High school football previews: Broncos look to bounce back after faltering late last season

Cody Thorn
Special to The Examiner
Lee's Summit North quarterback Carlton Perkins, center, scramblling during a game against Blue Springs last season, has experience as the starter, but he will be challenged for the starting job this season by Fort Osage transfer Tre Baker.

A few years ago a non-losing record at Lee’s Summit North was an accomplishment.

Now the bar has changed and the Broncos are eager to prove they are closer to the 9-3 team from 2018 than the 5-5 team from last year.

“We thought we were better than our record last year,” said Broncos head coach Jamar Mozee, who is entering his sixth year at the helm. “The expectations are different and everybody is working hard. We take it one day at a time, chip away at it and see where you are. We got talent, physically, it’s a matter of doing it and staying healthy.”

Lee’s Summit North reached the Class 6 state quarterfinals in 2018 and lost 10-3 to eventual state runner-up Rockhurst in that game. Mozee believes that was a state-championship caliber team – the Broncos won a share of the first conference championship in school history – but it couldn’t overcome the loss of star quarterback Christian Carter to an injury late in the season.

The Broncos opened last year ranked No. 6 in Class 6 poll by the Missouri media voters but lost the season opener to Liberty North. Lee’s Summit North peaked with a 4-2 record after a win over rival Lee’s Summit West, but then lost three of the final four – the lone win coming against Blue Springs South in the regular-season finale. Two of the three losses came against Ray-Pec, the last a 21-14 loss in the district opener.

This year’s schedule flips a bit with Blue Springs South being the opener instead of the final regular-season game. The Broncos have back-to-back home games twice and feature a new team on the slate in Blue Valley North, which replaces St. Joseph Central.

Many of this year's starters were underclassmen when the team made the quarterfinal run, but tight end Gracen Bell has been a starter each of the past two years.

“It is awesome to see the standard has changed over the past two years; it’s been great,” said the 6-foot-7 target who played in four games last year before surgery was needed to repair a meniscus injury. “My freshman year was so much fun to be around and it was a great team. It was the first team that really succeeded and had a winning record here. It was a great team to be a part of. The coaching staff …. Coach Mozee, has been trying to shift the atmosphere and provide a winning mentality. He did that and that is what the program needed. He has been awesome and I’m looking forward to doing that this year.”

The Broncos return seven starters on the offense and six on the defensive side, providing a good base as Mozee aims for a second winning record.

The offensive line returns three starters in juniors Daylnn Davis and Trevor Taylor and sophomore Cayden Green, who already has an offer from Kansas. Two tight ends are back as well in Bell, who has an offer from Iowa State, senior Adrien Block, who caught one touchdown last year. Senior wide receiver Logan Muckey led the team in catches (45) and receiving yards (459) last year and will be a top target for the quarterback.

The question is who will be the quarterback?

Carlton Perkins moved into the starting role last year and passed for 1,183 yards and eight touchdowns, while adding three rushing touchdowns. The senior will be challenged by junior Tre Baker, who sat out last year after transferring from Fort Osage.

Baker, the younger brother of current Missouri State quarterback Ty Baker, was expected to follow his brother in guiding the Indians and was Ty's backup when Fort Osage reached the Class 5 state finals in 2018.

The Broncos will be young at running back but will have a familiar last name there in Mozee – Elijah that is, the coach’s nephew. The sophomore got one carry for 18 yards last year but the bulk of the yards last year went to his brother, Keyon, who ran for 1,060 yards and had 10 of the Broncos’ 15 rushing touchdowns. Keyon is now playing at Kansas State. Elijah Mozee and Quincy Baker, another sophomore, are expected to be the feature backs.

Both the offense and defense dipped a bit last year in terms of production. The offense scored 22.5 points per game, but that was down from the 30 points per game the year prior. The defense gave up 18.6 points per game, but up from 14 points per game in 2018.

The defense returns two full-time starters and three rotational players for defensive coordinator Mark Simcox, a former head coach at Park Hill South and William Chrisman.

Only three of the top 10 tacklers from last year return, led by senior linebacker Aaron Barnhill’s 49, which was fourth on the team. Cornerback DeWaun Mack Jr. had 39 and Block, who has an offer from Missouri Western, finished with 33. Mack added seven pass breakups.

The defensive line will have another McGhee there in Jaden, a 6-4, 225-pound defensive end who started a handful of games. Gone is older brother and defensive line stalwart Mark McGhee, who had 73 tackles and nine tackles for loss and is now at Missouri Western.

The secondary will have three juniors and a sophomore starting. What grade a player is in doesn’t matter to Mozee, who enjoys the competitiveness brought by his players battling for a starting spot.

That same drive to earn a starting spot is what the veteran coach is banking on guiding the Broncos back to the winning side of .500.

“We had all these expectations last year and we didn’t quite meet them,” Muckey said. “We need to tune out the outside noise and focus on everything we can control – being the best team we can possibly be – and the numbers, stats and wins will fall into place if we are the team we can be. If we do our job, everything can fall into place. This is a revenge year. We want to come back and show everyone we are here to stay … Lee’s Summit North is here for good. Last season didn’t go as well as it could’ve, and it fuels us more to make it so much better.”

Broncos at a glance

Head coach: Jamar Mozee (sixth year, 27-25 at Lee’s Summit North and overall).

Assistant coaches: Mark Simcox, Jason Jones, Aaron Vaeo, Mike Dickerson, DeRon Washington, Tom Upman, Cole Reeves, Jermaine Saffold, Tyreek Hill, Shannon Moore, Justin Giger, Mike Mead, Jason Berg.

2019 record: 5-5 (3-2 Suburban Big Six)

Returning letter-winners: 17

Returning offensive starters: Carlton Perkins, 6-2, 170, sr., QB; Adrien Block, 6-3, 225, sr., TE; Gracen Bell, 6-7, 235, jr., TE; Daylnn Davis, 6-3, 270, jr., OL; Trevor Taylor, 6-1, 270, jr., C; Cayden Green, 6-4, 280, soph., OL; Logan Muckey, 6-1, 180, sr., WR.

Returning defensive starters: Adrien Block, 6-3, 225, sr., DE; DeWaun Mack, Jr., 5-11, 180, jr, CB; Jaden McGhee, 6-4, 225, jr., DE; Aaron Barnhill, 6-0, 205, sr., LB; Alphonso Hodge, 5-9, 170, jr., DB; Javion Watson, 5-10, 220, jr., LB.

Others to watch: Tre Baker, 6-0, 190, jr., QB; Elijah Mozee, 5-8, 170, soph., RB; Quincey Baker, 5-8, 175, soph., RB; Donnell Dye, 6-1, 175, jr., WR; Jonathan Brown, 5-11, 170, jr., CB; Kade Williams, 6-0, 180, soph., DB; Armand Membou, 6-4, 280, jr., OL; Angelo Hubbard, 6-3, 320, jr., OL; Randall Ward, 6-2, 210, soph., LB; Edger Hundley, 6-1, 280, sr., DL; Mike Dolman, 6-2, 330, jr., DL; Owen Cole, 6-0, 185, jr., LB; Justin Gray, 5-8, 170, sr., RB; Aidan Jonas, 6-4, 230, sr., TE.