Hornets also hope to avenge 2018 41-0 loss at Kirksville. Tigers let '19 opener slip away last week in OT loss at home. Chillicothe might have caught break on Sewell's knee injury. Friday's (Sept. 6) contest starts at 7 p.m. at Litton Stadium II
CHILLICOTHE, Mo. — By winning 20-7, the Chillicothe High School football Hornets last week produced a 29-points positive turnaround from their 2018 16-0 loss to Marshall.
That offers hope for their chances tonight when they play their ’19 home opener against the Kirksville Tigers. However, given that CHS lost 41-0 at Kirksville in week two last year, they’ll need an even-more-dramatic change this week.
With Kirksville’s psyche likely smarting after the Tigers (0-1) let a 20-6 third-quarter lead slip away in their 28-20 season-debut loss in overtime to Macon at home last week, CHS head coach Tim Rulo doesn’t disagree with the sentiment that KHS will come in to tonight’s 7 p.m. contest at CHS’ Jerry Litton Memorial Stadium II a bit ornery.
“Yeah, I think so,” he tells the C-T. “… I definitely think we’re going to see extra energy from those Tigers. I think that’s something we need to be prepared for.”
He notes, however, that his club should have its own extra emotional fuel, based on last year’s turnovers-plagued blowout, as well as proving last week’s upgraded performance was not a fluke.
“We, too, need to not have a lull after a win,” Rulo warns. “… We need to make sure we’re ready to go with our energy and our effort level.”
Although it might not be certain until game time, Chillicothe already seems to have picked up an unexpected second 2019 “win,” in terms of personnel availability.
Starting senior end/free safety Colten Sewell’s knee injury, sustained last Friday, apparently was to a portion of the knee that, with proper bracing support, can be played through. Thus, against the odds, he might be at least partially available tonight.
Tonight’s CHS clash could well follow a storyline similar to last week’s, in terms of how the opposing offense primarily seeks to move the ball and how it defends Chillicothe’s attack.
Kirksville, with – like Marshall – a returning starting quarterback, is expected to put the ball up about as often as it runs it, if not more.
KHS quarterback Paxton Dempsay (6’3”, 210, sr.) launched 30 aerials in last year’s eventual runaway, compared to 39 Tigers runs. He connected on 18 of his attempts, but 16 of those were to then-seniors.
With an advanced experience level and improved performance, based on their success in slowing Marshall’s veteran quarterback Ben Haug last week, the Hornets’ chances to hold the Tigers to less than the 251 air yards they yielded last year seem good.
“We had them at almost 60 percent (passing plays) in week one,” Rulo reports, “so I would definitely say we’re going to see that.
“Even then, we have to make sure they’re one-dimensional. You’ve got to shut down the run. Then, you know they’re going to pass.”
Kirksville fourth-year head coach Conrad Schottel doesn’t dispute that his team has to run the ball better.
“We thought we were going to be able to run the ball a lot better,” he told the Kirksville Daily Express’ Austin Miller after last week’s loss. “If we’re one-dimensional — there’s no football team that’s good one-dimensional.
“We’ve got to be able to run the ball. We’ve got to figure something out there.”
Dempsay has a couple of outside junior targets with height – 6’4” Noah Copeland and 6’3” Lane Feeney. However, in addition to the two graduated pass-catchers from last year’s game, none of the Tigers’ top-3 ground gainers from that clash are around either.
KHS’ offensive line has three holdovers from the group that helped generate 430 yards of total offense in last year’s game against the Hornets.
On defense, Rulo anticipates Kirksville again lining up in a 4-4 against his team with only a single deep safety, much as Marshall did last week.
The only returning starters for the Tigers’ “D” from last year’s game with the Hornets are inside linebacker Copeland and cornerback Janes, who intercepted three passes in last year’s clash.
In its loss to Macon, Kirksville produced most of its yardage with pass. Macon hurt the KHS defense the most with runs, especially by its quick quarterback on both designed runs and scrambles, but also got the tying touchdown in the last six minutes with a 25-yards pass.
Macon also returned a punt for a score on the first play of the second period.
Football coaches routinely trumpet the observation that teams make their largest improvement of the season in their second game.
“You get to have a little bit of (game-competition video) and you get to show the guys, ‘Hey, this is what we need to work on,’” shares Rulo.
The CHS coach says he’s expecting that traditional second-game improvement in basics.
“Simple things – ball security, taking the ball away, blocking a little bit longer (on each play), blocking at the second level, tackling, gang tackling, swarming to the ball – those are all things we want to make sure we improve,” he states, labeling himself “excited just to see our entire team continue to improve as we go into week two,” he confirms.
Health-wise, Sewell was the only real question mark among the starters and primary reserves entering Thursday’s practice.