters and some of them in their third year starting,” Klein said. “One of the big things are those Friday night reps and it is different to have kids that know what the bright lights are about and don’t freak out in the bright lights. To do that in this conference, it says a lot – shows the talent of the kids and their work ethic. We think we have some of the pieces along with the younger kids coming that we have some promise and hopefully get things together and rolling.”

After an 0-5 start to Klein’s debut season, the Jaguars got in the win column by scoring 50 points against William Chrisman. The Jaguars lost 21-20 to Class 6 state-ranked Park Hill at home the following week.

“We turned the corner after Park Hill,” said Isaiah Frost, a senior wide receiver/defensive back who has verbally committed to play baseball at Missouri next year. “We realized we can play with people and we started having confidence. I don’t think we’ve had a conference win in a while, so hopefully we can get more than one and get above .500 and be in the mix for winning conference.”

Blue Springs South got a win at Park Hill South and then beat Wentzville Holt in the district opener, scoring 40 or more points in all three wins. Of the final three losses – Park Hill, Lee’s Summit North and Troy Buchanan – were by a combined total of 13 points.

The Jaguars have been winless in conference games the past two years and haven’t won a league game since Week 7 of the 2017 season, beating Lee’s Summit. That’s a streak of 12 straight losses and the quest to break through could get a bit harder this year with the addition of Liberty and Liberty North to the Suburban Conference’s largest division.

“I think having a second year with Coach Klein … we know what he expects out of us and we kind of got used to his coaching style,” said linebacker Cole Wagner, who had 85 tackles last year. “That would be huge to break that wall and get that first conference win. Getting some confidence like that would be huge.”

The defense returns some key players, which will provide the Jaguars hope in slowing down some talented offenses in the league. Birdwell, who has offers from Navy, Army and two MIAA schools, had 93 tackles, 12 tackles for loss and five sacks last year. Bryan, a fellow defensive lineman, had 47 tackles and 10 tackles for loss. Like Frost, Bryan will play baseball at the next level, pledging to NCAA Division II Lindenwood University.

Fellers has been a three-year starter at safety and had four interceptions and five pass breakups last year. He picks up additional duties this year as the starting quarterback, replacing Max Conard. Fellers had six catches for 126 yards and two touchdowns playing wide receiver last year.

The top pieces back on offense are Frost, wide receiver Jayden Steele and running back MJ Overstreet. As a sophomore, Overstreet ran 200 yards and four touchdowns and is the top returning rusher.

Frost had 22 catches for 318 yards and three touchdowns, while Steele had 25 catches for 340 yards and a score. Those two will have to up their production due to the loss of Cortes Essex, who led the team in catches (29), yards (492) and touchdowns (12) last year. He is now at Iowa Western Community College.

Klein expects a number of juniors and sophomores to crack the playing rotation – many of whom got some playing time last year due to injuries. Overstreet was one of them, as was Luke Seib, a 6-foot-4 junior tight end that has put his name on the recruiting circuit this summer by attending camps. His dad, Brad, played tight end at Kansas State.

Fellow tight end Owen Gish, a junior, will provide another tall target for Fellers as Gish stands 6-foot-5 – tied for tallest on the roster with Fellers.

“Now in year two of our system with returning starters, our kids are picking up the scheme and our culture with our limited time this summer,” Klein said. “We like our improved depth, overall program numbers and we will need it with the circumstances and our challenging conference. We are excited to get this season kicked off.”

Jaguars at a glance

Head coach: Matt Klein, second year (3-8 at Blue Springs South), eighth year overall (31-50 overall).

Assistant coaches: Simo Atagi, Dan Butt, Kyle Christian, Aaron Dunbar, Mike Fansher, Jamie Fournier, Willie Horn, Don Horner, Chris Miller, Matt Reynolds, Doug Schibi, Greg Smith.

Returning letter winners: 18

Returning offensive starters: Isaiah Frost, 5-11, 192, sr., WR; MJ Overstreet, 5-11, 193, jr., RB; Jayden Steele, 5-10, 190, sr., RB; Ben Bryan, 6-0, 217, sr., OL; Luke Fellers, 6-5, 202, sr., WR (now QB).

Returning defensive starters: Isaiah Frost, 5-11, 192, sr., CB; Rex Regier, 6-0, 186, sr., DB; Luke Fellers, 6-5, 202, sr., DB; Ethan Watson, 6-0, 198, sr., LB; Jayden Steele, 5-10, 190, sr., DB; Cole Wagner, 5-10, 196, sr., LB; Ben Bryan, 6-0, 217, sr., DL; Aden Birdwell, 6-4, 248, sr., DL.

Others to watch: Alex Israelite, 6-0, 164, jr., WR/DB; Cooper Boyles, 5-8, 233, jr., OL/DL; Owen Gish, 6-4, 222, jr., TE/DL; Joe Ward, 6-1, 182, sr., TE/LB; Malachi Howard, 6-0, 154, soph., WR/DB; Bryce Reeves, 5-9, 157, soph., RB/DB; Avion Phillips, 6-1, 255, jr., OL/DL; Noah Macias, 6-1, 287, soph., OL/DL; Kole Collins, 6-2, 279, jr., OL/DL; Luke Seib, 6-4, 213, jr., TE/DL.

Blue Springs South's Isaiah Frost hauls in a pass during a game against Lee's Summit West last season. Frost is expected to be one of the senior leaders for the Jaguars this season, the second under coach Matt Klein. {David M. Rainey/Examner file photo]