If anyone can appreciate the rapid progress of Belton’s football program, it would be recently graduated wide receiver Nick Snider.
Snider remembers well the Pirates’ dark days, which were still occurring when he was a freshman. That team went 3-8, and he didn’t have many teammates.
“We had like 30 kids on the whole team,” Snider said. “And some of them had academic trouble. It’s definitely a lot bigger now.”
Bigger, and better. Belton made deep playoff runs in Snider’s final two seasons, and last week he got to enjoy one of the perks from that success. Snider and two fellow Pirates – defensive lineman Roger McDaniel and offensive lineman Tui Huston-Asaeli - got to play for Missouri in the 26th annual Papa John’s Kansas vs. Missouri All-Star Game. The game was held Thursday at Blue Springs South High School.
Snider, 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds, earned his spot with a stellar senior season. He totaled 1,254 yards on 90 catches with 17 touchdowns last season for the Pirates, and he also ran for 135 yards and five TDs. He was also a finalist for the Otis Taylor Award, which goes to the Kansas City area’s top wide receiver.
But Snider knows it also helped to have tallied those numbers while playing for a successful team. Belton, 7-4, was second in the Suburban Blue Conference and reached the Class 5 District 6 championship game for the second consecutive season, where the Pirates lost to Battle 52-29 in Columbia.
“Especially for my senior year, it was great to be able to get back up to where we were at,” Snider said. “I didn’t want it to be like freshman or sophomore year where we really didn’t get up there. It’s nice to make it to where we were playing meaningful games.”
The All-Star Game held plenty of meaning for Snider as well. Besides getting a chance to extend Missouri’s string of six straight wins in the annual contest presented by the Greater Kansas City Football Coaches Association, Snider also enjoyed the chance to compete against the area’s top-flight talent. He believes the competition he faced in the nine days of practice leading up the game will give him a head start as he prepares to play this fall at Baker University.
“It’s fun playing with people who are at a high level,” Snider said. “All these people here are all-district, all-state. It’s fun to get out there and compete with those people.”
Making the team also crossed one last item off of Snider’s high-school to-do list. It was a goal he set after watching last year’s game, where former teammate Zach Willis scored a touchdown in Missouri’s 28-24 come-from-behind victory.
“I saw Zach and a couple of other kids play here last year, so I made it my goal,” Snider said. “I’m happy I did it.”