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Missouri high school football team previews (Kansas City region): Rockhurst eager to return to program's traditional winning ways

The Hawklets seek a rebound from a rare losing season in 2021.

By Chris Geinosky 

Over the next few weeks, SBLive Missouri will break down various high school football teams in the state in anticipation of the upcoming 2022 season. Here’s our look at the Rockhurst Hawklets.

HEAD COACH

Kelly Donohoe, 3rd season (9-10, overall 209-66)

RETURNING STARTERS

6 offense, 4 defense

2021 AT A GLANCE

Overall record: 4-6

Playoffs: Lost to Park Hill 21-13 in first round of Class 6 District 8

PLAYERS TO WATCH

OL Andrew Sprague, 6-8, 255, Jr.

Sprague is one of the top five offensive line prospects - and arguably the No. 1 of the 2024 class - in the entire state of Missouri this year. Obviously, he’s receiving college looks from a wide array of Division I schools across the country.

QB Ethan Hansen, 6-1, 175, Jr.

As expected, Hansen experienced a season filled with highs and lows as a first-year sophomore quarterback last season. He completed 81-of-152 passes (53.2 percent) for 890 yards and three touchdowns while also serving as the team’s punter.

WR/LB Colton Wemhoff, 6-2, 210, Sr.

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One of the leaders of the defense, Wemhoff recorded 59 tackles and 1.5 sacks last season. A standout two-sport athlete, the senior has already made a verbal commitment to play baseball at the University of Kansas.

WR Myles Carson, 6-4, 185, Jr.

A team that lost several key skill-position players from last year including top running back Joe Leggio, the Hawklets need some playmakers to step up. Carson is one of the candidates to fill the role, along with Wemhoff.

OTHER RETURNING STARTERS

OL Trey Gunnoe, 6-2, 265, Jr.; OL/DL Conor Sexton, 6-2, 225, Sr.; OL Barrett Brewer, 6-5, 250, Sr.; LB Micah Oder, 6-0, 180, Jr.; DB Brice Middleton, 6-1, 180, Sr.

TOP NEWCOMERS

OL London Lewis, 6-0, 250, Sr.; OL Charlie Gormsen, 6-3, 225, Jr.; WR Maeson Tunley, 6-1, 175, Jr.; WR Tommy Cisper, 5-10, 165, Sr.; WR/DB Mitch Forbes, 6-2, 210, Jr.; TE Tate Scanlon 6-1, 210, Sr.; FB Gus Sorenson 6-0, 180, Jr.; RB Aiden Ryan 5-10, 175, Jr.; RB Pete Barry 5-10, 175, Sr.; LB Tommy Coppinger 6-3, 190, Jr.; LB Jackson Oldham, 6-1, 185, Sr.; LB George Donnelly, 5-10, 180, Sr.; DL Vince White, 6-3, 230, Jr.; DL Simon Connor, 5-11, 225, Sr.; DL Connor Clifton, 6-3, 225, Jr.; DB John Forbush, 5-11, 170, Sr.; DB Ben Stringer, 5-10, 165, Jr.; DB Michael Brooks, 6-0, 175, Sr.; DB Vince Jacoby, 6-1, 175, Jr.

OUTLOOK

During the legendary 37-year tenure of former coach Tony Severino, Rockhurst became one of the most respected high school football programs in the state of Missouri, winning seven state championships. Not only winning seasons, but also deep playoff runs were the expectation year after year.

However, since Severino’s retirement after the 2019 season, the Hawklets have yet to recover their dominant identity. In the past two seasons, Rockhurst has gone a combined 9-10, which includes a rare losing campaign (4-6 record) last season.

The good news is that Rockhurst could not have a better head coach at the helm to start the turnaround of the program. Kelly Donohoe, who was inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in 2019, owns an impressive 209-66 all-time coaching record.

Rockhurst struggled early last season, starting the year with three consecutive losses, but showed signs of improvement as the year moved along. Now with 10 returning starters, the Hawklets could be in position to continue moving in the right direction.

It all starts up front as four starting offensive linemen return. Leading the group is junior left tackle Andrew Sprague, one of the top collegiate lineman prospects in the state. Also returning are left guard Conor Sexton, right guard Trey Gunnoe and right tackle Barrett Brewer. Sexton and Colton Wemhoff are two of the team’s top returning tacklers on defense.

COACH SAID

"We are a physically stronger team than we were a year ago, and overall, we are more athletic. We are very excited for 2022. We had a really strong offseason in the weight room, and we have a bunch of awesome kids to coach that care a lot about the Rockhurst football tradition.” - Kelly Donohoe

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