By Eric Ingles Democrat Sports Editor
August 21, 2014
Four area high schools made coaching changes in the off-season, bringing in three coaches for their first experience as a head coach and bringing back one with three decades of experience.
Those openings came about following the departures of Mark Johnson from Smith-Cotton, Blake Markway from Warsaw, Matt Klein from Knob Noster and Mel Baker from Sweet Springs at the end of the 2013 season.
At Sweet Springs, Kris Conley joins the Greyhounds following the departure of Baker. Conley was an assistant coach at Knob Noster and has coached at the youth level in Jefferson City.
“I’m definitely dedicated,” he said. “I have an energy level I’m trying to pass on to the kids and get this program back on track.”
Conley said he comes to Sweet Springs with a passion and excitement for the job and wants to bring in the attitude that no one player is bigger than the team.
“So far they’ve been very receptive and willing to work,” he said. “I’ve been very excited about it.”
Another former Knob Noster assistant stepping into a head coaching role for the first time is Richard Villigram, an assistant with the Panthers in 2007 who is now back with Knob Noster as the head coach this season. During his previous year in the district, he was also the elementary physical education teacher, so in the Panthers locker room, he is seeing a lot of familiar faces.
“I’ve been looking to get back into the area,” he said. “Most of the kids I have now, I had them when they were in elementary. It’s a little different now seeing them grown up.”
He left Knob Noster in 2008 to become a graduate assistant at Fort Hays State and later went on to become an assistant at Lee’s Summit North before taking the Knob Noster job this year.
Ryan Boyer is the new head coach at Smith-Cotton. The former Warsaw player was an assistant coach on Johnson’s staff for two seasons, serving as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
Not all of the new coaches are new to coaching all together. Paul Thomas comes to Warsaw after leading Marceline to the Edward Jones Dome in 2013. This will be his 30th year in coaching and 22nd as a head coach.
“I think they’ve got great football tradition,” Thomas said of the Wildcats. “I think it’s a great place to be. Being around Truman Lake doesn’t hurt either.”