Southwest Livingston to King City for 8-man district title game and Hamilton at Princeton in 11-man ball this time. Marceline again to host Westran in its 11-man final
By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
On the surface, there’s some mighty familiar about the C-T-area high school football scene for the district finals Friday. Below the surface, though, there are some noteworthy differences to the three pairings which replicate the 2016 slate of championship contests.
The area’s (beyond Chillicothe) three prep squads still engaged in 2017 action – Southwest Livingston in Missouri's8-man District 3, Hamilton in 11-man Class 1 District 8, and Marceline in 11-man Class 1 District 6 – each will tangle with the same opponents they faced in the district finals 12 months ago, but, in two of the three cases, at different sites.
Southwest Livingston (7-4) was its district’s top seed last year and, thus, hosted King City in what effectively equivalent to what, for many years, was the first round (round of 16) of state play. This Friday, it is Southwest’s co-op team (incorporating players from Hale and Tina-Avalon, too) which will travel to face the top-seeded Wildkats (8-2).
Although SLHS’ Wildcats scored first and were within one score well into the final stanza, the home field wasn’t enough of an advantage to deter the Wildkats, who scored the game’s only three touchdowns of the second half to draw away for a 42-20 victory at Ludlow.
Given last year’s outcome, King City-Union Star’s better record, and a slightly-better showing against the lone common opponent it has with SLHS – the Wildkats defeated Pattonsburg/Gilman City/North Harrison 74-58 early in the regular season, while the Wildcats bested P/GC/NH 36-30 last week, KC-US rates as a slight favorite to reach the state semifinals next week.
However, with Southwest Livingston’s increasing incorporation of athletic sophomore Mack Anderson into its running game the past few weeks, the Wildcats are capable of extending their year with a win.
Hamilton’s veteran 2016 team routed Princeton-Mercer 56-6 at home a year ago en route to the Hornets’ latest state championship, but this Friday, the KCI Conference co-champion Hornets (10-1) will be on the road against the undefeated Grand River Conference champ Tigers (11-0) and their high-powered passing attack keyed by senior quarterback Andrew Smith.
Thanks, in part, to district play thus far, Hamilton and Princeton-Mercer now have four common foes, each of which both have swept.
The host Tigers’ margin of victory against Maysville-Winston, Putnam County, and Milan was better, while Gallatin fell harder to the Hornets.
Wild cards in that comparison, however, are 1) Hamilton’s overall defense – and especially its veteran secondary with LaTroy Harper and Derek Dixon – likely is far better-equipped to deal with Princeton-Mercer’s air game than most of the Tigers’ foes to date; and 2) Hamilton seemingly has been conservative with the number of “touches” All-State, all-purpose threat Harper has had on offense against overmatched foes, likely to keep him as fresh as possible for the postseason. If the outcome of Friday’s game is in any doubt in the fourth quarter, look for him to have more than 30 combined pass attempts, carries, and pass receptions.
Over east, Lewis and Clark Conference champion Marceline (11-0) and league foe Westran (9-2) will reprise their title game of a year back with MHS again at home and favored.
Last year, Westran lost to the Tigers by 40 in week eight of the regular season, but, only four weeks later, were within 21-15 in the fourth quarter before an MHS pass interception deep in WHS territory was run back 15 yards for a win-sealing Tigers touchdown.
This year, the week eight game was much closer. Marceline started strong, but was out-pointed 15-5 after halftime and held on to win 25-22.