Wednesday, 22 September 2021
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2021 Northeast Kansas League Football Preview
By Brandon Tadtman, Justin Fluke, Jonny Kane

It was a bit of a down year for the Northeast Kansas League in 2020 with just two teams finishing with winning records along with three teams going winless. Maur Hill-Mount Academy and Jeff County North tied for the league title with undefeated league marks which gave the Ravens their second straight. Jackson Heights showed flashes of being competitive but after missing the first two games of the season the Cobras could never recover. Heading into this season, the league appears to be more open than ever before with Jackson Heights and Maur Hill-Mount Academy each losing key pieces off last year's teams. Jeff County North could possibly be the favorite to repeat with what they bring back but expect the Ravens and Cobras to be right in the mix. After that the remainder of the league standings are up for grabs which should make for more competition this season. 

Jefferson County North won the NEKL for the third time in the last six seasons under head coach Jeff Schneider sharing it with MH-MA. The Chargers had one of the toughest schedules around with three ranked teams in Class 1A but still found a way to win seven games before falling to Lyndon in the playoffs. After a strong 2020, the Chargers and coach Schneider head into this season with seven starters back on each side of the ball and high expectations of repeating as league champions along with a deep playoff run in Class 1A. 

Jackson Heights is going to look a lot different this season, with an abundance of skill position players back and not the luxury of as many big strong linemen, the Cobras are venturing away from the wishbone offense under 10th year head coach Caleb Wick. Eight starters are back on both sides of the ball following a 4-5 season in 2020 that was marred by Covid and injuries. Jackson Heights is a team that could make some noise and challenge for a league and district title, despite a few tough games on the 2021 schedule. 

Maur Hill-Mount Academy proved again a season ago that they are officially a program to be reckoned with after going unbeaten in the regular season before falling to eventual state champion Rossville in the playoffs. Head coach Brandon Wilkes now heads into his 5th season at the helm with a team that has high expectations each and every year but with just three starters back on both sides, could provide some questions throughout the course of the season. 

Pleasant Ridge took another step back last season winning just two games to finish at 2-5. The Rams did have two league wins, but they were over opponents who combined to finish 0-15. The Rams had a new head coach in Logan Fritz so there was obviously a learning curve that the team had to deal with. It was a new look Rams team a year ago that featured a much faster pace than typically seen in Easton and you can expect more of that in 2021. Coach Fritz embarks on year two with a lot to replace, but several athletes that are ready to get the job done. 

ACCHS is set to enter a new era as Alex Thornburgh has taken over the program following a 3-6 season in 2020. The Tigers did win two of their first three games of the season but struggled through the middle of the schedule before a win over Southeast-Cherokee to end the year. It was a young and inexperienced group last season but that is not the case entering this year as seven starters return on both sides of the ball. That should give the coaching staff and fans plenty of optimism heading into week one. 

Oskaloosa and McLouth are looking to move on after what was an extremely disappointing 2020 season where they both finished winless. Injuries and Covid plagued both teams throughout the season, but 2021 is a new year with new optimism. Russell Norton has taken over the program at Oskaloosa with high hopes of being able to put together a winning team this season while McLouth has reasons for hope bringing back eight starters on both sides of the ball. 

Horton looks to break out of a 29 game losing streak with one loss by 24 points and all the rest by 30 or more. David Losey returns as head coach and a second year in the system should be a huge help. Six starters return on both sides of the ball, but the schedule remains a tough challenge as the Chargers look for continual progress and more consistency. 

NEKL All-Returning Players 

OFFENSE

1st Team 

Jason Bosley - Jackson Heights - SR SLOT 
Justin Miller - Oskaloosa - JR OL 
Drew Caudle - MH-MA - SR QB 
Ryan Feldkamp - Jeff Co. North - SR TE, WR, SLOT 
Devin Stutz - Pleasant Ridge - SR TE, WR, SLOT 
Karson Worthington - Jeff Co. North - SR Specialist 

2nd Team 

Sam Joyce - MH-MA - SR OL
Coltin Myers - ACCHS - JR RB 

DEFENSE

1st Team 

Jason Bosley - Jackson Heights - SR LB 
Ryan Feldkamp - Jeff Co. North - SR DL 
Parrish Beagle - MH-MA - JR DB

2nd Team 

Justin Miller - Oskaloosa - JR DL 
Karson Worthington - Jeff Co. North - SR LB 
Caleb Worthington - Jeff Co. North - SR DB 

SPECIAL TEAMS 

1st Team 

Ryan Feldkamp - Jeff Co. North - SR K/P 

2nd Team 

Parrish Beagle - MH-MA - JR Returner 

2020 NEKL Football Standings 

Jeff County North (4-0, 7-3) 
MH-MA                 (3-0, 8-1) 
Pleasant Ridge     (2-1, 2-5) 
ACCHS                 (2-2, 3-6) 
Jackson Heights   (1-1, 4-5) 
Horton                   (0-2, 0-9) 
McLouth                (0-3, 0-8) 
Oskaloosa             (0-3, 0-7) 

 


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