Only Chillicothe and Marceline among eight area squads in action this week will play at home
By PAUL STURM- C-T Sports Editor
The 9-week first act of the 2018 Missouri high school football 3-act “play” is over. Now come the much-briefer and ever-more-intense middle and final acts.
District tournaments for prep pigskins squads begin tonight and continue through tomorrow and the following two weekends, weeding out half of the teams each week until state championship games are played in late November.
In the C-T area and around the Midland Empire Conference, the majority of teams are looking at district play as a way to salvage sub-par seasons, but facing uphill challenges to do so.
Of the nine area teams, including Chillicothe (see related story on this page), only three – CHS’ Hornets, Southwest Livingston’s Wildcats and Marceline’s Tigers – performed well enough during the 9-games regular season to finish in the upper half of their respective district ratings and thus earn the right to play at home at least once in the playoffs.
Southwest Livingston, which includes players from Hale and Tina-Avalon schools, and Marceline each took second in their districts, but because Southwest’s 8-man district has only six teams, the 8-1 Wildcats’ first outing won’t be until next week when they likely will host King City/Union Star in the District 3 semifinals. King City/Union Star (6-3) will host winless Braymer/Breckenridge (0-9) tonight.
Marceline, in Class 1 District 8, will welcome Maysville/Winston (2-7) tonight, facing a team which – geared up to try to thwart the run – had difficulty stopping the pass against Trenton last week. Given the Tigers’ season-long greater success in the passing game, unless the Wolverines are better prepared to defend the pass this week without sacrificing run defense, Marceline has a very high likelihood of advancing to the semifinals, where it would host the tough Gallatin-Princeton/Mercer winner.
In that same district, Hamilton (6-3) and South Harrison (6-3) will match up in the 4-vs.-5 clash at Bethany. When both teams won close games a week ago, South Harrison was able to hold onto the No. 4 spot and thus play at home this week.
Playing in the more-rugged KCI Conference against mostly larger schools, Hamilton probably rates as a very slight favorite against SHHS’ Bulldogs. Back in week two, the Hornets bested the district’s third-place team, Gallatin, 21-13 on the road, building a 21-0 lead before having to hold on. Gallatin subsequently nipped South Harrison by a point in midseason. However, fumble-itis of late could leave Hamilton – at least a district finalist each of the past nine years – vulnerable.
Also in Class 1, but in District 7, Polo (0-9) will visit top seed Wellington-Napoleon (6-3). The host Tigers don’t have the most impressive resumé and only beat .500 Sweet Springs by 14 last week. However, the week before, they won a defensive battle with once-beaten Lincoln 10-8 and they also played the very good, Class 2 Lexington team well back in a week three defeat.
Polo easily could have notched a win or two during its first season under Chillicothean Reid Stephens, but the stars never aligned right. However, the Panthers clearly rate as a decided underdog in this make-or-break pursuit of at least one 2018 triumph.
In Class 2 District 8, three area teams are involved, all as visitors this week.
Brookfield (1-8) and Carrollton (3-6) look to be fodder for very strong Lawson (8-1) and Lexington (8-1) teams, respectively, but Trenton (3-6) could have a crack at knocking off fourth seed Macon (7-2).
THS’ Bulldogs finally broke loose offensively against Maysville/Winston last week and carry growing belief in their passing attack into the postseason after Sam Schilling threw for 266 yards a week ago.
Even if Chillicothe High alumnus Brandon Boswell’s Trenton club gets off to a good start, it can’t afford to ease up. Macon fell behind Brookfield 12-0 in the first three minutes on the road a few weeks back and righted the ship, blanking BHS the rest of the way and winning going away, 25-12.
When it didn’t turn the ball over against a very good Clark County club last week, Brookfield was able to move it, running many more plays than the Indians and gaining more yards. However, the blue-and-white threw four interceptions and committed a number of penalties that thwarted budding drives. Similar woes against the strong Lawson team would figure to lead to a rout.
Carrollton and Lexington meet at Lexington for a second time in four weeks and not enough has changed with either to portend any result much different from the Minutemen’s 52-0 trouncing of first-year coach Scott Finley’s CHS Trojans. Carrollton was brutalized by big plays and also gave the ball away a handful of times in last week’s home loss to Higginsville.
In the MEC ranks, more than half the members are in Class 3 District 8, where conference champion Maryville stands as a towering favorite, having blasted second-seeded Savannah 41-7 only two weeks back.
MHS’ Spoofhounds unexpectedly got this week off when would-be foe Kansas City: Northeast informed them and the Missouri State High School Activities Association that it would forfeit their scheduled quarterfinals game. Given that Maryville All-State running back Eli Dowis missed last week’s game with injury, the ’Hounds probably don’t mind sitting this one out.
Savannah (6-3) will host Kansas City: Central (1-8) in what projects as a blowout and third-seeded Kansas City: St. Pius X will welcome Cameron (3-6) in a contest that could be close.
Back at the start of September, Cameron was 2-0 and feeling its oats as it welcomed SPX, only to surrender the game’s first three touchdowns and 258 rushing yards and four touchdowns to Warriors power back Ben Wade in a 28-14 defeat.
Cameron did close to within 20-14 early in the third quarter of that game and its sophomore quarterback Ty Campbell has lots more experience now. However, St. Pius X has the services of speedier back Thomas Ringol now, after he missed the first meeting with an injury.
The MEC’s other two teams are at opposite ends of the spectrum, numbers-wise and performance-wise, yet the smaller, less-successful team could have the best prospects of winning tonight.
St. Joseph: Bishop LeBlond (0-9) just missed its initial 2018 victory last Friday against Cameron, losing 37-35. Being a Class 1 school, they reaped a mountain of “bonus” points from playing larger-classification opponents throughout the league season, leading them to being the fourth-rated team in District 8 and thus at home this week.
The Golden Eagles, with dangerous, left-handed quarterback Frankie Gall and big-play receiver Jaren Guck, will go against No. 5 seed North Platte (2-7) with a strong possibility of registering victory No. 1. Doing so likely would set them up to visit Wellington-Napoleon next week, a game which might be eminently winnable, too.
St. Joseph’s other north-side team, Lafayette, will go to Excelsior Springs for Class 4 District 8 action against another team coached by a Chillicothe alum, Mark Faubion. Both enter 7-2.
Lafayette’s potential explosiveness on offense makes it dangerous anywhere, but seemingly even more so on artificial turf, such as ESHS’ Tiger Stadium has.
Both teams enter the postseason off losses – Lafayette to shorthanded Maryville and Excelsior Springs by a 48-33 margin to 7-2 Pleasant Hill.