By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
CHILLICOTHE — From the opening kickoff last night, the Chillicothe Hornets put the Kirksville Tigers in a hole and effectively kept them there en route to a 42-8 non-conference high school football victory.
Chillicothe, showing signs of recovering well from a 3-8 season a year ago, improved to 2-0 heading into its Midland Empire Conference opener at home against defending Class 3 state champion Maryville next week. Kirksville evened out at 1-1.
Friday's triumph on the artificial turf of Jerry Litton Memorial Stadium's Bob Fairchild Field makes certain Chillicothe not only will maintain, but widen its early lead in the Class 3 District 6 seeding standings. Not only did the Hornets produce a second-straight victory, but once more did it against a foe one classification larger and by 13 or more points. The win over the larger school is worth 10 bonus points and the margin of victory gives CHS the maximum-allowable marginal-points take for the week.
The game's tone was set on the opening kickoff when previously-injured Chillicothe sophomore Wagner Chapman returned to action and boomed the kickoff into the end zone for a touchback, forcing Kirksville to start from its own 20. Only once all night would the KHS offense come onto the field to start a series beyond its own 31.
"Having a good kickoff was huge," CHS head coach Phil Willard remarked. "… It really helped set the tone."
After the Tigers went three and out and punted on the contest's first possession, Chillicothe took over at the KHS 46. In six plays – including back-to-back Kirksville offside infractions – the Hornets put the ball in the end zone. Less than 2-1/2 minutes into the contest, DeEll Midgyett followed lead back Gillen Gates' strong seal block on the linebacker for a 13-yards touchdown run around left end, giving the home team a lead it not only would keep, but expand repeatedly.
"After getting the great field position, we were able to mix in several good runs and get the early lead," Willard observed.
Later in the opening quarter, Tyler Clampitt's 11th career interception and second of the season stifled a good Kirksville drive, giving CHS the ball at its own 5.
Following Midgyett's 14-yards run around right end on a third-and-8, Clampitt's alert scramble to his right on a second-and-11 from the 20 bought him time to locate fellow senior Walker Thomas coming across the field deep down the middle from the left. The throw led Thomas perfectly and the running back hauled it in nicely for an 80-yards scoring strike with 2:26 left in the first period.
"Having the big pass play really got us going," said Willard.
In the second, Tyler Long would add a pair of 1-yard TD runs in the second period as Chillicothe built a 27-0 halftime advantage. Long's first score completed a short 28-yards soireé set up by Clampitt's 20-yards return of a bouncing punt. The second, behind the blocks of Cole Nichols and Elliott Keller on the left side of the CHS line, capped a 10-plays, 60-yards surge which culminated with 1:10 left in the half. When Long pushed across the goalline on the conversion attempt, the Hornets carried a 27-0 lead to the locker room.
Page 2 of 2 - Two minutes into the second half, following a Kirksville half-starting onside kick which CHS' Austin Sharp alertly fell on at the Hornets' 49, Clampitt's 1-yard sneak and Midgyett's conversion run made it 35-0, Chillicothe, briefly initiating use of the "running clock" rule. The 4-plays series included Midgyett's 44-yards cutback bolt to the KHS 1 on a right-side sweep.
The visiting Tigers' subsequent possession saw them twice convert on fourth-down passes, the second time turning into a 44-yard scoring catch-and-run by big tight end Nathan Farnsworth. With a 2-points conversion, Kirksville cut the CHS lead to 35-8 with 4:56 remaining in the third stanza.
The Hornets wrapped up the scoring early in the fourth period after Kirksville, with nothing to lose, threw an incomplete pass on fourth-and-1 at its own 17. Two plays later, following Long's second-effort run to the 4, Clampitt slanted in off left guard. Chapman drilled the extra-point kick on his first attempt of the season for the 42-8 score.
Statistically, Chillicothe had two interceptions and one fumble recovery and did not turn the ball over. Through two games, it has seven takeaways without a turnover.
Midgyett and Long both rushed for over 100 yards, Midgyett gaining 128 on 11 tries and Long 111 on 21 carries. Chillicothe, by C-T count, had 307 yards on the ground to KHS' 165.
"Our offensive line came a long way from last week," Willard praised the unit which began with tackles Truman Wheeler and Elliott Keller, guards Cole Nichols and Lake Still, and Caleb Stull at center, and Zach Alperin and Hayden Major at ends. Senior Connor Bonderer, who started several games in 2012, but had a preseason injury, ended up playing most of the game at left tackle to ease the workload on his first cousin Keller, who also is a starting defensive end. Wheeler shifted to right tackle when Bonderer came on. When Still got hurt late in the second quarter, senior Jared Cox – a converted back – replaced him and performed solidly, according to the CHS head coach.
Defensively, in addition to Clampitt's first-half pickoff, which leaves him one shy of tying Doug Switzer's CHS career record of 12, linebacker Major intercepted a fourth-quarter pass at the CHS 5 and returned it 50 yards. The senior also had six tackles, while Nichols again led the Hornets in stops with nine, five of them unassisted.
KHS quarterback Cook unofficially finished the night with 114 rushing yards on 16 carries, but had only 50 after a big first period. He found his passing touch after being one of 10 for 10 yards before intermission, connecting on half of his 12 second-half aerials for 92 yards and the score.
Chillicothe played the last half and part of the second quarter without Still, who also starts on the defensive line at tackle. He sustained an injury which might or might not keep him out of the coming week's Maryville game. The Hornets already were without two important junior backups – end Matt Shaffer, who has a hip flexor strain, and Corbin Valdez, a promising transfer from Atchison, Kan., who suffered a season-ending broken leg in last Monday's junior-varsity game. Shaffer figures to be out several weeks at least.