Class 3 District 8 championship game sees hosts gain 12-0 lead after one quarter, then go stale offensively, while Maryville uses 53-yards run, two long drives to capture sixth district crown in a row 20-12 Friday
By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
CHILLICOTHE, Mo. — Victorious over defending Midland Empire Conference champion and 5-times Class 3 district title-winner Maryville 24-0 in Chillicothe in week three of the regular season, the Chillicothe High School football Hornets were on track for a similar result after one quarter of their rematch in the 2017 Class 3 District 8 title game in Jerry Litton Memorial Stadium II Friday.
However, with a combination of key MHS offensive and defensive adjustments, a couple of CHS near-misses on big plays, and the damage done in the form of penalties called on Chillicothe – many warranted, but one key one proven erroneous by video evidence, the ’Hounds ignored the early deficit and came back strong to post a 20-12 win.
The outcome, which sends MHS on to a home game in the state quarterfinals against District 7 winner Kansas City: Center this coming Friday, left both squads with 10-2 marks, but the Spoofhounds still competing this week and the Hornets’ outstanding campaign in the past.
“I feel bad for our kids,” Phil Willard, having just concluded his 20th – and possibly last, if he retires as has been speculated and hinted at all fall – season at the helm of his high school alma mater, commented glumly about 20 minutes after the game. “I’m so proud of them for everything they’ve done and the work they’ve put in.”
“It’s going to be tough for our kids for a while,” he mused later.
On the flip side of the situation, Maryville and head coach Matt Webb were more than satisfied with winning the postseason half of the 2017 split.
“It’s huge to come back and get a win like this against an opponent the quality of Chillicothe,” Webb, who has led MHS to the district crown each of his seven seasons at his alma mater.
As Friday’s proceedings began to unfold before a large crowd on a coolish night, a big celebration by the home fans seemed to await at game’s end.
Gaining possession for the first time at its 32 after a MHS punt, Chillicothe steadily moved downfield with the run, including Brett Shaffer popping free for 23 yards to the MHS 16 to send the senior over the 1,000-yards mark for the season.
Three plays later, senior fullback Josh Kille, who entered play with 1,524 rushing yards and numerous school records for touchdowns in ’17, burst off the left side for five yards to give the Hornets a 6-0 lead with 4:25 to go in the opening frame. That was his 37th rushing and overall touchdown of the year, both school marks, but also his last.
Ominously, however, the 12-plays drive netted only a 6-points lead as Maryville blocked the extra-point kick.
That “missing” point seemed less of an issue when, on the first snap of the subsequent MHS possession, a pass to the left side sailed over its intended target and right to Hornets senior cornerback Konner Sewell for his fourth interception of the season and third of the district playoffs. K. Sewell’s runback gave CHS’ offense the ball at the MHS 25.
Although it took them eight plays, as the Maryville defense began to stiffen, Chillicothe punched it in for another TD.
One play after J. Kille gained three yards on a fourth-and-2, his backup, Cade Koehly, powered into the end zone off right guard from an unbalanced-right line set and the Hornets had a 12-0 bulge 17 seconds before the end of the first quarter.
Chillicothe “chased the missing point” from the prior blocked kick and shot blanks, its run stopped for no gain, again blunting some of the momentum of the touchdown.
In still a 2-score game, Webb said, “There wasn’t any panic” among his squad or staff.
Still, through five quarters against Maryville this season, Chillicothe had dominated by a 36-0 margin, so anxiety was not high among Hornets fans, especially after the home defense quickly forced a 3-and-out.
If the Hornets’ offense could once more put the ball in the end zone, regardless of whether it converted afterward or not, it would be up three scores and perhaps psychologically wilt the dangerous foe.
Instead, Maryville’s defense – adjusted to bring an eighth player into “the box” – got its first “stop” of the night, forcing a punt after three plays. When Quentin Ternus returned Jack Willard’s 50-yards punt 28 yards to the MHS 47, he gave his team, by far, its best field position yet.
Chillicothe’s defense seemed ready to remain rigid when it stopped an inside run for no gain on first down, but the next play flipped the mental outlook.
On a “jet sweep” to the left, wingback Brady Atwell stayed tucked behind three blockers far to the left side as five Hornets pursued, seemingly in excellent position to stop him for little or no gain.
However, slowing just a bit and perfectly timing his push upfield, the ballcarrier cut between two of the blockers just as the outside one of them blocked one Hornet into another, felling both, and the inside one delayed one pursuer. When the fourth Hornet got caught outside and behind his two falling teammates and the fifth momentarily slowed, in case Atwell was attempting to cut back inside, the Spoofhound burst through the group and into the open.
Scurrying up the sideline in front of the CHS bench, he utilized one of those blocks at about the Hornets 25 and, evading a diving Chillicothe defender’s ankle tackle try at about the 20 as he cut inside momentarily, Atwell went the distance.
Just like that, the Hornets’ early domination had been countered and, even though Maryville’s conversion kick attempt sailed wide, it was within a score and feeling revived.
“Brady played unbelievable,” Webb responded to a reporter’s query, aware Atwell also caught four passes, including a 22-yarder for a score, recovered a fumble, and had a sack. “A lot of guys played extremely well.”
Chillicothe’s earlier momentum blunted and its run-heavy attack largely tamed over the final 36 minutes by the adjustment to the Spoofhounds’ defense, the tide was turning in the guests’ favor, mostly through their doing, but aided by the Hornets’ own miscues and one critical, mistaken official’s call
In the span of the next six plays after Atwell’s TD, Chillicothe faithful began to have a sense of foreboding.
