The Early Lead: Five intriguing storylines to watch this fall season
By BRANDON HURLEY
Yes, yes, yes, it’s here, it’s finally here. Quite possibly one of the most anticipated fall seasons in recent county prep history is upon us. With that are plenty of storylines to keep an eye on at both Greene County and Paton-Churdan high schools. Here’s just a handful of noteworthy items to watch out for as we welcome the new school year.
1. Coaching changes
It’s the general theme here as we head into the fall season - new coaching hires. The big splash, of course, was Mitch Moore as the Greene County football coach coming over from Iowa State, but a pair of staples in the county were elevated to head positions as well. Jeff Lamoureux takes over as head man for the Greene County cross country program, replacing legendary Kelly Simpson, while Tom Kennedy – who also coaches girls’ basketball and softball – takes over for the Paton-Churdan volleyball program. All three programs should have an exciting fall ahead as they call on a bevy of young talent. It’ll be fun seeing how these teams pan out under new regimes over the coming months.
2. Paton-Churdan volleyball as a dark horse RVC contender
Bold prediction time … the Paton-Churdan volleyball team will contend for the top three spots in the Rolling Valley Conference this fall. It’s really not that bold of a call if you break it down and consider the possibilities.
The Rockets virtually lost no one of significance from last year’s squad, all their key players are back including Megan Carey and Jenna Beyers, who provide one of, if not the best, offensive duo in the league. The pair is also prolific on defense, they combined for almost 100 blocks (95 to be exact) last fall.
Defending champion Exira-EHK and Coon Rapids-Bayard will provide extremely tough tests for the Rockets to open the season, but if they can somehow snag a split, things could look very encouraging. Those two programs, who suffered just three combined conference losses, bring a lot of talent back. But so does Paton-Churdan. The Rockets were extremely young a season ago, though they must once again adjust to a new coaching staff. That’s what could stand in the way of a title run, though many of the girls are familiar with Tom Kennedy. The coach is also the lead man of the P-C basketball team and the Greene County softball team, programs that many of the girls participate in.
3. Mitch Moore ushers in a new era at Greene County
Of course, no top five list this fall is complete without mentioning the hot topic around town. Greene County first-year football coach and new activities director Mitch Moore has brought with him a brash motivational style and has created a rejuvenated excitement within the department. He’s dedicated to improving the strength and conditioning throughout the various sports at the biggest high school in the county. Many times throughout the past academic season we saw different Ram squads tire out or get overpowered. A resurgence in the behind the scenes preparation could pay big dividends for the Greene County athletic department. Moore jumped right in and made several new hires throughout the department as well. He hired a pair of new track coaches, hired a new cross country coach and is still in the process of hiring boys’ and girls’ soccer coaches. It’s a completely different looking athletic department at Greene County.
4. Underclassmen rise to the top
The youth movement across the county could provide fans with quite the dose of satisfaction within the next few years. The smorgasbord of underclassmen are prepared to dominate the county’s football, volleyball, cross country and swimming programs this fall. Sophomores and juniors will play big roles for the P-C volleyball team while the Greene County cross country program will lean on their sophomores for some much needed production. A fast-approaching 2020 class could make some noise on the Greene County football team as Colby Kafer and Xavier Hayes are poised to share some of the spotlight at the offensive skill positions.
Buckle up, boys and girls, we could be in for a handful of exciting years throughout the county.
5. Can the Boone swimmers take the next step?
The Boone Toreador girls’ swim team dominated conference competition en route to their first-ever league championship last fall. Greene County senior Haley Hall – a two-time state qualifier, was a key cog in the record-setting season. The Toreadors qualified for six state events and broke four school records. If Boone wants to progress even further, they’ll have to do so without three of their top swimmers, who graduated last spring. Greene County students should play a big role this spring as several of the girls dominated competition at the JV level. It’s their turn to shine on the big stage.
That’s just the tip of the ice berg for the many exciting things happening this fall on the sports front.
For less opinion-based but factual items detailing the upcoming fall sports, pick up a copy of next week’s 2017 Fall Sports preview (Aug. 24). We’ll have pictures, comments from coaches and players and more in the jam-packed section.