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Northeast Kansas League Football Preview
By Jonny Kane and Justin Fluke
Copyright: MSC Sports
09/02/2020

It was a bit of a down year for the Northeast Kansas League in 2019 with just three teams finishing with winning records while only two teams made the second round of the postseason. Maur Hill-Mount Academy made the biggest splash winning their first league title in 29 years while Jackson Heights took second in the league and made it all the way to the sub-state round of the 1A playoffs. Jeff County North was the only other team with a winning record in the NEKL, but the Chargers went just 1-3 in their final four games before falling to Valley Heights in the first round of the playoffs. Heading into 2020 the league appears to be the most wide open it has ever been with Jackson Heights and Maur Hill-Mount Academy each losing key pieces off last year’s squads. The 2020 season still sets up to be a two-team race at the top with those two teams, but after that the remainder of the league standings are up for grabs which should make for more competitive games in 2020!

MAUR HILL-MOUNT ACADEMY took another step in the right direction in 2019 as the Ravens went 6-2 and captured their first league title since 1992 in the first year back for Coach Brandon Wilkes.  The Ravens had a huge upset of Jackson Heights in week three and played eventual state champion Nemaha Central close falling 26-20 in the final district game of the year. MH-MA suffered their two district losses by a total of seven points and ended the season with a first round playoff lost to perennial power Rossville. Heading into 2020 Coach Wilkes is back for his fourth overall season in Atchison and must find a way to replace two of the best players that MH-MA has seen in the last decade.

JACKSON HEIGHTS is coming off their best season in a long while making it to the state semifinals before falling to eventual champion, Centralia. Graduating an all-state running back and lineman, plus a couple other studs up front and a quarterback, will leave Coach Caleb Wick filling in many holes for his wishbone offense in year number nine with the green and gold. The Cobras still have enough playmakers to be a contender and still have some big lineman to help pave the way.  But the experience, leadership and depth are much more unproved entering 2020. 

JEFFERSON COUNTY NORTH got back on track last season after a losing record in 2018 and finished the year with a 5-4 record. JCN started the season strong winning their first four games but dropped four of their last five games including a 60-34 loss to Valley Heights in the playoffs. Heading into this season Coach Jeff Schneider returns a strong nucleus with seven offensive starters back and nine total letter winners with high hopes of competing for a Northeast Kansas League title.

ACCHS took a step in the right direction winning three games including the final two games of the year by a combined score of 90-13 to finish 2019 with a 3-6 record. The Tigers did most of their work on the ground compiling over 2,500 rushing yards and 27 touchdowns on the year, but most of that production has graduation. Corey Thomas enters his fourth year as the head man with just five starters back on offense and six on defense leaving several question marks heading into the 2020 season.

PLEASANT RIDGE took a step back last season winning just three games to finish the year at 3-6. The Rams did go 3-2 in Northeast Kansas League play but after a 3-3 start finished with three consecutive losses by at least two touchdowns in each game. But, it is a new season which also brings in a new head coach as Logan Fritz is set to take over the reins of the program with a strong senior class back with high hopes heading into the 2020 season.

OSKALOOSA took a major step forward a year ago winning three games, all in district play, to finish 2019 with a 3-6 record. Oskaloosa started the season slow dropping the opening three games of the season but turned things around in the middle of the season with wins over Central Heights, McLouth and West Franklin. Although it was another tough year in the win column for the Bears, Coach Matthew Johnson enters his third year at the school with high optimism as he returns six starters on offense and seven on defense with hopes of improving once again in 2020.

MCLOUTH took a step back last season finishing 1-8 after a strong 2018 campaign where the Bulldogs finished .500. McLouth now heads into 2020 looking to erase the struggles from last season and return a strong core with varsity experience. Head Coach Gary Freeman enters his sixth season with the Bulldogs with a group that is eager to not only forget last season but hungry to show improvement in the win column in 2020.

HORTON enters the year having lost 20 straight games but welcomes a new coach and different system and schemes and David Losey takes over the Chargers.  The team has a few big lineman back and their signal caller, but most all the other skill positions needs to be replaced and the team has struggled with numbers in the program and had to rely on some many youngsters the previous few years.


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Hiawatha, KS 66434
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