With second win in row, Hornets secure fourth seeding in Class 3 District 8 playoffs, which will open with visit from same foe this coming Friday

BY PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
(Oct. 19, 2018) ST. JOSEPH, Mo.  — Thanks to an alert reaction to a rebound, the Chillicothe (Mo) High School football Hornets, first, beat the halftime clock Friday night and, then, rode that momentum and scoring to beat the St. Joseph: Benton Cardinals 34-19 and earn a home game in the first round of the district playoffs.
Having daringly – at the players’ urging – gone for and converted a fourth-and-1 at their own 29 when they already led 14-7 less than two minutes before intermission, the Hornets (3-6, 3-4 MEC) followed that conversion with a 37-yards pass play to Kam Ward that nearly went the distance.
When it didn’t, though, the Hornets were fighting the clock with only one timeout remaining and still 28 yards to cover, and that was before they committed 5-yards penalties three of the next four times the offense lined up.
However, with under 15 seconds to go, Jaden Winder’s pass toward the goal line for K. Ward was well-covered, only to have a Benton defender trying to grab the ball for an interception instead have the ball go off his hands and back toward CHS junior end Julius Humphrey, who was trailing the play. Humphrey gathered the ball in as he fell and was whistled down at the BHS 2. Having earned a first down, the clock was whistled to a stop by the officialks with three seconds showing, allowing the Hornets to call their last time out.
After discussing things on the sideline, the play call was a familiar one – a quarterback sneak by 200-pounds junior quarterback Winder behind a quick surge by the offensive line. Somehow, in the mass of humanity as Benton’s line and linebackers crashed inward to deny that surge, the Hornets’ linemen wedged just enough room for Winder to get the ball across the goal line with time having expired. When, following a Benton penalty, the Hornets eschewed kicking the conversion and instead ran it in, what had been a fairly-insecure 7-points lead moments before had become a 22-7 halftime bulge for the visitors.
Chillicothe then used contributions from both the offense and defense to take a firm grip on the game following intermission.
The CHS defense, which played effectively for the most part, except for having some trouble corralling the scrambles and bootlegs of BHS quarterback Caden Stone, stopped a Benton ballcarrier on a surprising fourth-and-6 game at the CHS 48 on the Cardinals’ first series of the second half.
That gave Chillicothe the ball at midfield and the offense took its cue.
After two K. Ward runs, junior fullback Dawson Wheeler – who unofficially rushed for about 130 yards filling in for injured starter Cade Koehly – ran the ball inside four times in a row. The last two gained 10 yards each and the second of those put the ball in the end zone again for a 28-7 CHS lead midway through the third quarter.
Although Benton answered with a touchdown drive of its own, Chillicothe stuck the ball in the end zone for a third-consecutive series, K. Ward sparking a 4-plays, 78-yards run with a 28-yards gain around left end before – following a Benton face-mask penalty as it tackled Wheeler – Wheeler again ran the same play off right tackle on which he’d scored the prior possession. This time, it went for 29 yards and his second score of the game, making it 34-13, CHS, and effectively salting away the Midland Empire Conference win.
Chillicothe had given itself to establish control of the game on its first series when, on a second-and-8 from its own 44, after running the ball its first seven plays, Winder set up and found fellow junior Colten Sewell on a deep slant route down the left hashmarks. A couple of strides beyond the deepest Cardinals defender, Sewell made the catch and zipped away to complete the 56-yards touchdown play, the Hornets’ biggest offensive play of the season to date.
Benton did comeback and score on its first possession and kicked the extra-point to lead 7-6 with 1:43 to go in the opening period, but Lavery Jones’ 10-yards run around left end exactly five minutes before halftime gave Chillicothe the upper hand for good.
With Friday’s regular-season-ending victory, Chillicothe earned the right to start the Class 3 District 8 playoffs this coming Friday at home, facing the very same Benton squad.