Hosts, in first year under Reid Stephens' guidance, welcome Brandon Boswell-led Trenton in 2018 week eight contest. Maryville visits Savannah with winner to be at least co-champ of Midland Empire Conference
By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
The big game of the week eight docket of C-T-area and Midland Empire Conference high school football is easy to pinpoint.
It is the battle of Chillicothe alumni head coaches as Trenton visits Polo.
Wait, what’s that? There’ll be a MEC title-deciding game in which two teams without a league loss clash?
OK, from a non-parochial viewpoint, Maryville’s visit to Savannah – both 5-0 in the conference – that will leave the winner no worse than a 2018 co-champion probably does “out-rank” the duel between Brandon Boswell-bossed 1-6 Trenton and 0-7 Polo under first-time head coach Reid Stephens among non-Chillicotheans, but, given that this year’s Chillicothe team is a non-factor in the MEC race, there will be a certain percentage of the local football fan base for whom the result of the PHS-THS game is of second-ranking interest behind what the Hornets themselves do against visiting St. Joseph: Bishop LeBlond tonight.
The other area games this evening will have Southwest Livingston/Hale/Tina-Avalon looking for a fourth-straight victory as it visits North-West Nodaway at Burlington Junction for 8-man action, Hamilton facing a major challenge as it hosts Lawson, Braymer/Breckenridge taking another crack at breaking into the “wins” column as it visits St. Joseph Christian in another 8-man contest, Brookfield traveling to South Shelby, Carrollton calling on Holden, and Marceline battling visiting Westran in an “elimination” game in the Lewis and Clark Conference title race.
The other two MEC games are intriguing as St. Joseph: Lafayette visits Kansas City: St. Pius X in a battle of teams currently tied for third place and St. Joseph: Benton welcomes Cameron for a game with notable Class 3 District 8 ramifications.
Highway 71 bragging rights secondarily are at stake when 6-1 Maryville takes the field at Savannah against the 5-2 Savages. While both have been rolling up huge scoring numbers in their thus-far unfettered trips through the loop, Savannah has been much-more suspect defensively.
MHS’ defending Class 3 state champions have surrendered double-digits points only once since their season-opening loss to 2017 state semifinals victim Jefferson City: Blair Oaks. Conversely, Savannah is yet to stop an opponent from scoring at least 10 points in 2018 and has yielded at least two touchdowns to all but one foe.
Given Maryville’s offensive firepower – its multiple big-play threats and reliable weapons, even though it’s a “rivalry” game and matches two teams with perfect league logs, a decisive, perhaps even runaway, ’Hounds victory would not be surprising.
The other two non-Chillicothe MEC contests, on paper, line out as competitive games, but Lafayette’s offensive explosiveness and speed would appear to give it a personnel edge on the conference newcomer. However, thanks to the injury to tough-running tailback Ben Wade that forced SPX (5-2, 3-1 conf.) to use Thomas Ringol as its main ballcarrier against Chillicothe a few weeks ago, the Warriors have discovered another productive back. If St. Pius X plays a “clean” game, it might be able to hang with the 6-1 Fighting Irish’s sideline-to-sideline attack.
Cameron (2-5, 0-5 conf.) has yet to win in the league, while Benton (1-6, 1-4 conf.) has topped only winless Bishop LeBlond. Cameron’s Dragons seemed to perk back up offensively against Savannah two weeks ago and it has the motivation of trying to hold onto the fourth spot in the district ratings. Benton has designs on that No. 4 spot itself, currently standing sixth, but with Cameron and Chillicothe as its remaining foes. Win those two and rookie head coach Kevin Keaton’s Cardinals almost-certainly would elevate themselves to either fourth spot outright or, if Cameron beats Bishop LeBlond next week and Chillicothe loses at least once, by virtue of being fifth behind the Dragons and having won their regular-season meeting.
Among the C-T-area teams, the Trenton-at-Polo game comes with the host Panthers likely fighting frustration after being in position to prevail several times in Stephens’ first year in charge, but unable to close the deal, as yet.
For the most part, putting points on the scoreboard has been the issue – the defense has been relatively reliable. Polo has scored more than twice in a game only once to date, though.
Boswell’s Bulldogs have had their own issues with being positioned to possibly win during second halves, but not completing the task. They have put up points pretty regularly – scoring 20 or more five times in the last six weeks, but have had trouble stopping opponents from scoring. Foes have topped 30 points in five of THS’ seven contests.
With Lawson having routed by 50 last week an East Buchanan team that beat Hamilton by two touchdowns earlier this fall, the Hornets’ prospects of winning the regular-season home finale don’t look great. Considering that and Hamilton’s current fifth-place standing in its Class 1 district, for the first time in a long, long time, there might not be a prep football game in Hamilton after Oct. 15.
Southwest Livingston’s Wildcats are very likely to have at least one more home game, even though their regular season concludes with road trips this week and next. With winnable road games against North-West Nodaway tonight and at Norborne against the Norborne/Hardin-Central Aggies next Friday, the Wildcats are extremely good bets to finish second in their 8-man district and, after a first-round bye, host someone in the district semifinals the first Friday of November.
For a while, tonight’s game for Braymer/Breckenridge was viewed as, at least, an outside chance for the Bobcats to capture at least one 2018 win, but that perception changed some last week when tonight’s road foe, St. Joseph Christian, stunned previously-undefeated Orrick.
After a couple of games in which Braymer had looked to be making some strides on offense that would make it more competitive, it was shut out by King City/Union Star last week.
Carrollton’s tough closing stretch of the season continues with tonight’s trek to Holden. The Trojans slipped back below .500 with last week’s whitewashing against Lexington and still have current Missouri River Valley Conference-East leader Higginsville to face at home next week.
A couple of weeks ago, Marceline’s motivation for tonight’s home contest with Westran appeared likely to be trying to spoil the Hornets’ designs on the Lewis and Clark Conference title. However, Scotland County’s surprise win over Westran two weeks back suddenly threw the league race into a 3-ways tie between tonight’s combatants and Fayette. With weak opponents awaiting next week, tonight’s winner at Marceline will emerge as, at worst, a likely co-champion and perhaps outright champ, should Fsyette stumble at Knox County next week.
Brookfield’s fold-up after a fast start last week – it led Macon 14-0 before the game was three minutes old before losing 25-14 – ended its chances of sneaking into the top four in its Class 2 district seedings and hosting a first-round game in a couple of weeks. Tonight’s visit to South Shelby likely is its last chance to get a second crack at Macon and avoid one of the district’s very-strong top three teams – Lathrop, Lexington, and Lawson – in the first round of district play.
Prevailing over the Cardinals – 1-6 like the Bulldogs – certainly is doable, but will require a good 48 minutes, not just three.