On the Maryville kickoff, Shaffer accelerated through a blocks-created crease at the CHS 25 with open field beckoning beyond with only small Maryville placekicker Nic Garner between him and the end zone. However, the left hand of diving MHS sophomore Tyler McGary caught Shaffer’s left ankle just enough to send the Hornet tumbling to the artificial turf at the CHS 35 instead of likely completing a 93-yards TD runback.
Four runs later, on second-and-5 at midfield, an inside run off left guard popped J. Kille through a hole for a would-be 32-yards pickup to the MHS 18. However, two CHS blockers inadvertently had created a “chop block” – simultaneously contacting a defender both in the upper body and below the knees, negating the big gain and eventually leading to a punt.
When J. Willard boomed a 58-yarder and the Spoofhounds were called for holding after the kick was on its way, Maryville took possession at its 9. That gave the Hornets’ defense had a chance to pin the opponent deep, force a punt, and have the offense take a crack at scoring in the waning moments of the half to regain a 2-scores lead prior to Chillicothe receiving the second-half kickoff.
After Maryville earned a first down at the 2, the ’Hounds were third-and-8 from their 22 with just under two minutes to go in the half.
Rather than play it safe with a run and, if it didn’t gain the needed yards, a punt while trusting its defense to hold the Hornets at bay the last 1:50 or so of the half, Maryville attempted a deep pass to the outside right.
The ball went incomplete, but the official in the middle of the field and about 40 yards from the line of scrimmage flung his flag toward an area far from where the ball was being thrown, ruling defensive pass interference for contact with another MHS player. Making the call, which gave Maryville 15 yards and a first down, frustrating for Chillicothe coaches was that, as they had suspected when seeing it in real time, video showed that the contact clearly had occurred before the pass’ release, meaning it was a legal.
Maryville, to its credit, capitalized on its fresh opportunity. Several excellent, if simple, passes by senior quarterback Will Walker kept the drive alive until he found Atwell at the goal line for a 22-yards score 12 seconds ahead of intermission. Garner’s extra-point kick put MHS in front 13-12 at intermission, following a 91-yards drive.
“It was huge,” Webb said of the march. “Back in week three, … we were down (near the CHS end zone), ready to score (where) we could have gone in (behind) 10-7 at half and we didn’t get it in. … Tonight, we were able to.”
“We were smiling (ear to ear) at halftime, ready to go win this thing,” he continued.
After Maryville stopped Chillicothe on three plays to open the second half, it expanded its lead with another long march, covering 78 yards.
Spurred by double-digits-yardage runs by halfback Eli Dowis and fullback Tyler Houchin on the first two plays and a crucial third-and-long completion to Houchin, the guests boosted their lead to 20-12 on Dowis’ 2-yards run and Garner’s conversion kick.
During the MHS trek, the Hornets missed a chance to end it prematurely and perhaps turn the game’s tide back their way.
On a wingback reverse, Atwell lost the ball when hit by Kayde Burton just after receiving the second handoff. However, the ball squirted just ahead of the Spoofhound, whose momentum allowed him to dive on it ahead of several CHS defenders.
With Maryville seemingly in control of the still-1-score game early in the fourth quarter, Chillicothe caught a huge break. A bad MHS punt snap and subsequent penalty for an illegal second forward pass gave it possession at the MHS 38.
Seemingly re-energized by the gift, the Hornets rapidly advanced the ball to the 20 on three runs. Then, on fourth and eight, quarterback Willard scrambled, first, far to his right, then back and to his left, before heaving a desperate, cross-field pass which, in a crowd of multiple Hornets and ’Hounds, the 5’8” J. Kille somehow caught for a first down at the 8.
The Hornets never gave themselves a chance to cover only those eight yards to draw within at least two points and possibly tie the game, though.
A false start before the first-down snap at the 8, a short gain on a run, a pass a Maryville tipped away at the last second in the end zone, and another incompletion led to a 30-yards field goal try which went wide left.
Having dodged that bullet, Maryville utilized two CHS offside penalties to move the yardsticks twice, running the clock down to nearly two minutes remaining before punting the ball to inside the CHS 20.
Following a short run and a 10-yards pass completion to Shaffer, Willard’s long pass to the left side carried just too far and allowed cornerback Tate Oglesby position to out-jump intended receiver Shaffer for a win-cementing interception at the MHS 36.
Statistically, the game’s most-glaring number likely was the nine penalties CHS was called for. While one was undeserved and, by its timing, ultimately critical, the others – which included four false starts and three offsides – were CHS errors.
“It was very uncharacteristic of us all year to have that many penalties and have those problems,” a baffled coach Willard reflected in a post-game interview.
“We just shot ourselves in the foot with too many penalties to get the job done,” he summed up.
In terms of offensive production, Maryville turned the tables on Chillicothe, which entered averaging over 30 rushing yards and 390 total yards a game and which had amassed over 300 yards on the ground in the teams’ September meeting.
In this one, the Spoofhounds outgained Chillicothe 204-135 in rushing yards and Walker, going eight of 14 passing after being a miserable four of 22 in the first meeting, threw for 120 yards.
“Will Walker had his best game of the season,” his head coach praised. “… Made some huge plays.”
“We had people close (in coverage), but they were able to make the catches and their quarterback threw the ball pretty well,” assessed coach Willard.