They’ll be chasing Kearney in the Suburban Small Six.

They’ll be chasing Kearney in the Suburban Small Six.

The Bulldogs are a solid choice to claim the title despite losing some key players from a a 13-2 team that claimed the state Class 4 championship.

Defending champion Staley finished second in The Examiner’s poll of coaches followed by Oak Park and Platte County. Grandview and the new Liberty North tied for fifth. A coach wasn’t allowed to rank his own team.

“We have a lot of linemen back on both sides of the ball,” coach Greg Jones said. “We feel we will be strong up front but we have several questions about our running back situation.

“We graduated our entire fleet of running backs, so we will have to reload there. We feel our receivers will be plenty solid and having our quarterback back from last year will help.

“We will rely on our depth and depth to push us to improve throughout the season.”

The Bulldogs will be led by 21 lettermen.

Staley comes off a banner 11-1 second season with the lone loss to Kearney.

“Staley moves into Class 5 after two district championships in Class 4,” coach Fred Bouchard said. “The entire offensive backfield returns but the defense must replace six starters, who will be playing on college fields this fall.”

Staley defeated Kearney in conference play and then bowed to the Bulldogs in the second round of the playoffs.

For the first time the Northmen compete in the Small Six.

“We will still be young with not a lot of size,” coach Keith Ross said. “The young players gained experience from last year. We need to find more depth.”

Seventeen lettermen return from a 3-7 team.

The Pirates are hopeful of improving upon a 4-6 season.

“We were very young last year,” coach Bill Utz said. “We are still going to be young in several positions. The kids have responded well in off-season conditioning and have grown more confident in themselves. We are in a very competitive conference that should prepare us for district play.”

The Pirates will be guided by 17 lettermen.

New coach Andy Leech takes over the Grandview program.

“We will have very strong senior leadership mixed with some very talented underclassmen,” Leech said.

The Bulldogs went 2-9 last season. Both wins came in district play, qualifying the Bulldogs for the Class 4 playoffs.

North opened with some 700 students freshmen to juniors.

Ken Clemens, who formerly coached at Raytown and Winnetonka, is the Eagles coach.

“We are making progress,” he said. “Our goal is to field a competitive team. This is within our reach this year.”

The Eagles will be young and inexperienced. Junior running back/linebacker Zach Miller, who played at Liberty, is the only letter winner.