Scheduled Friday action delayed to Saturday (Sept. 28), due to thunderstorms/lightning. Kansas City: St. Pius X offers 3-1 Hornets similar challenges to three of four prior CHS foes
CHILLICOTHE, Mo. — The middle game of the Chillicothe High School football Hornets’ 2019 season offers them a prime opportunity to cap an outstanding first-half turnaround from last season and prime the pump for a profitable second half and postseason.
Toss in the fact that Saturday’s weather-delayed contest will be CHS’ Homecoming game and there are plenty of positives to be seized with a strong performance against the visiting Kansas City: St. Pius X Warriors.
“You want to set the tone early,” Tim Rulo, Hornets second-year head coach, declares about the big-occasion contest.
The clubs will meet in Midland Empire Conference action at 11:30 a.m. on Jerry Litton Memorial Stadium II’s Bob Fairchild Field, following the postponement from Friday night, due to extensive and extended thunderstorms.
Chillicothe possesses a 3-1 record and St. Pius X a 2-2 mark entering their week five clash. The Warriors lost their opener big to well-regarded Odessa before handling KC: St. Michael the Archangel. Each owns a prior league victory over Cameron and a blowout loss to Maryville.
Scheme-wise, the Warriors, who bested the Hornets on a chopped-up field in north Kansas City in their first year in the league last year, will present an offensive style and tendencies much like Chillicothe already has encountered three times this season.
Long-time coach Rick Byers’ club regularly spreads the field with its formations and looks to move the ball through the air with sophomore quarterback Jack Mosh, who played a portion of last year’s game. SPX likes to try to hit 6’3” junior end David Deters when it throws deep, but will throw short- and intermediate-range passes to multiple targets.
It also attempts to set up running success by its formation alignment, sending three would-be receivers wide to one side of the field and then running the ball to the opposite side. Given the success Cameron had getting off-tackle and on the edge against the Hornets last week – running for over 300 yards, it figures St. Pius X will explore its ground options early to see if it can duplicate that.
“We’ve got to be able to put them in third-and-long-type positions, where we know they’re going to pass (downfield) or throw a screen, and then get hungry and go after and get the football,” the CHS coach emphasizes.
The Warriors have only three players – Mosh, Deters, and reserve running back/starting linebacker Anthony Ross – who gained any of their yardage in last year’s contest against the Hornets. Combined, they provided only 40 yards.
A key facet which could help determine whether Chillicothe’s defense can keep the Warriors’ offense in check might be the youthfulness of the SPX line against a veteran Hornets defense.
The visitors are expected to have two good-sized freshmen and a sophomore in their line. Chillicothe will counter with more size with seniors Luke Hopper (260 pounds) and Brock Gott (275) and sophomore Damarcus Kelow (230), who is coming off a spectacular, 9-tackles showing at Cameron. Senior 2-way lineman Isaac Washburn did not play last week, but appears on track to be back tonight.
Chillicothe’s offense at Cameron was spiced by several productive pass plays, including a tone-setting fourth-down 31-yards touchdown pass from Jaden Winder to Brad Hayen to cap their opening possession.
That helped keep Cameron from compressing its defense to get extra potential tacklers into “the box.” That helped lead to more space for Hornets ballcarriers and about 375 rushing yards with three backs topping 80 yards.
Although St. Pius X had some success defensively early at Maryville, eventually it was overwhelmed by the Spoofhounds as the game wore on. Chillicothe undoubtedly will seek to exploit its “heavy” running game which is averaging almost 300 yards a game to achieve the same thing as the contest wears on.
“We need to out-execute them,” Rulo details. “We have the ability. We have the experience.
“… We should be able to run our plays the way we want. … Now, it’s just a matter of being physical up front and taking care of the football and I think we’ll be happy with the results.”
Considered the top Warriors defender is inside linebacker Anthony Ross (5’11”, 180, jr.). SPX’s down linemen have good size, ranging from 235-260 pounds.
One aspect of tonight’s game which might bear watching closely is the kicking game and the potential for Chillicothe to make some hay with returns.
Maryville ran the opening kickoff right back up the middle for a score last week and punter Mosh, perhaps out of respect for dangerous Spoofhounds returners like Tate Oglesby and Deon Metezier, kicked low and short punts toward the sidelines. The Hornets might deploy their punt returners closer to the line of scrimmage to take away bounce yardage and test whether Mosh can kick the ball deeper.
Putting on a good rush that prompts the punter to unload quickly, even without any intent of trying to block the kick, could be part of such an approach, but, with Mosh being his team’s quarterback, could leave Chillicothe vulnerable to a fake.
As always, avoidance of turnovers will be critical to Chillicothe’s chances.
In last year’s 25-14 setback at Kansas City, a game CHS led 14-12 at halftime, the Hornets fumbled the ball away three times. The shortened possessions contributed to them rushing for only 195 yards.
This year, conversely, the Hornets have been much more sure-handed and the production has reflected that.
“Our ball security has been great,” affirms Rulo. “The games in which we’ve had zero turnovers, we’ve been scoring 40-plus points and putting up 450-plus yards.”