(UPDATED with more quotes, official stats Monday 1:00 a.m.) CHS runs for over 400 yards, gets defensive TD as it improves to 2-0 in 2019 and avenges 41-0 loss at Kirksville last year
CHILLICOTHE, Mo. — In their season opener a week earlier, the 2019 Chillicothe High School football Hornets avenged a 2018 16-points loss to Marshall with a 13-points victory. They entered their home opener against Kirksville last Friday knowing they’d need an even-larger turnaround to improve to 2-0, having lost to the Tigers by 41 in week two a year earlier.
Mission accomplished. Emphatically.
The senior-saturated Hornets, in their second season under Rulo, again shrugged off an opening-series touchdown by the opponent to stunningly overpower visiting Kirksville 50-21 on Bob Fairchild Field at Jerry Litton Memorial Stadium II.
“Our kids have played so well. I’m just so proud of them,” an admittedly very-pleased CHS head coach Tim Rulo praised his squad shortly after the contest. “… Just humbled by it all.”
“In all facets, we’re getting better, improving, and that’s what we want to see. … Now, we’ve just got to keep improving.”
The Hornets’ offensive line both sprung the backfield “horses” for big runs and pushed back the KHS defensive front for many a moderate pickup en route to 409 rushing yards on 64 carries.
Almost surreptitiously, Chillicothe’s blocking and hard running resulted in seniors Isaak Rasche and Dawson Wheeler each reaching triple digits.
Rasche, whose 14-yards score around right end tied the game at 6-6 on the first CHS possession of the contest, netted 114 yards on 12 rushes. Wheeler, who also returned a pass interception 70 yards for a touchdown in the middle of the second quarter in probably the game’s pivotal play, scored on 1- and 23-yards runs on his way to 109 yards on 16 lugs.
“Very proud, not only of our (interior) linemen – whether that’s (starters) Landon Swift or Brock Gott or Cameron Dush or Luke Hopper or Luke Washburn or a couple of other guys we had step in (senior Keagan Rinehart, junior Josh Watterson), but also the wide receivers (Sewell, Hayen, Humphrey). They have to block on (nearly) every play, too, and that’s not always that exciting,” lauded Rulo.
“… That’s important. Those are the things that are needed, because again you’ve got to be solid every play – getting after it, doing the job to the best of your ability, and then moving on to the next play.”
Success from CHS’ “flexbone” attack – two other players had at least 65 yards and another 37 – is no new thing.
Friday’s victory marked the sixth time in the Hornets’ past seven games in which they’ve had a ballcarrier with at least 100 yards, including Wheeler three times. Not coincidentally, CHS has won those same six games.
While Kirksville wound up with three touchdowns, one was via punt return. Having blanked Marshall after surrendering a first-possession TD in week one, Chillicothe’s defenders held the Tigers’ offense to only one in the final 44 minutes this time out.
“Again, hats off to our defensive staff and the adjustments they made after the first drive.”
“Created three turnovers. That’s awesome. One of those turning into points – that’s great.”
In addition to the turnovers, the CHS defense suffocated the already-suspect Kirksville run game on only 51 yards. The Tigers threw for 202 on 10 completions in 24 throws.
“We were able to make them one-dimensional,” Rulo acknowledged the achievement of one pre-game goal. “When you do that, you can kind of figure out what they’re going to do in the passing game.”
A week after his opposite number at defensive end Brad Hayen led the team in tackles, senior Hayden Hill – again playing a hybrid position against a pass-heavy attack – topped the CHS tackles chart with seven stops – five unassisted.
The Hornets did not lose the ball Friday, recovering their lone fumble. Last year’s loss at Kirksville included five CHS giveaways.
Friday’s triumph over Kirksville probably had four key moments or sequences, the biggest of which was Wheeler’s relatively-easy defensive score, which was rooted in a teammate’s even-better play.
With CHS’ offense having posted touchdowns on 3-straight series following KHS’ initial scoring march, the visitors seemed to be moving toward the Chillicothe end zone a second time, having advanced from their 31 to the CHS 35.
However, after senior linebacker Isaih Kille sniffed out an inside running play for a 1-yard loss, creating a third-and-7, Hornets defensive coordinator Chad Smith and defensive line coach Michael Smith – a former CHS All-State D-lineman – were able to play the tendencies and insert undersized nose guard Donald McCracken, a regular mayhem maker in passing situations.
Sure enough, McCracken’s quickness and surprising strength allowed him to split a double-team of two much-larger and slower KHS linemen and knife in toward quarterback Paxton Dempsay. Trying to buy an extra split-second to allow deeper routes to develop, Dempsay stepped back slightly and then tried to unload the pass off his back foot.
As he did that, however, it gave the quick McCracken just enough time to raise an arm and hit the quarterback’s right elbow just before the ball left Dempsay’s hand. The slowed arm action left the ball about 10 yards short of the intended target and instead right in Wheeler’s path.
Not only did McCracken’s hit prompt the underthrow and theft, but, as Wheeler headed up the mostly-vacant east half of Bob Fairchild Field on his runback, the CHS lineman hurried downfield to help cordon off any half-hearted KHS pursuers, letting Wheeler cruise to the end zone.
