A new season, new hopes and a new conference for Van Horn.

A new season, new hopes and a new conference for Van Horn.

But the Falcons, in The Examiner’s poll of the coaches, aren’t expected to contend for the Crossroads Conference title.

Van Horn was pegged for fourth. Defending champion Sherwood is the favorite followed by Butler and St. Mary’s. Another newcomer, Renaissance Academy, was fifth.

As of now, Sherwood, is the team to beat despite losing 10 seniors off an 8-3 team that gained the first round of the state playoffs.

“It’s tough to project how we’ll do because of losing the 10 seniors,” coach Tanner Lawson said.

Only five lettermen return.

The Bears could be the team to beat because of the return of seven defensive starters from a 4-6 team.

“I like this team,” new coach KIrk Hannah said. “I think they are a committed group that is willing to work and do whatever it takes to be successful. We do not have one or two dominant players that we will rely on, but we have a bunch of pretty good players willing to work hard. We have some new faces at some key positions, especially quarterback.”

The Trojans also have a new coach in Jason Fenstermaker, who played high school football at Grain Valley.

“New offensive and defensive schemes will be a challenge,” Fenstermaker said. “But with the experience we have we are planning to be competitive in all of our games. Our goal is to get better in every game.”

The Trojans return 13 lettermen from a 5-5 team, including standout running back Henry Handley.

The lack of numbers, as usual, is a concern. The Trojans will field a team of 25-30 players.

The Falcons have suffered through two 0-10 seasons. But more returning experience and an easier schedule other than the district opponents should result in some wins this fall.

“We will continue to improve as our team becomes more experienced,” coach Jeff Tolbert said. “Our points of emphasis will be improving our leadership, executing on offense and tackling on defense.”

It’s the first varsity season for Renaissance after a 2-4-1 junior varsity record.

“I have a very young team,” coach Terry McCray said. “”The strength of my team is that we will be really fast, but we lack size and experience. Even though we have a lot of juniors and seniors 90 percent of the team had never played football until last year.

“We will take our bumps and bruises this upcoming season but as you know it’s not how you start but how you finish.

Running back Shaquille Pryor, who scored 12 touchdowns last year, is expected to be one of the Renaissance standouts.

“Our main goal this year is to have a winning record and get better in each game, so we have a chance of being successful when districts arrive in week 8,” McCray said.

Maranatha Academy of Shawnee Mission (Kan.) also is a member of the conference but will play an abbreviated schedule including an Oct. 9 game at Van Horn.