Football Hornets shift west for district playoffs this fall, as expected

By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor

COLUMBIA — Big postseason changes are in the future of Chillicothe High School teams in the two most-widely-followed sports.
Over the weekend, the Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA) at long last announced its classification and district assignments for prep football schools for the 2014 and 2015 seasons, shifting – as had been anticipated – Chillicothe back to the northwesternmost Class 3 district.
However, at the same time, class and district assignments for Missouri high school basketball for the 2014-15 school year were announced and those contained a seismic shift for CHS.
Next school year, Chillicothe’s student enrollment will dip it to Class 3, the middle of the five classifications. Chillicothe had been a Class 4-size school since the state went to a 5-classes system around the turn of the millenium. CHS’ boys won a Class 3 state title in 1980-81 and was second in both 1996 and ’97 when there were only four classes. The Lady Hornets finished second at state in Class 3 in 1994.
“We knew we were going to be close to the cutoff, based on new enrollment numbers, traditional class breaks based on state-wide enrollments, and the fact that, two years ago, when the last cycle break for basketball came out, we were one of the smallest schools in class 4,” Dan Nagel, CHS athletics director, commented Sunday for the C-T.
“Two years ago, I looked at projected enrollments and enrollment of our seventh and eighth grade classes and, based on the size of those classes being smaller, figured we'd be right on the Class 3-Class 4 (break) line.”

The new hoops alignment for next year has Chillicothe grouped in District 15 with nearby schools Trenton, Brookfield, and Carrollton, as well as Richmond, Lawson, Higginsville, and Lexington.
“I'm not sure if we will make many changes, schedules are done a year in advance and most of next year’s (non-conference) schedule has been contracted,” the CHS AD said of the basketball impact. “The schedule we have currently is pretty tough and prepares us for the challenges that may await in postseason play.”
Even with the basketball regular season for schools in classes 1-3 being a week shorter than for classes 4-5, this past season, CHS had only one game – a non-conference contest with Marshall – originally scheduled for the last week (although the boys ended up with a MEC make-up game, as well), so little adjusting will have to be done to the schedule. The rub may come in the form of fewer dates for making up any conference postponements which might crop up next season.
This will be the first time since CHS was in the North Central Missouri Conference (prior to 1986-87) – that it will not be in a hoops district with any fellow league members. The MEC’s Camer-on, St. Joseph: Bishop LeBlond, and Maryville, while also Class 3, will be in District 16.

In football, CHS will be grouped with 2-time defending Class 3 state champion Maryville and Cameron, as well as with Richmond and four Kansas City schools – East, Lincoln College Prep, Northeast, and St. Pius X.
The past two years it had been grouped with schools mostly in central Missouri.
Under the playoffs system adopted prior to the 2012 seasno, the grid district assignment does not impact the Hornets’ regular-season schedule.

As was already in place, Marshall will be Jerry Litton Memorial Stadium in Chillicothe to open 2014, followed by a trip to Kirksville and vice versa in 2015. The order of Midland Empire Conference contests also stays the same, beginning this fall with a week 3 trip to Maryville, followed by Cameron here. In weeks 5 and 6, CHS will go to St. Joseph to Bishop LeBlond and then Lafayette, respectively. Games 7 and 8 will be at home against Savannah and Smithville with the finale at St. Joseph: Benton.

In terms of the impact of the changes on Chillicothe’s potential postseason fortunes, they figure to be positive, even if only logistically.
In football, aside from Maryville, none of the possible district-playoffs road trips would be much over 90 minutes, if that far, compared to several potential trips of two hours or longer in the former district.
Competitively, being back in the district with Maryville won’t be much more of a challenge than being with California. Cameron was greatly improved last year, but the Hornets did defeat them, while Richmond was 7-4, losing to Cameron 17-7 in the district semifinals, and none of the Kansas City teams were very good.

In basketball, CHS’ talented underclasswomen of this past season were more than competitive with the Class 4 teams of the MEC this year and figured to be next year.
They defeated a strong Trenton club on its home court and THS will graduate its two best players. Lawson was co-champion of the KCI Conference and will have an all-district player back.
Higginsville, which defeated Lawson in a close game early this past season, won a district championship and was ousted in the Class 3 sectionals last month, finishing 25-3.
However, among its wins was a late-January 3-point triumph over Marshall, a club Chillicothe mashed by 24 on the road three weeks later.

On the boys’ side, Chillicothe graduated three starters and two top reserves and will be needing to overhaul its front line, but returning starting guards Mason Hayward and Nate McKiddy and backup Cade Snyder will make it salty in the backcourt, which figures to be of greater significance in the smaller class.
The Hornets lost at Trenton this year, but defeated a strong Lawson team with one of CHS’ best performances of the 2013-14 season. THS will have 6’7” Chris Flowers back, but graduates its top guard. Lawson also will graduate its two best players.
Richmond also will be losing far and away its best player, 6’5” 3-point shooting ace Reid Summers, expected to be named All-State for a second-straight year soon after setting the state record for 3-pointers in a season. Aside from him, the Spartans didn’t have a lot this year.
Higginsville had an excellent 2013-14, finishing 25-2. It defeated Lawson by about 10 and Richmond twice, but only downed Marshall, a team Chillicothe whipped by 21, by 10 in late January.
Lexington finished 13-12 and was hot and cold during the season.