The finalists for the 34th Annual Thomas A. Simone Memorial Award, which is given annually to the most outstanding football player in the Kansas City metropolitan area, are:

Matthew Dercher, Sr. QB, Blue Valley – The EKL Offensive Player of the Year threw for 3,144 yards and 35 touchdowns. Led the Tigers to the 6-A title game and an unbeaten EKL championship.

Chester Graves, Sr. DE, Park Hill – Two-time conference Defensive Player of the Year. Over 25 FBS offers. Also a Buck Buchanan Award finalist for the second time.

Julian Ross, Sr. RB, Staley – Rushed for school records 2,257 yards and 37 touchdowns. Added 277 yards and 4 touchdowns on 15 catches. Suburban White Conference Offensive Player of the Year.

Will Schneider, Sr. QB, Shawnee Mission North – Threw for 8,901 yards in his career, a new Kansas state record. Had 3,035 passing yards and 31 touchdowns this season. First-Team All-Sunflower League QB.

*More extensive Simone finalist bios are included at the end of this release.

The 25th Annual Buck Buchanan Memorial Award will be given to the best lineman/linebacker in Missouri’s and Kansas’ top two classes (MO 5-6, KS 5A-6A). The finalists are:

Chester Graves, Sr. DE, Park Hill – Also a 2015 Buchanan finalist. Had 126 tackles, 82 solo, with 25 tackles for loss and six sacks. Holds the Park Hill single-season and career records for TFL and sacks.

Michael Maffry, Sr. LB, Blue Valley – 183 tackles, 1 sack, 3 tackles for loss and 3 interceptions. Two-time All-Simone Team selection. Was EKL Defensive Player of the Year.

Daniel Parker, Jr. OL, Blue Springs – Did not allow a sack while registering 65 pancake blocks. Unanimous first-team all-conference performer. Has multiple major college football scholarship offers.

Anthony Payne, Sr. DL, Raymore-Peculiar – Finished with 80 tackles, 8 sacks and 13 tackles for loss. Was a first-team all-state selection last year. Committed to play for Kansas State.

The 18th Annual Frank Fontana Award will be given to the most outstanding small class (MO 1-4, KS 1A-4A) football player in the metro. The finalists are:

Justin Mitchell, Sr. QB, Platte County – Threw for 2,544 yards and 27 touchdowns. Also averaged nearly 39 yards per punt. Had a 22-6 record in three years as starting QB. Suburban Blue Co-Offensive Player of the Year.

Anthony Pritzel, Sr. QB, Kearney – Finished with nearly 2,500 passing yards and 26 touchdowns for the state finalists. Also ran for nearly 1,000 yards and 18 touchdowns. Suburban Blue Co-Offensive Player of the Year.

Carter Putz, Jr. QB, Bishop Miege – Threw for 3,264 yards and a school-record 50 TDs for the state champion Stags. Had only 3 interceptions and completed over 71% of his passes. First-Team All-EKL.

Amaun Ryan, Jr. QB, Center – Completed 77% of his passes, finishing with 2,257 yards, 32 TDs and 3 interceptions. Two-time all-conference pick and the 2016 WCC Offensive Player of the Year.

The 17th Annual Bobby Bell Award will be given to the best lineman/linebacker in Missouri’s and Kansas’ smallest four classes (MO 1-4, KS 1A-4A). There was a tie for fourth place so the Bell Award’s five finalists are:

Colin Grunhard, Sr. OL, Bishop Miege – Four-year starter, started 50 straight games. Two-time First-Team All-EKL and an all-state selection last year. Played every offensive line position at different times this season.

Derek Kohler, Sr. OL, Platte County – Three-year starter and four-year letter-winner. First-Team All-Suburban Blue. Was a Third-Team All-State pick by the coaches last year. Missouri State commit.

Ethan Luft, Sr. LB, Kearney – Had 172 tackles, including 107 solo stops. Set a school record with 21 solo tackles in the Class 4 Quarterfinals. 2015 Second-Team All-State. Suburban Blue Defensive Player of the Year.

