Two C-T-area high school football teams – the Southwest Livingston Wildcats' 8-man squad and the Hamilton Hornets' Class 1 11-man club – will host playoff games this weekend, as will the last Midland Empire Conference team playing.
Southwest Livingston (8-2) will have a rematch with Hardin-Central's Bulldogs (8-3) at Ludlow Friday at 7 p.m. It will decide the District 4 champion and send the winner to the state semifinals.
Hamilton (12-0), yet to play on the road this postseason, will host Wellington-Napoleon (11-1) Saturday at 1:30 p.m. in a game which also will decide which moves on to state semifinals play.
Also Saturday, in 11-man Class 3 quarterfinals, Maryville (12-0) – the champion of the MEC, which includes Chillicothe – will visit Kansas City: Center (10-2).
Southwest Livingston lost at home to Hardin-Central 34-18 on Sept. 7 in a game which might or might shed light as to how this clash will turn out.
"We are very excited to have a rematch with Hardin," SLHS head coach Tyler Anderson commented. "We will be extremely motivated."
The Wildcats led the first meeting at halftime, 18-6, before Anderson held top running back/defensive end Mason Mehrhoff out the rest of the way with a hamstring injury.
Hardin-Central switched quarterbacks to freshman Rhyler Estenbaum during the second quarter of that game and he sparked the Bulldogs in the second half with quarterback counter carries which, Anderson noted at the time, Mehrhoff had defended well when he was in the game (12 first-half tackles), but his replacements did not.
Estenbaum, who became the starter in week six, has ended up with 1,045 yards rushing (13 touchdowns) and 265 yards passing (7 TDs), HCHS coach Kirk Thacker reports. Senior RB Hank Bowers has 1,498 yards rushing and 24 TDs as a 1-2 punch with Estenbaum. Bowers also has 237 receiving yards and 4 TDs to go along with nine interceptions on defense.
While Hardin-Central was smashing Hughesville: Northwest 58-14 last Friday, the Wildcats were 62-13 crushing of Norborne last week.
"I look for it to be a high-energy, hard-hitting game with two spirited teams that have a lot of respect for each other and a chess
match between coach Anderson and myself," says Thacker.
"We have to fix a lot of little things we have been doing wrong throughout the season in order to put us over the hump to being a really tough team," Anderson states.
"To beat Southwest is going to be a big task. We know they want revenge for the earlier loss this year. It has become quite a rivalry between us and that makes it that much more of an interesting game and matchup."
"Both teams are big and like to run the ball. I think it will come down to defense and who can stop the other," predicts the Hardin-Central coach.
The early September meeting between the Wildcats and Bulldogs saw SLHS junior quarterback Ethan Crowe have 26 carries for 146 yards and all three touchdowns. With Mehrhoff out for the second half and senior end Gage Vinson still sidelined then with an injury, HCHS was able to fully focus on E. Crowe after halftime. That contributed significantly to the 28-0 second-half turnaround.
According to the website http://www.mo8mancoaches.com, Wildcat E. Crowe is the state's top ground-gainer in 8-man-style ball with 1,710 yards on 187 carries (9-plus yards per carry). His 33 touchdown runs also are tops. Hardin-Central's Bowers is No. 2 in yardage with 1,498 (in one more game). E. Crowe also is the state's third-leading tackler, the website shows (undefeated North Andrew, a late-season winner over Southwest Livingston, does not appear to have its statistics listed).
"Crowe is a load and we will have to bring our 'A' game to stop him," emphasizes Thacker, while noting Mehrhoff's and Vinson's availability will complicate things. "They have some kids healthy that did not play against us the first time."
Thacker sums up the keys for his club thus.
"We just have to take care of the ball and not have any turnovers to give them the opportunity to build a lead," he says. "That and penalties have been our biggest killers in the games we have
On Saturday, Wellington-Napoleon comes in off a 54-22 spanking of West Platte, a club Hamilton whipped 47-12 on Sept. 28.
WNHS' Tigers surely remember their 2009 state semifinals loss to Hamilton, which saw the Hornets win 62-27 after scoring 20 points in the first 2:09. Hamilton, which would go on to the first of back-to-back state crowns (the 2010 title in Class 2) took the ball away eight times that day and its defense scored three TDs.
The Tigers come into this meeting with not only an accomplished team, but also one well-decorated individually.
They have back from 2011 Missouri Football Coaches Association first-team All-State linebacker Brett Schaberg, MFCA first-team/MSSA second-team All-State defensive back Christian Bryant, and MSSA and MFCA second-team All-State quarterback Jacob Beckemeyer. According to an online statistics site, Beckemeyer was 20 of 33 for 308 yards passing and rushed for 179 yards on 26 carries against West Platte. For the season, he is shown with 181 of 284 passing accuracy (64 percent) for nearly 3,000 yards and 37 touchdowns, while running for 1,414 yards on 194 carries (7.3 yards average) and 24 more touchdowns.
Hamilton, as a team, was more prolific on the ground, but not as potent in the air, this past Monday as it beat Polo 42-14.
Behind the offensive line of Trevor Elliott and LaPiana at tackles, guards Jake Angle and Trey Lund, Shawn Cook at center, and ends Jalen Richman and Tyler Hampton, the Hornets accumulated around 400 grounds yards, led by All-Stater Derrick Hughes' 215-plus and another 100 or so by twin brother Devan Hughes, who also caught a pass for a score, threw a pass for a touchdown, and intercepted a pass. Dangerous sophomore Kellen Overstreet also had meaningful yardage on the ground and receiving as he played what coach Dave Fairchild mused may have been his best game of the season.