Southwest Livingston/Hale/Tina-Avalon home to King City/Union Star in 8-man action Nov. 2, 2018. Hamilton at Milan and Marceline at home against Gallatin in Class 1 District 8 semifinals
By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
Although only three high school football teams (outside of Chillicothe) remain alive for this week’s semifinal round of 2018 district playoffs, there is a reasonably good prospect that just as many will be around for next week’s district finals.
A pair of 1-loss area clubs – 8-1 Southwest Livingston in 8-man District 3 and 9-1 Marceline in Class 1 District 8 – will play at home tonight, while Hamilton (7-3) will be at undefeated Milan in Class 1 District 8 Friday, Nov. 2.
While all three have the capacity to prevail against their respective foes and the odds are at least one will extend its 2018 season to a 12th week, none of the three are surefire advancers.
On the other hand, two of the four Midland Empire Conference teams still active are assured of moving on to the district finals, since the four – Chillicothe, Maryville, Savannah, and Kansas City: St. Pius X – all will be involved in the Class 3 District 8 semifinals.
Southwest Livingston will entertain the King City Wildkats, who – like Southwest – have players from another school. While SLHS’ Wildcats include players from nearby Hale and Tina-Avalon, the Wildkats are partnered with Union Star.
King City/Union Star (7-3) sustained all of its losses to very good teams (Pattonsburg/Gilman City/North Harrison, Stanberry, and Worth County/Northeast Nodaway) in a 3-weeks span in the first half of the season, each of them by at least 18 points.
Since then, it has won five straight, starting with a 66-20 triumph at Rock Port a week before Southwest Livingston bested Rock Port 69-20.
While the Wildcats feature outstanding junior quarterback/multi-purpose offensive threat Mack Anderson and a solid group with him, the Wildkats are paced by quarterback Collin Breckenridge, back Jacob Moen, and receiver Hunter Abney.
While Southwest Livingston, as the district’s No. 2 seed behind Pattonsburg/Gilman City/North Harrison, enjoyed a bye and a week off last week, King City/Union Star had a 72-0 one-half, home cakewalk over winless Braymer/Breckenridge.
Tonight’s meeting at SLHS’ field just outside Ludlow figures to see plenty of points scored by each side. If one or the other can successfully create some takeaways, that might be what tips the scales in the end.
The pair of Class 1 District 8 semifinals involving C-T-area teams project as very competitive, as well.
While Hamilton will be on the road against an undefeated opponent, its regular-season exposure to multiple strong, Class 2 opponents won’t have it awed by Milan’s perfect mark.
If anything, the Hornets figure to go in thinking they have just as much reason to expect victory as the Wildcats.
Last week, Hamilton went to Bethany and, with both teams in win-or-go-home desperation mode, came away with a 13-points triumph over South Harrison’s Bulldogs.
That was only a couple of weeks after Milan – at Bethany – was taken to overtime by the Bulldogs before squeaking out a 6-0 triumph.
With Friday’s opponents having had two other common opponents that they defeated by virtually-identical margins, all the numbers suggest they are very-evenly matched, despite the variance in their won-lost records.
The Wildcats have the ability to throw with quarterback Ryan Dabney or run with either Dre Morehead – a capable receiver, as well – or Jamuel Pagan.
Hamilton has the capacity to go to the air strategically, rather than in desperation, in addition to a very capable running game, as well.
Against South Harrison, quarterback Ryan Cook ran for 60 yards and threw for 134 and three scores, while top running back Sawyer Morrow slashed and pounded for 154 rushing yards. In both Connor Kavanaugh, who had two TDs among his four receptions last week, and big tight end Cale Whitt, whose two receptions at Bethany gained 67 total yards, Cook has targets capable of big gains, particularly if Milan overcommits to the run.
As with the Southwest Livingston-King City game, turnovers could be the wild card that wins the trick.
Marceline will welcome an 8-2 Gallatin club that also won’t cower, despite being on the field of a very good opponent.
The Bulldogs have some very nice wins to their credit thus far, not the least of which is last week’s 59-30 dispatching of a solid Princeton/Mercer squad. GHS also shut out Maysville/Winston, last week’s 30-14 Marceline victim, 42-0 in their midseason Grand River Conference-East matchup and took down Trenton handily (31-7) early in the year.
Gallatin has scored well at times this year, but also has had some outings in which scoring has been a chore. Haden Bradford and Aidan Adkison are its best ballcarriers, but it hasn’t shown a consistent ability to move the ball in the air.
Marceline, conversely, is as adept – if not more so – passing the ball as running. Quarterback Chase Billups has completed 65 percent of his passes for 1,300 yards, running back Cullen Bruner has rushed for 730, and all-purpose back Clayton Stallo has over 450 yards both running and receiving.
The Tigers’ defense led by junior All-State linebacker Colby Sims, though perhaps not up to some years’ standards, remains formidable. It has not yielded more than 16 points in any game thus far.
Both teams have the ability to score in the kicking game, not just by touchdown, but Bruner seems to give MHS an edge there, too.
As for the MEC teams competing tonight, the host teams – Maryville and Savannah – are strong favorites to set up a rematch of their week eight meeting which champion Maryville claimed handily.
Savannah (7-3) won on a muddy field at St. Pius X 42-0 only two weeks ago and figures to be successful on its home turf. SPX’s Warriors managed less than 200 total yards in the prior meeting and used freshman Jack Mosh as their quarterback last week as they eventually pulled away from Cameron 41-14. Mosh threw eight completions in 12 attempts for 122 yards in tha win.