Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Time Is Now for Kirkwood; since Losing Class 5 Final Last Year, Pioneers Have Been Waiting for Another Chance; Stlhighschoolsports.com

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Time Is Now for Kirkwood; since Losing Class 5 Final Last Year, Pioneers Have Been Waiting for Another Chance; Stlhighschoolsports.com

Article excerpt

The Kirkwood High football team has been waiting for this.

The Pioneers were perfect for most of 2011, but they concluded the campaign with a 35-21 loss to Staley in the Class 5 championship game, leaving coach Matt Irvin's team with a 12-1 record and still in search of the school's first football title.

"Three days after we lost state last year ... we had 15-20 seniors in the weight room on that Monday just getting ready, and all we were talking about was 'Next play, next play,' because that's what Coach Irvin's mentality is," said Matt Berry, a senior lineman. "As soon as last season was over, we were talking about this season. We're ecstatic. We can't believe it's already here."

Senior quarterback Jordan Bishop said: "We couldn't wait to get in the weight room and just work out, and when it got hot enough to come outside, we were always on the turf. They had to kick us off."

The expectations at Kirkwood are extremely high. With six starters returning on each side of the ball, the Pioneers open 2012 as the No. 1 team in the STLhighschoolsports.com large-schools rankings and the top-ranked team in Missouri Class 5.

But after coming up short at the Edward Jones Dome last fall, Irvin and his players are cautious about those expectations, acknowledging what they want to accomplish in the next few months and careful about what it will take to do that.

"I think last year really taught us to play at the highest level - you really have to eliminate all the little mistakes, the little details," Irvin said. "I think our kids have really focused in the practice setting on really trying to be as sharp as we can now, because that's going to impact what we do at the end of the year."

From talking to some of Kirkwood's seniors, it was clear that Irvin's message about practice had sunk in.

"I feel like we have a good chance of going back to state, but in order to do that we have to practice perfect," said Andre Harris, a senior wide receiver-defensive back. …

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