2018 Missouri high school football season kicks off with half of C-T-area teams at home. Polo, Carrollton, Marceline, and St. Joseph: Benton and Lafayette have new bosses, while KC: St. Pius X enters MEC

By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor

Three C-T-area high school football teams (besides Chillicothe) will be under the guidance of new head coaches when they kick off their 2018 seasons tonight.
In addition to the trio of new leaders of area teams, two of the other six holdover Midland Empire Conference pigskin programs besides Chillicothe also have new leadership, while one head coach makes his conference debut as his team joins the league.
On the area front, Carrollton (Scott Finley), Polo (Chillicothean Reid Stephens), and Marceline (Mark Ross) open their tenures with those programs with home-field contests.
First-time head coach Stephens’ Polo Panthers, 5-5 last fall, will welcome Lenexa, Kan.: Christ Prep School to Bob Shearer Field for the first of two non-conference outings PHS will have to begin 2018.
At Carrollton, coming off a 3-7 year, former Orrick head coach Finley takes the reins of the Trojans as they welcome Fayette for non-conference competition.
Ross will guide Marceline’s Tigers, an 11-1 team in ”17, in Lewis and Clark Conference action right away, squaring off with Scotland County.
The rest of the area slate will see mostly road trips.
Southwest Livingston (6-5 last year) will travel to Fairfax to face Highway 275 Conference foe East Atchison (Tarkio/Fairfax co-op) and Braymer (2-9 in 2017) will be at Grand River Conference-West opponent Stanberry in 8-man games.
In the 11-man category, Hamilton (10-2 a season ago) has the only remaining home assignment among area squads, welcoming Maysville/Winston. Trenton, 4-6 under another Chillicothe alumnus Brandon Boswell last year, will go to Lathrop and Brookfield (2-8 in 2017) will be the guest of fellow Clarence Cannon Conference member Palmyra.
As with last year, wet weather and storms could be a factor in area play in week one.
On the MEC front, both St. Joseph public school members – Lafayette and Benton – have new coaching leadership.
Lafayette – a Class 4 district finalist last year, but hard-hit by graduation after a 9-3 year – will debut under former assistant coach Eric McDowell by traveling to Clinton. Benton, now with Kevin Keeton at the helm after one year and a 2-8 mark under Ben Glidewell, will welcome Kansas City: Winnetonka.
New to the MEC coaching roster, but only because his school is a new member, is Rick Byers of Kansas City: St. Pius X. Byers has led the Warriors – often very successfully – for a couple of dozen years. Last year, however, they finished 4-6.
SPX’ first league competition won’t come for a couple of weeks when it calls on Cameron. Its season opener tonight will be at home against Odessa.
The remainder of the conference slate features defending Class 3 state champion, but third-place MEC finisher, Maryville (13-2 in 2017) taking on Jefferson City: Blair Oaks at a neutral site – William Jewell University’s stadium in Liberty.
The other games for MEC squads will see Cameron – without a 2016 or ’17 triumph – trying to remedy that situation at the expense of visiting Kansas City: Northeast, Savannah (3-7 in ’17) hosting Grain Valley, and St. Joseph: Bishop LeBlond – which has dropped to the Class 1 ranks and, with many top 2017 players departed through graduation after a 2-8 season, has only two dozen players out – will be at Unionville to face Putnam County.
Previews of all the area and MEC teams appeared in the 47th-annual C-T Football Preview edition which was included in Wednesday’s edition.
All games start at 7 p.m.