Six big questions as the Springfield-area 2020 high school football season begins

Wyatt D. Wheeler
Springfield News-Leader

Missouri high school football kicks off Friday and there are many storylines going into the season.

Teams are joining different conferences, programs have new head coaches and the COVID-19 pandemic will hang over every week this year.


Here are some of the biggest questions heading into the 2020 season:

1. How will Bolivar's addition impact the Ozark Conference?

The Ozark Conference is adding what should be one of the better teams in the state this year.

Bolivar replaces Central in the Ozark Conference after playing an independent schedule the last few seasons.

The Liberators made a big jump from 4-6 to 11-1 this past season while knocking off now-fellow conference members Hillcrest (73-0) and consistent OC contender West Plains (36-21) in the postseason.

Related:Bolivar High School to join Ozark Conference in all sports in Fall 2021

Bolivar's season ended when it lost to eventual-state champion Webb City, but the Liberators gave it maybe the best fight it had during the postseason.

Returning talent for the Liberators should make them an immediate contender to win the conference crown. Bolivar should have one of the better teams in all of southwest Missouri, and it should make plenty of noise in its debut season in the Ozark Conference.

2. When will Central get its first win since 2015?

Central's win is coming, and it's just a matter of when.

The Bulldogs' move to an independent schedule will put them against teams that have more comparable roster sizes — instead of playing big programs including Kickapoo, West Plains and Camdenton in the Ozark Conference on a yearly basis.

More:Central has lost 41-straight games. Classmates call them 'trash.' But the wins are coming.

Central begins its season against a Class 3 Eldon team that finished 1-9 a year ago with its lone win coming against another 1-9 program. The next week, Central is scheduled to travel to Heritage (Arkansas) — which didn't win a game last year. 

The Bulldogs will host Agape Boarding School, Rogers, Arkansas, (2-10), Sarcoxie (Class 1, 5-5) and Lighthouse Christian.

They end the regular season with three straight road games at Missouri Military Academy (Class 2, 1-9), Buffalo (Class 3, 9-3) and Forsyth (Class 2, 2-8).

From what we saw at Central's jamboree practice, there is obvious improvement in the team. How that translates to competitive games on Friday nights remains to be seen. 

3. Can Jared Beshore lead Lamar to more state championships?

Lamar has gone two years without a state championship after winning seven consecutive titles.

Scott Bailey has moved on from Lamar to Jefferson City, and a player he coached at the beginning of the Tigers' dominance will take over on the sidelines.

Jared Beshore

Jared Beshore, 24, will take over as the Lamar head coach after playing four seasons at Missouri State.

More:Former MSU captain, Lamar High star Jared Beshore named Tigers' head football coach

At Lamar, Beshore played defensive back and running back. He was a four-time all-state selection and appeared on the first-team three times. In his senior year, he had 118 tackles and seven interceptions while rushing for 1,458 yards and 26 touchdowns.

Beshore was best-known at Missouri State for his leadership and he spoke about his love for the Lamar program occasionally. Now, he is a young head coach at the program he helped build.

More:MSU’s playmaking safety wants to do for the Bears what he did for Lamar

Lamar has a challenging schedule — starting out with Springfield Catholic. The Tigers have a four-game stretch in the middle of the schedule that includes road trips to Cassville and Mount Vernon before a home game against Monett before traveling to Seneca. All four are among the best teams in the area.

Beshore is young, but he's a proven leader. It shouldn't be a surprise if he's able to maintain Lamar's winning ways and take it back to a championship.

4. Who will break out in 2020?

As always, there will be a few teams and players that we're sleeping on going into the 2020 season. 

That's what makes every season so fun.

More:'We're playing ball': Here's how high school football in Springfield looked during a pandemic

There are a few teams that are capable of making a jump in 2020 — including the likes of Glendale and Kickapoo. They will have new quarterbacks and Fair Grove and Camdenton could have new stars behind center as well.

A good program like Joplin's has some turnover after a state runner-up finish with its star quarterback, running back and receiver all graduated. It will be time for others to step up.

We're excited to see who else might take us by surprise in 2020.

5. Who will this year's city champion be?

The Springfield Public Schools will continue to duke it out to ultimately be named the city champion. This year, the teams won't have Central on their schedules but it should still be an interesting race to watch.

Glendale won the title a year ago by sweeping the city. Its road win over Kickapoo ultimately served as the championship game.

More:Will Glendale football repeat as district champs? The answer may be in the quarterback spot.

The Falcons should be the favorite to repeat going into the 2020 season with an always-explosive offense to go along with what's been an improving defense.

Kickapoo has some experienced players returning for the new season and is capable of making a jump. The Chiefs had their best season since 2016 a year ago and are looking to take another step forward under Nate Thomas.

Parkview always has good athletes, with a solid, young quarterback in Caden Burks. He has a lot of potential, and the Vikings could follow his lead.

Hillcrest is looking to find a groove under Justin Gerald. The Hornets knocked off Parkview with a 27-14 victory a season ago and appear to be an improved team.

6. How will COVID-19 impact this season?

How COVID-19 will impact the high school football season is perhaps the biggest unknown going into the school year.

Ah, the elephant in the room.

We've already seen COVID-19 impact the season by canceling Waynesville's Week 1 game against Parkview. At least the Vikings were able to find a quick replacement. 

But the unknown of what the virus will bring to the season makes this year unlike any other.

More:How will high school football look different this year with COVID-19? SPS AD weighs in.

There might be situations where we see players going in and out of quarantine from week to week. Some games may be canceled while the ultimate fear is that the season won't be able to continue.

High school programs in the area have shown they're going to do as much as they can to keep the athletes healthy and safe. We'll see if that's enough as the weeks go on.

Wyatt D. Wheeler is a reporter and columnist with the Springfield News-Leader. You can contact him at 417-371-6987, by email at or join the conversation on Twitter where his handle is @WyattWheeler_NL