Other important moments were:
• The offense’s immediate reply to Kirksville’s first-series score, repeating the momentum-blunting showing the Hornets’ “O” had in the win at Marshall;
• Kirksville’s fumbled punt snap late in the second quarter which allowed Chillicothe to take over at the KHS 30 and, in eight plays, expand its lead to 34-6 on Wheeler’s 1-yard run behind overloaded tackles Washburn and Swift only 22 seconds before halftime; and
• The rushed 29-yards field goal senior Jamacin Carr kicked out of Colten Sewell’s quick hold of Washburn’s last-second snap to complete a 13-plays, 65-yards drive late in the third period. That came after two Kirksville touchdowns in the first six minutes of the second half had trimmed the healthy 28-points CHS lead to a shakier 13. After the Hornets’ defense got a quick 3-and-out, the Hornets’ offense put together two more long touchdown drives to reinflate the big cushion.
Now, Chillicothe (2-0) will host the Maryville Spoofhounds (1-1) in its Midland Empire Conference opener next Friday. Maryville routed Harrisonville 56-20 in its week two contest.
“Excited for the growth,” Rulo declares. “I’m glad we got better. Now, we want to just keep doing it.
“… Our goal is to keep getting better. Our goal is not just to win week three. We want to make sure to go and take care of business (in) week four, week five, six, seven – all the way up into districts and beyond. There are just so many opportunities we have.”
CHILLICOTHE vs. KIRKSVILLE SCORING SUMMARY
Kirksville 6 0 15 0 – 21
Chillicothe 13 21 3 13 – 50
8:47 – (K) Noah Copeland 34-yards pass from Paxton Dempsay (Foster Janes kick failed) (8 plays, 74 yards drive)
4:36 – (C) Isaak Rasche 14-yards run (Jamacin Carr kick) (9 plays, 67 yards drive)
2:12 – (C) Brad Hayen 14-yards pass from Jaden Winder (Carr kick failed) (5 plays, 37 yards drive)
10:47 – (C) Winder 5-yards run (Carr kick) (5 plays, 53 yards drive)
7:43 – (C) Dawson Wheeler 70-yards pass-interception return (Carr kick)
0:22 – (C) Wheeler 1-yard rn (Carr kick) (7 plays, 30 yards drive)
9:16 – (K) Janes 40-yards pass from Dempsay (Dempsay pass to Copeland) (5 plays, 66 yards drive)
6:36 – (K) Copeland 53-yards punt return (Janes kick)
1:12 – (C) Carr 29-yards field goal (13 plays, 65 yards drive)
8:40 – (C) Kam Ward 6-yards run (Carr kick-blocked) (9 plays, 58 yards drive)
3:13 – (C) Wheeler 23-yards run (Carr kick) (9 plays, 82 yards drive)
INDIVIDUAL, TEAM STATISTICS
(CHS) Isaak Rasche 12 carries, 114 yards (1 TD), Dawson Wheeler 16-109 (2), Jaden Winder 16-69 (1), Isaih Kille 9-68, Kam Ward 6-37 (1), Deon Reynolds 3-7, Allen Eakins 1-5. [TOTAL 64-409 (5)] (KHS) Jaden Ballinger 7-28, Paxton Dempsay 6-16, Blaine DeVolld 4-12, Foster Janes 2-(-5). [TOTAL 20-51]
(CHS) Winder 4 completions in 7 attempts, 63 yards (1 TD/0 int.). (KHS) P. Dempsay 10-24, 202 (2/1)
(CHS) Colten Sewell 1-34, Brad Hayen 2-16 (1), Kille 1-13. [TOTAL 4-63 (1)] (KHS) Janes 3-92 (1), Noah Copeland 5-89 (1), Lane Feeney 1-17, Ballinger 1-4. [TOTAL 10-202 (2)]
CHILLICOTHE TACKLES (solos)
Hayden Hill 7 (5), Wheeler 6 (5), Kille 6 (4), Damarcus Kelow 4 (2), Sewell 3 (2), K. Ward 3, Tucker Wagers 2 (2), Brock Ward 2 (2), Brad Hayes 2 (1), Jamacin Carr 2 (1), Brock Gott 2 (1), Rasche 2 (1), D. Reynolds 1 (1), Donald McCracken 1 (1), Dan Hoel 1.
(CHS) Kelow (1st).
TACKLES FOR LOSSES (incl. QB sacks)
Chillicothe 5 for -21 yards (Kelow 2, Wheeler, Kille, Hayen); Kirksville 5 for -13 yards.
(CHS) Wheeler (1st) (70 yds., TD)
Chillicothe 1 (0). Kirksville 3 (2).
OPPONENT’S FUMBLES RECOVERED
(CHS) Washburn (1st), Kelow (1st) [TOTAL 2].
(CHS) Rasche 1-6, Tyler Huffman 1-4. [TOTAL 2-10] (KHS) Ballinger 5-68, Logan Blickhan 2-12, Brock Burchett 1-9, Landon Yardley 1-0. [TOTAL 9-89]
(CHS) Rasche 1-15. (KHS) Copeland 1-53 (1).
(CHS) Winder 3-100. (KHS) Janes 2-59.
(CHS) Carr 1-1 (29).
Chillicothe 11 for 85 yards; Kirksville 4-40.
Chillicothe 24 (2 passing, 22 rushing); Kirksville 11 (7 passing, 2 rushing, 2 penalty)