John Taylor, Sr. LB, Center – Finished with 133 tackles, 24 tackles for loss and 6 sacks. Led defense that allowed just 9 points per game. Two-time First-Team All-WCC pick.

TJ Williams, Jr. LB, Basehor-Linwood – Tallied 80 tackles, 16 tackles for loss and 1 interception for the 11-1 Bobcats who advanced to the Class 4A-I Semifinals.

The ninth Annual Otis Taylor Award will be given to the top tight end/wide receiver in the metro area. The finalists are: Jafar Armstrong, Sr. WR, Bishop Miege – Had 54 catches for 1,277 yards and 21 TDs. Had 8 catches for 222 yards and 3 TDs in the state title game win. Set a new state record with 45 career receiving TDs. MU Commit.

Jess Davis, Sr. WR, Kearney – Had 83 receptions for 1,539 yards and 18 TDs. Two-time First-Team All-Suburban Blue. Set eight different single-game, season and career receiving school records.

Nick Snider, Sr. WR, Belton – Tallied 1,254 yards on 90 catches with 17 touchdowns in just 11 games. Also ran for 135 yards and 5 TDs.

Harrison Van Dyne, Sr. WR, Blue Valley – Finished with 67 receptions for 1,096 yards and 12 touchdowns. First-Team All-EKL receiver, also returns punts and starts at CB.

The Simone Awards are voted on by the member head coaches of the Greater Kansas City Football Coaches Association (GKCFCA) and a 12-member media committee.

Complete 2016 Simone Finalists Bios

Matthew Dercher – Quarterback – 6’0 160 Senior Blue Valley Tigers: 12-1 Class 6-A State Finalists

As is often the case at a football power like Blue Valley, Matthew Dercher had to wait for his opportunity to be the starting quarterback. He stepped into that role as a senior and in his first start of the season he threw for 339 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions, handing Bishop Miege what would be the Stags only loss of the year. Dercher continued with similar efficiency all year, finishing with 3,144 passing yards and 35 touchdowns and just eight interceptions. The season-opening victory over the Stags proved to be the only difference in the EKL standings as Dercher lead Blue Valley to the conference title in the toughest league in Kansas. The Tigers started 12-0 before losing to Derby on a last-second field goal in the state title game.

Chester Graves – Defensive End – 6’4 220 Senior Park Hill Trojans: 6-4

One of the top recruits in the entire Midwest with over 25 college football scholarship offers, Chester Graves has been a defensive force for Park Hill the last four seasons. His accolades are numerous. Graves is a two-time Buck Buchanan Award finalist, including this year. He is a three-time all-state selection. Four times he was named to the all-conference team, the last two seasons earning defensive player of the year honors. His myriad honors are well-deserved. Graves finished his time at Park Hill as the school record-holder for sacks and tackles for loss, single-season and career. This season he tallied 126 tackles, 82 solo, with 25 tackles for loss and six sacks. The Trojans finished 6-4 in the school’s first year back in Class 6 but won 33 games overall during Graves’ career.

Julian Ross – Running Back – 6’0 189 Senior Staley Falcons: 10-3 Class 5 State Semifinalists

After gaining just over 1,000 rushing yards in his career coming into his senior year, Julian Ross ran for more than double that total in a memorable final season at Staley. The Suburban White Conference Offensive Player of the Year, Ross finished with 2,257 yards and 37 touchdowns on the ground, both school records, leading the Falcons to the state semifinals in Missouri Class 5. He added 277 yards and 4 touchdowns on 15 catches. Ross topped the 200-yard rushing mark six times in 13 games, including a season-high 295 in a 28-10 win over the defending Class 4 champion Kearney Bulldogs. Ross finished his junior year with 976 yards and 15 touchdowns and was unanimously chosen first-team all-conference. Ross plans on continuing his football career in college next year.

