Week 3 games of Missouri's 2018 season likely to be played in rain and/or on wet fields again. Some postponed and others moved.
By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
Tonight’s annual “Bell Game” should be another ding-dong duel.
The Marceline Tigers will welcome Linn County neighbor Brookfield’s football Bulldogs to Chester Ray Stadium this evening for the latest edition of the long-running, annual clash voted several years ago as the United States’ best high school football rivalry game.
Even though, for a second-straight year, it will pit a 2-0 Tigers squad against an 0-2 Bulldogs outfit, the fierceness of the Linn County schools’ rivalry on the gridiron historically tends to make the game close and often low-scoring.
Last year at Brookfield, only 28 total points went on the Burlington Field scoreboard, but all of them were on the MHS side as the Tigers successfully retained possession of the prized bell over the then-inexperienced Bulldogs.
A balanced offense – with senior All-State running back Rylan Chrisman rushing for over 100 yards and junior quarterback Chase Billups throwing for triple-digits yardage – and the typically-tough “Black Rage” defense carried the black-and-gold to the 2017 win.
This year, Marceline’s attack figures to be similarly potent and varied under new head coach Mark Ross, a one-time University of Kansas graduate assistant under renowned former New England Patriots offensive coordinator Charlie Weis. With Billups at the controls and junior Cullen Bruner looking ready to step into Chrisman’s shoes, the Tigers have the weapons to move the ball and score, as witnessed by back-to-back 40-points outings thus far in 2018.
However, Brookfield – with a large percentage of its starting lineup of a year ago back and now a year wiser, more experienced, and physically more mature – has surrendered real estate and tallies very grudgingly thus far this season.
Second-year head coach Scott Stevens’ squad lost a heartbreaking season opener on the road 7-6 at Palmyra when the Panthers broke a scoreless tie with just under a minute remaining and then the Bulldogs pulled off a miraculous quick march to get the ball in the end zone with seven seconds left, only to be stopped on the conversion try.
Just to show their defensive strength wasn’t a mirage or a product of weak Palmyra offense, the Bulldogs made their ’18 home debut last week another showcase for keeping an opponent in check, this time a defending state champion.
Brookfield held last year’s Class 1 state title-winner Monroe City to only eight points – those on a short-field drive in the second quarter, but again fell victim to its own offensive inertia, falling 8-0.
The Bulldogs likely will need another excellent defensive performance like that to have a chance to win tonight as Marceline’s defense, led by junior All-State linebacker Colby Sims, will be keyed up in pursuit of a second “Bell Game” whitewash in a row.
Elsewhere on the C-T-area and Midland Empire Conference prep football slate this evening – which well could be another soggy one, like it was for many last week:
The Southwest Livingston Wildcats (2-0, 2-0 conf.) will be at DeKalb with a great chance to move to 3-0 behind their high-octane attack. With versatile, gifted junior Mack Anderson among the state’s top 8-man rushers and passers and several other weapons around him, the Wildcats – comprised of Southwest Livingston, Hale, and Tina-Avalon students – figure to put up another big points total after scoring 120 in their previous six quarters of 2018 play.
The other area 8-man team, Braymer (co-op with Breckenridge), will head out of state in search of its first 2018 triumph. Due to weather and field conditions, tonight’s Grand River Conference-West game for the Bobcats (0-2, 0-2 conf.) against the Worth County/Northeast Nodaway program has been relocated to Graceland University’s field in Lamoni, Iowa. Braymer/Breckenridge will be trying to get in some second-half action for the first time this season.
On the area 11-man scene, aside from the crown jewel game at Marceline, defending KCI Conference co-champions Hamilton (2-0) and East Buchanan will challenge each other in their league openers at Gower. While that winner of that one will have an upper hand in the title race on the other, both will have future big tests to face in the likes of Lathrop and Lawson.
Continuing their search for their first 2018 triumphs tonight will be the other three C-T-area clubs.
Trenton will slide west to start Grand River Conference-East competition with a visit to Gallatin, while – also in the GRC-E – Polo, after an overtime loss last week, will host last year’s conference champion Princeton/Mercer.
The Carrollton Trojans should have a good chance to get in the “wins” column as they call on a new opponent for them – the 0-2 St. Paul Lutheran Saints – at Concordia.
Across the Midland Empire Conference tonight as it starts its seven weeks of league competition, in addition to Chillicothe’s visit to Maryville, Kansas City: St. Pius X makes it MEC bow by visiting 2-0 Cameron and winless Savannah and St. Joseph: Bishop LeBlond tangle on the Savannah field on a site shift from St. Joseph.
St. Joseph: Lafayette (2-0) will host crosstown rival Benton this weekend, but not tonight, as scheduled, due to the poor condition of the LHS field. The game could be played either Saturday or Sunday at a yet-to-be-determined site and time, according to a tweet from Lafayette director of athletics Cory Gilpin.