Eight players – Kille, Graves, Willard, Staton, Shaffer, Burton, Davis, Marshall – from 2017 MEC co-champion Hornets honored by MSSA

By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
Eight Chillicothe High School Hornets are among 38 players from six C-T-area 11-man football programs who have received 2017 all-district designation from Missouri Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association members.
The eight CHS seniors chosen at nine positions – Jack Willard (two positions), Trace Staton, Adler Marshall, Eric Davis, Josh Kille, Walker Graves, Kayde Burton, and Brett Shaffer – are among 23 from the MSSA’s northwest district included in the media organization’s long-time postseason recognition. The other 15 – 12 from Marceline and three from Brookfield – are on the all-northeast district squads.
Joining the Chillicothe octet of Classes 3-5 honorees are, in Class 1, Hamilton’s Kenny Pulley, Tyler Trosper, Garrett Trosper, Cale Whitt, LaTroy Harper, and Derek Dixon and Polo’s James Fleener and Patrick Covey. Trenton has seven selections to the Class 2 all-district contingent.
In the northeast district, Marceline’s Class 1 group includes seniors Trevor Ganaway, Colton Jenkins, John Stelplugh, Noah Wright, Gabe Kelly, Rylan Chrisman, and Levi Terrell, juniors Chase Billups, Nathan Sayre, and Clayton Stallo, and sophomores Alex McCauslin and Cullen Bruner. Brookfield’s Class 2 picks are senior Khalil Walker and juniors Brooks Baker and Evan Fay.
(See story elsewhere on this website on the credentials of non-Chillicothe all-district players.)
The teams were selected at recent membership meetings in the two regions. While the northeast team was released late last week, the northwest district honors squad was announced today. As a general guideline, a player’s inclusion on the northwest district team is limited to either an offensive or defensive position.
For three of the Chillicothe Hornets – Graves, Kille, and Willard, their 2017 honor is a repeat from 2016. Graves, like Hamilton senior Harper, is all-district for a third year in a row. Hamilton’s G. Trosper is being lauded for the fourth time.
The eight standouts from Chillicothe’s 10-2 Midland Empire Conference co-champions and district finalists matches the most the program has had since 1993’s team had nine Hornets at nine positions. The 2003 Hornets also had eight picks (at 10 positions).
Willard, not surprisingly, was tabbed as the area’s undisputed “king of kickers,” being chosen as both the punter and placekicker.
Davis and Graves were chosen this year as offensive linemen with Kille as a running back, Shaffer as an all-purpose back, Marshall as linebacker, Burton as a defensive lineman, and Staton as a tight end/wide receiver.
Players from the MSSA’s all-district ranks subsequently are considered for All-State status. For those who are standouts on both offense and defense, they can be honored at the state level on either side of the ball, even if their district recognition was on one side only.
All eight all-district Hornets, on Monday, had been announced as recipients of some level of all-MEC recognition, as voted by conference coaches. Marshall, Staton, Shaffer, Graves, Willard, and Kille all were first-team on at least one side of the ball (Graves and Shaffer were on both and Willard was the top kicker in both specialties).
Graves and Davis helped pace the outstanding CHS blocking which led to two Hornets – Kille and Shaffer – surpassing 1,000 rushing yards each in 2017. It was the first time for two Hornets to be in quadruple figures since Justin Walter and Wyatt Pickering did it 20 years ago. All told, Davis, Graves, and their linemates – including Staton at end – wound up paving the way for 3,355 yards of ground gained and 4,262 yards of total offense this season.
Kille enjoyed a record-smashing season, in terms of finding paydirt, while coming up 12 inches shy of netting 1,600 yards running the ball. Averaging 6.7 yards a carry, including a 93-yarder against Kansas City: Pembroke Hill in the district playoffs, 37 of his 240 carries finished in the end zone. That touchdowns total smashed both the CHS mark for single-season rushing TDs (previously 25 by 3-times All-Stater David Macoubrie in 1978) and single-season touchdowns (previously 30 by Walter in 1997). Tacking on four 2-points conversion runs, Kille racked up 230 points in his final prep campaign, 38 more than John “Butch” Davis’ previous Chillicothe record, set more than a half-century earlier (1965).
While Kille was leading the Hornets in rushing yards, Shaffer was outdistancing his 1,620 total yards from scrimmage a bit. The fellow back carried 110 times for 1,015 (9.2 yards per carry average) and caught a team-high 21 passes for another 565 (26.9 average). That total yardage of 1,680 yards equates to an average gain of 12.8 yards each time he handled the ball.
In addition to his blocking, Staton emerged as a senior as a reliable pass receiver. Also the team’s leading tackler, he snared 13 Willard throws for 189 yards and three scores.
Marshall, shifted to linebacker this year from defensive end and also part of the strong offensive line after being converted from running back, topped CHS in solo tackles, making 42 such stops among his 67 total tackles participated in (by C-T tracking, using NCAA guidelines).
Burton, in order to maximize his chances for a state wrestling title this winter after being third at state in Class 2 at 182 pounds last February, elected not to add much weight for the football season this fall after playing at over 200 pounds as a junior. Remaining a fixture on the defensive line, despite the lessened bulk, he played tackle when the Hornets were in a 5-man line and end in a “4” look and used his quickness/strength combination to get in 42 total tackles (again, by NCAA standards) – 24 of them unassisted. He led Chillicothe in sacks with 41⁄2.
Kicker extraordinaire Willard was a huge factor in establishing favorable field position for the CHS defense, which held opponents to one touchdown or less in eight of the team’s 12 outings and allowed more than 20 points only twice.
As a placekicker, he drilled 46 of his 53 extra-point tries while finding the range on three of four field-goal attempts.
As a punter, where he received All-State laurels a year ago, he averaged 38.6 yards on 24 boots with a longest of 58.
His biggest contribution, however, likely was his kickoff proficiency. More than half of his kickoffs reached the end zone as he totaled 44 touchbacks which forced opposing offenses to start their possessions at their own 20-yard line.