Senior fullback scores six rushing touchdowns as Hornets regain winning ways at Savannah after shaky start
By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
SAVANNAH, Mo. — A probable first and a first since 1909 allowed the 2017 Chillicothe High School football Hornets to avoid a second Friday (Sept. 29).
For what appears to be the first time ever in CHS gridiron history, the Hornets played consecutive games in which the teams combined for at least 80 points, escaping upset-minded Savannah with a comeback 48-34 triumph.
One week after losing 54-38 at home to St. Joseph: Lafayette, Chillicothe rallied from an early 12-0 deficit behind its prolific running game, which surpassed 300 yards for a fifth-consecutive game – possibly a record performance of its own.
For certain, record-wise, is that senior fullback Josh Kille matched the single-game rushing touchdown mark of six, accomplished way, way, way back in 1909 by Mervin Jones, who – a year later – coached the CHS team.
With scoring runs of 15, 34, and 30 yards in the fourth quarter, J. Kille both matched Jones’ standard and helped the Hornets pull away a bit in what had been a 28-26 contest after three stanzas.
The Midland Empire Conference victory, shaky though it was, lifted Chillicothe’s season marks to 6-1 overall and 4-1 in the league.
The Hornets will try to move back into a tie for the MEC lead next Friday when they visit Smithville, which likely clinched no worse than a title share in its last year in the loop with its 42-6 walloping of 6-times defending champion Maryville Friday.
Chillicothe needed virtually every yard and score the offense could generate Friday, due to fumbling the ball twice in the first quarter and then, in the third, having the pigskin swiped from a ballcarrier’s hand and run 43 yards to the end zone.
Despite that generosity, the Hornets’ dominance with its blocking and power running carried the day.
J. Kille, whose half-dozen scores bring him within two of David Macoubrie’s single-season CHS record of 25 rushing TDs in 1978, had had a pound-it-out triple-digits running night already when a 5-yards gain on his 28th carry put him at 101 yards early in the fourth quarter.
However, after needing that many attempts to reach the century mark, the physical toll the 5’8”, 215-pounder and his line’s and lead backs’ blocking had taken in those first 36-plus minutes of play suddenly became blatantly manifest.
In J. Kille’s nine totes the rest of the way, he racked up 118 more yards and fellow back Brett Shaffer another 46 on two tries as CHS took command, going ahead 48-26 with three unanswered touchdowns in a span of seven minutes.
By game’s end, J. Kille had run the ball 37 times – giving him 73 rushes in the past two games, the most ever by a Hornets back – for 219 yards. He now has 911 yards for the year and not only is on the verge of eclipsing Macoubrie’s 39-years-old rushing scores mark, but closing in on Justin Walter’s 1997 record of 30 total touchdowns, according to CHS records researched and posted online by Randy Dean.
Friday’s game – Savannah’s Homecoming – began very promisingly for the hosts.
After a solid first possession ended in a punt, but not before helping it establish favorable field position, Savannah’s defense surrendered no yards and forced a CHS punt from the Hornets’ 15 on Chillicothe’s opening possession.
Taking over a second time, but this time at the Hornets’ 42, the Savages used a Hornets pass interference penalty and several strong runs to set up Braden Berry’s 10-yards scoring run not quite at the mid-point of the first stanza.
When Chillicothe, for a second time already, botched the exchange from center two plays into its subsequent possession, Savannah recovered and made a short return to the CHS 14. Three snaps later, quarterback Chase Spoonemore, rolling to his right, found Cody Haeker coming free on a back-side slant from the left side for a 17-yards TD strike and 12-0 Savages lead just past the mid-point of quarter No. 1.
Even Trace Staton’s 18-yards return to the CHS 48 of a short, hard, ensuing kickoff couldn’t get Chillicothe’s offense squared away yet, since, on the next play, J. Kille had the ball pried loose just after crossing midfield and the Savages fell on it at their 48.
Facing the prospect of going three scores down – a position they tried to rally from, but fell just short, the week before against St. Joseph: Lafayette, the Hornets’ offense got the help it needed from the defense. After gaining one first down, Savannah was forced to punt from the Chillicothe 40 and the boot was downed at the CHS 1.
Their backs figuratively near the wall, if not against it, the Hornets responded with a long, length-of-the-field drive.
Beginning with 2:58 left in the opening period, Chillicothe moved the yardsticks three times with a series of runs and a SHS offside as the first period ended. However, after the first three snaps of the second stanza, it faced fourth and seven from their own 44.
By design, quarterback/All-State punter Jack Willard angled toward his right after taking Staton’s long snap in punt formation, ready to make a rugby-style kick, if needed. However, he correctly assessed the downfield situation and fired a strike to Brett Shaffer beyond the first-down marker to the SHS 40.
