KCI Conference football reaffirms its powerhouse status - The Clinton County Leader: Blog

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KCI Conference football reaffirms its powerhouse status

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Posted: Saturday, November 10, 2018 10:56 am | Updated: 11:00 am, Sat Nov 10, 2018.

For years, my colleague Brett Adkison and I have made the claim that when it comes to high school football, the KCI Conference is one of the toughest, if not the toughest, small school conference in the state of Missouri.

For further proof of this claim, look no further than last Friday’s Missouri district championship games, where four of the eight KCI Conference teams played for a district championship and a chance to continue their postseason run. Three of those four teams – Lathrop, Hamilton, Mid-Buchanan – earned a new piece of hardware for their trophy case. One match-up involved two KCI Conference teams, the Lathrop Mules defeated their bitter rivals the Lawson Cardinals to claim the Missouri Class 2, District 8 championship.

In fact, of the five KCI Conference teams whose seasons have ended, four of those season-ending losses came to fellow KCI members.

Lawson head coach Todd Dunn, the longest tenured coach within the conference, having served as the man in charge of the Cardinals since 2004, has seen the ebb and flow of great coaches that have come through the KCI over the years, and has witnessed firsthand how that quality of leadership has shaped the landscape and competitiveness of the conference.

“Obviously, talent levels go through some rotation, but I also think a level of consistency in coaching staffs make it very competitive,” Dunn said. “Guys like Coach Brown, Coach Musser, Coach Daniel, Coach Fairchild, Coach Gassman were all coaches that oversaw their programs for a long period of time, which allowed them to be very familiar with what the other programs were doing. Also, success breeds success. Teams know they must play at a very high level to have a chance to win the KCI.”

Success during district play isn’t anything new for the teams of the KCI. With Mid-Buchanan’s victory in the Missouri Class 1, District 7 championship Friday night, all but one team (North Platte) within the conference has claimed a district championship since 2010.

In that same time frame, six of the eight teams have won multiple district titles, with Hamilton leading the pack with six of their own. Lawson is next with four while East Buchanan and West Platte each have three. Lathrop, with their win Friday night, joins their oldest rival Plattsburg with two district championships since 2010.

That level of success is something fourth-year Mid-Buchanan head coach Aaron Fritz equates to the high quality of coaches and the traditions the schools bring to the gridiron every season.

“The KCI is tough for numerous reasons. There are multiple future Hall of Fame coaches and coaches who have won state titles in the conference,” Fritz said. “There is also a lot of football tradition at many different schools in the conference.”

Those types of traditions and long-term successes are something East Buchanan head coach Kevin Bryan agrees are the backbone for the KCI’s prowess, not only in district play but in the deeper rounds of the Missouri State playoffs every year.

“The first thing I believe is the great tradition that these towns have – It is important to the town and the community that the football teams be competitive and have success,” Bryan said. “I truly believe that our tough conference prepares our kids for the postseason. Our kids have to prepare for a wide variety of offenses and defenses, so it teaches kids to be flexible and have the ability to adjust.”

Success for the KCI isn’t just restricted to district play. Since 2010, the conference has claimed two state championships (both by Hamilton) and has had seven teams reach the semi-finals or championship game in their respective classes.

Having such a tough grind during their regular season, year in and year out, is something Hamilton head coach Caleb Obert feels prepares the teams of the KCI for deep postseason success.

“If you are not preparing and getting better each and every week, it is going to be a long year for you,” Obert said. “You have to continue to get better throughout the season, evolve as a team, otherwise the other coaches are going to have the advantage on you, regardless of who you play what week.”

In his first year as Plattsburg head coach, Jeff Wallace got to see just how good the conference is and was impressed by the level of talented players throughout the KCI and how that level of talent makes each team better through stiff competition.

“I was surprised at how many good football players each school has in our conference,” Wallace said. “Knowing many of the coaches in the conference, I knew the coaching was good, but the amount of solid football players all throughout the conference was surprising.”

Joining Wallace as the newest coaches in the conference was Reis Wright, who just finished his first year at the helm of the North Platte Panthers football team.

“First thing that comes to mind regarding the competitiveness of our conference is the tradition, and depth of talented and well-coached teams,” Wright said. “I am, and was previously, very impressed, with the conference and its challenges, as well thankful to be a part of it.”

With three teams still carrying the banner for the KCI in the postseason, the conference has another chance to show that it truly is one of the toughest small school conferences in the state, but for this football reporter the proof as they say, is already in the pudding.

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