Will Schneider – Quarterback – 6’4 205 Senior SM North Indians: 6-5 Class 6-A Quarterfinalists

After four years as the starting quarterback for Shawnee Mission North, Will Schneider capped his career by becoming the most prolific passer in Kansas history in his final game. Schneider finished with 8,901 passing yards, surpassing the previous record of 8,781 set by Silver Lake’s Kyle Kruger just over a decade ago. Schneider surpassed the 3,000-yard mark in a single season for the first time this year, throwing for 3,035 yards and 31 touchdowns. He passed for a career-high 459 yards in Week 8 versus Olathe South. Schneider added 608 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground. Most important to Schneider, his team was successful. After an 0-9 record his freshman year, the Indians improved throughout his career, including 6-5 with two playoff wins this year. Schneider is evaluating multiple college football opportunities to continue his playing career.


The seventh Annual All-Simone Team recognizes the best players in the Kansas City metro area at every position.

The 2016 All-Simone Team was unveiled Monday, November 28 on Spectrum Sports and the team members will be recognized again during the Simone Awards ceremony. Each will receive a patch for their letterman jacket.

*Asterisks note two-time All-Simone Team honorees.


Quarterback – Matt Dercher, Senior, Blue Valley

Quarterback – Justin Mitchell, Senior, Platte County

Quarterback – Anthony Pritzel, Senior, Kearney

Quarterback – Carter Putz, Junior, Bishop Miege

Quarterback – Amaun Ryan, Junior, Center

Quarterback – Will Schneider, Senior, SM North

Running Back – Trevon Alexander, Junior, Richmond

Running Back – William Evans, Senior, Blue Valley

Running Back – Travis Martin, Senior, Lincoln Prep

Running Back – Robert Rawie, Junior, Liberty

Running Back – Julian Ross, Senior, Staley

Running Back – Cornelius Ruff, Senior, Schlagle

Running Back – Rachaad White, Senior, Center

Wide Receiver – Jafar Armstrong, Senior, Bishop Miege*

Wide Receiver – Jess Davis, Senior, Kearney

Wide Receiver – Jordan Martin, Senior, Turner

Wide Receiver – Nick Snider, Senior, Belton

Wide Receiver – Harrison Van Dyne, Senior, Blue Valley

Offensive Lineman – Ben Becker, Junior, Park Hill South

Offensive Lineman – Jay Dineen, Senior, Lawrence Free State

Offensive Lineman – Colin Grunhard, Senior, Bishop Miege*

Offensive Lineman – Kirrian Kirby, Senior, Blue Valley

Offensive Lineman – Derek Kohler, Senior, Platte County

Offensive Lineman – Daniel Parker, Junior, Blue Springs

Offensive Lineman – Danny Presler, Senior, SM North

Offensive Lineman – Marquae Richardson, Senior, Center


Defensive Lineman – Daniel Carson, Junior, William Chrisman

Defensive Lineman – Diaz Elliott, Senior, Richmond

Defensive Lineman – Chester Graves, Senior, Park Hill*

Defensive Lineman – Peter Klug, Senior, Blue Valley North

Defensive Lineman – Anthony Payne, Senior, Raymore-Peculiar

Defensive Lineman – Travis Pickert, Senior, St. James Academy

Linebacker – Ethan Luft, Senior, Kearney

Linebacker – Michael Maffry, Senior, Blue Valley*

Linebacker – Eli Ross, Senior, Staley*

Linebacker – Casey Still, Senior Blue Springs

Linebacker – John Taylor, Senior, Center

Linebacker – TJ Williams, Junior, Basehor-Linwood

Linebacker – Seven Wilson, Senior, Park Hill*

Defensive Back – Michael Brown, Senior, East

Defensive Back – Joel Donn, Senior, Mill Valley

Defensive Back – Mario Goodrich, Junior, Lee’s Summit West

Defensive Back – JJ Letcher, Senior, Piper

Defensive Back – Jake Springer, Senior, Park Hill South

Defensive Back – Morgan Selemaea, Senior, Harrisonville

Defensive Back – Trevor Thompson, Senior, SM East

Defensive Back – Landry Weber, Senior, Bishop Miege

Liberty Sports Editor Chris Geinosky can be reached at 389-6654 or


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