Three plays later, on third-and-7, Willard rolled left and fired the ball to Staton, who made a very nice catch in traffic for a 14-yards pickup to the 25 and another fresh set of downs.
A Shaffer run and then three-straight by J. Kille put the Hornets in the end zone for the first time. On the 18th play of a 99-yards march, J. Kille landed across the goal line on a 9-yards run at the 7:57 mark of the second quarter.
Following J. Willard’s extra-point kick and kickoff touchback – something he did every time he kicked off in the game, Savannah went three and out for the first time on the night. A very short punt let CHillicothe set up shop at the Savages’ 40 and the Hornets capitalized.
Keyed by J. Willard’s 27-yards strike to Shaffer on a second-and-17, the Hornets covered the 40 yards in seven play with J. Kille crashing in from a yard out 4:05 ahead of halftime to give CHS a lead it would keep. With a successful 2-points-conversion run by Shaffer, Chillicothe was up 15-12.
A Savannah miscue then aided the Hornets’ cause.
SHS quarterback Chase Spoonemore, set up at “pistol” formation depth, missed connections on a good snap and the ball squirted away to his right. CHS’ Dylan Munson won the race to it and covered it at the Savannah 22 only 33 seconds after J. Kille’s second score.
Shaffer gained 12 yards on the next play, making it first-and-goal. Three J. Kille power runs punched the ball in from there and, with another J. Willard conversion kick, Chillicothe toted a 21-12 lead into the extended intermission.
When play resumed, the Hornets couldn’t move and punted after three plays. The poor kick went out of bounds at the CHS 47 and Savannah pounced quickly to tighten things as Spoonemore again found Haeker over the middle for a 20-yards touchdown pass. Failing again to convert, the home team was down only 21-18 with 8-1/2 minutes left in the third period.
On third-and-7 from its 39 on the ensuing possession, Chillicothe used a deep J. Willard throw to Shaffer down the middle for a 52-yards pickup to the SHS 9. Two plays later, the quarterback called his own number from the 4 to reinflate the lead to 10.
The Savages’ offense couldn’t answer that score, so their defense did.
Two plays after punting the ball , Savannah cornerback Noah Bodenhausen fought off a block on a Dylan Munson carry around left end and, just as teammate Aaron Tenold was hitting the ballcarrier, reached out and grabbed the ball away. Bodenhausen quickly dashed 43 yards to the end zone and, this time with a successful conversion pass, narrowed the margin back to two, 28-26, with 3-1/2 minutes remaining in the third period.
Following an exchange of punts, Chillicothe – after a timely third-and-3 defensive call halted Savannah for a 1-yard gain – took possession a yard into enemy territory 22 seconds shy of the fourth quarter.
Finally, the Hornets established control of the proceedings.
First, they went the 49 yards to the SHS end zone in seven plays, J. Kille popping free off right tackle from 15 yards out.
Savannah picked up a couple of first downs to get to midfield on its ensuing series, but then had to punt after Kayde Burton’s third-and-6 sack of Spoonemore.
Backed up again, this time to their 5 by the kick, Chillicothe’s line once again powered the offense virtually the length of the field, this time more rapidly.
A tough, second- and third-effort run by J. Kille gained 22 yards to the CHS 29 before, on a perfectly-executed third-and-6 trick-play call, Shaffer took a surreptitious, delayed handoff and found huge daylight around right end for 33 yards as Savannah’s tiring defense was totally fooled. On the next snap, the seemingly-disheartened Savages barely laid a finger on J. Kille as he burst through a hole off right guard for a 34-yards scoring gallop – his fifth TD of the evening with 3:23 to go. That made it 41-26.
Still with a sliver of hope of catching up with a couple of touchdowns and conversions, Savannah saw that vanish quickly.
On the second play of its possession, it fumbled after a short pass completion and Isiah Kille fell on it for the Hornets at the SHS 30. His older brother again burst off right guard and into the secondary almost unmolested, winning the race to the end zone pylon for his record-tying sixth score only 20 ticks after his fifth.
Still refusing to say die, Savannah hit on a long pass play to get to the CHS 34 and, three plays later, a scrambling Spoonemore found a lane up the middle and then to the left sideline and sped 31 yards to the end zone. He threw a second successful conversion pass, but all that did was narrow the final margin a bit as CHS ran off the last 2:11.
Statistically, in addition to J. Kille’s 219 rushing yards and touchdowns record, Chillicothe totaled 308 ground yards and 421 total yards to SHS’ 298 total yards.
The clubs combined to fumble the ball away five times – three by CHS.
In a strategically-influential, but easily-overlooked facet of the game, placekicker J. Willard produced touchbacks with all eight of his kickoffs, forcing Savannah to start from its own 20 time and time again.