O-Zone Kickoff Week: Ozark Conference Football Preview
by Jordan Burton,posted Aug 29 2013 8:04PM
The football season gets going on Friday. Here is everything you need to know about the OC this season.
As has been the norm in the past few years, the OC should be wide open again in 2013. Hillcrest and Lebanon split the league title last year. Unfortunately, both squads lost some key contributors. Camdenton and Kickapoo have extremely talented skill position players, and Parkview will again look to shock the conference. The best part about the league under the new playoff format in the balanced conference schedule leading to a true conference champion.
Favorite: Camdenton –I believe the team to beat here is Camdenton. Although the Lakers lost two of the OC’s most dynamic skill position players in Murphy Ward and Justin Barnabe, Jeff Shore doesn’t rebuild, he just reloads. Kullen Carlock and Ryan Elliott return for their senior campaigns healthy, which means bad news for opposing secondaries. Jeff Burris will shoulder much of the running game for Camdenton this year and the competition of Bo Dean and Tyler Cunningham at the quarterback position will be huge. And of course, Camdenton is skilled and well-sized on the line. Should make for a typical Camdenton season.
Darkhorse: Kickapoo – Expectations for Kickapoo are high, and they should be. The Chiefs were 6-5 last year, including handing Hillcrest its lone Ozark Conference loss, 26-21. However, tough losses to Parkview and Joplin put the chains on what could have been a more successful season. But, 2013 has the potential to be a great season for Joel Wells and company. Wells returns his quarterback Anthony Cooper, who may be the most talented in the conference. He can make all the throws, and is a great athlete. The Chiefs also return a loaded backfield with seniors Jon Fuchs and Kelton Reeves. Junior Tony Grant is also a powerful back who will figure into the equation. With Trey Raynor and Corbin Harris back at receiver, along with explosive athlete Jamariqune Green. Kickapoo’s success this season will hinge on the ability of their offensive and defensive lines to control the line of scrimmage.
Offensive MVP(s): Matt Rush & Juwan Johnson, Hillcrest – It’s tough to pick between these two. There is a lot of speed and a ton of talent here. It is like trying to catch a rabbit when you watch them on the gridiron. Last year they worked in tandem with both receiving carries and catching passes from Jonah Hill. Rush finished with more than 1,300 yards and 13 scores. Johnson was right there with him, racking up 1,300 yards and 14 touchdowns. This year Johnson will be taking handoffs and catching passes from Rush. No Hill, inexperience on the offensive line, and Ozark Conference defenses won’t keep these two D-1 recruits from running wild.
Defensive MVP:Kullen Carlock, Camdenton – Despite nagging injuries in 2012, Carlock was still able to make a huge impact for a great Camdenton defense (4 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles). A healthy Carlock with freedom to roam is bad news for the spread-happy Ozark Conference. He is a handful in coverage, but he also acts as an added linebacker in the run game. If this summer’s 7-on-7 OC Tournament was any indication of what Carlock has in mind for the 2013 season keep an eye on No. 12.
Mr. Underrated: Johnny Malone, Lebanon – Each year the Yellow Jackets have D-1 prospects on their offensive line, paving the way for Will Christian’s power running attack. Lebanon again has great linemen, but their best prospect may be on the defensive side. Malone harassed conference quarterbacks on his to nine sacks and 11 hurries. In a conference that is full of dual-threat quarterbacks, Malone’s ability to get in the backfield will be huge again in 2013.
Player to Watch – Jamariqune Green, Kickapoo: Green has a chance to make a huge impact in his first and only season for the Chiefs. He has speed to burn and no problem going up and getting the football. With Kickapoo’s loaded backfield and experienced receivers they have most facets covered offensively except the big play. Green has the ability to bring that. He is also a playmaker in the defensive backfield. He will have a chance to put the Chiefs over the top in the Ozark Conference race.
Game of the Year: Hillcrest vs. Camdenton – The Lakers have dropped two straight to the Hornets. Again in 2013 this will be the season opening game for each time. It will also have huge OC implications. The winner of this game will have the chance to control their own destiny. Camdenton fans have done a great job of giving the Lakers a huge home field advantage. This could be crucial as the Hornets’ Matt Rush takes his first varsity snaps as a starting quarterback.
Fan poll results - Camdenton got the nod as the OC favorite by the fans but Lebanon was just points behind in the closest battle for a top spot in any of the fan polls.