Coach of the Year: Chad Frigon, Liberty
This might be a controversial choice as two area programs went further than the Blue Jays in postseason play, including Liberty’s crosstown rival that ended their season in the district title game. Still, you’d be hard pressed to find too many people who predicted before the season that this team would win the Suburban Gold Conference over Liberty North and Raymore-Peculiar. Frigon’s squad shattered expectations as the team rattled off seven straight victories to start the season. The Blue Jays 10-2 record marked the first time the team won more than eight games since winning nine in 2005.
Athlete of the Year: Zac Willingham-Davis, Liberty North
Willingham-Davis earned all-state second team honors at running back after he finished with the fourth most rushing yards among metro players on either side of the state line with 1447 yards and fifth in rushing touchdowns with 21. The senior running back also proved to be both a bruising runner and home-run hitter. He scored nine of his 20 rushing touchdowns from at least 25 yards out, including four from at least 54 yards and two of those from 80-plus yards.
Jalen Weston, Liberty — Weston completed arguably the greatest linebacker career in the history of the Liberty football program and one of the best four-year careers for a Blue Jay at any position. The senior finished off his final prep season by setting the program’s single-season record of 132 tackles, which also gave him the career tackles record of 327 with room to spare after setting the mark in the opening round of district play.
Wentric Williams III Liberty — Williams could have easily been the POY as he was neck-and-neck with Willingham-Davis until he missed three and half games after an injury against Park Hill late in the season. The junior running back still finished with 1355 rushing yards and 17 rushing touchdowns with a 5.9 yards per carry average to earn all-state first-team honors.
Michael Capria, Liberty — If you want to figure out why Williams and Co. were so prolific on the offense this season, look no further than the team’s strong offensive line helmed by Capria. The 6-foot-3, 285-pound junior consistently cleared a path for all runners including sophomore second-string running back Anthony Wenson and wicked fast junior wide receiver Caden Dennis.
Connor Baxley, Liberty North — Baxley actually racked up less tackles than he did when he led the Eagles with 106 tackles in 2019. But the senior outside linebacker still repeated as the team’s top tackler with 93 this year. He also doubled his tackle for loss numbers from four to eight as he set the tone for a relentless Liberty North defense that started to reach its peak heading into the postseason. The Eagles defense held opponents to less than 11 points per game during their last five games.
Will Angel, Liberty North — Willingham-Davis will be the first to tell you that his eye-popping stats are largely thanks to his hosses upfront, led by offensive lineman Will Angel. The 6-foot-2, 265-pound senior continued to out-physical opposing defensive lines for three quarters until they ultimately declared victory with dominant fourth-quarter action.
Rhett Foster, Smithville — Foster saw an uptick in looks this season as the Warriors offense let sophomore quarterback Andrew Hedgecorth sling the ball around to a plethora of talented options. The junior wideout recorded 51 receptions and 769 yards as he shared targets with juniors Keltin Nitsche and Samuel Calvert, both eclipsing 32 catches and 400 yards. But Foster was on his own tier when it came to receiving touchdowns, pulling down 12 touchdown receptions to lead the metro on the Missouri side.
Micah Palmer, Smithville — The Warriors went 10-3 and advanced to the state semifinals despite only having three seniors who were major contributors. It helped that one of those seniors was Palmer, who gave grit to the line on both sides of the ball. The center and defensive tackle constantly used his speed and willingness to fling his body into bigger players to take them out of the play, which opened running lanes for junior running back Hayden Sigg and give Hedgecorth more time to find his targets down the field.
Cody Simoncic, Smithville — It is quite the feat to earn all-state first team honors, as Foster and Palmer did for the Warriors. It’s extra impressive when a player does so after switching positions during their junior season as Simoncic did. The safety-turned-linebacker led the team in tackles with 102 while earning six tackles for loss, two sacks, two interceptions, two fumble recoveries and a forced fumble. If that was not enough, the reserve quarterback found snaps as a wide receiver where he caught 12 passes, tallying 176 receiving yards and a receiving touchdown.
Tucker Stute, Kearney — Stute earned all-state second team honors as one of the standouts for a Kearney team that faced major adversity this season. The Bulldogs had to quarantine the final two games of the regular season, but the team fought their way to a 5-5 season with a trip to the district title game. The senior defensive back was a huge part of that, matching up other team’s top receiving threats, forcing two fumbles and constantly finding his way to the play as he finished second on the team in tackles with 70.
Kade Dunlap, Kearney — Dunlap gave the Bulldogs a giant presence for the line on both sides of the ball. The senior lineman earned all-state third-team honors and all-district first-honors for his O-line work while he landed on the all-conference team on both sides of the ball.