First CHS football game outside Missouri since 1994 tonight at KC, Kan.'s Wyandotte HS. Victory would clinch winning season for Chillicothe
CHILLICOTHE, Mo. — With a chance to turn a good turnaround season into an outstanding one, Chillicothe High School’s football Hornets tonight take the program’s first step beyond Missouri’s borders in over a quarter-century and, in a sense, into the great unknown.
In a “fill-in” game to plug the scheduling gap left by last year’s week eight opponent – St. Joseph: Bishop LeBlond – downsizing from 11-man to 8-man ball this season, the Hornets will visit Kansas City, Kan.’s Wyandotte High School for a 7 p.m. contest.
Both sides come in off losses – Chillicothe at Savannah last week and Wyandotte to traditional rival KCK: Washington. However, the Hornets bring a 5-2 overall record with them, while the host Bulldogs stand 2-3.
“I look forward to the opportunity to go into Kansas,” Tim Rulo, second-year head coach of the Hornets, told the C-T Wednesday. “I think that’s good, to get that experience, to set the tone for what it’s going to be like later in the playoffs – what it’s like to travel to new teams and different places.”
While Chillicothe’s destination is known, exactly what they’ll face is somewhat less so.
What is known from Wyandotte game video, Rulo affirms, is that the Bulldogs have players who can be elusive and quick when given room to make plays.
“Every play’s a potential touchdown,” he warns. “You’ve got to make sure you’re swarming to the ball, that you’re blocking to the whistle, etc., so that way you can nullify some of that athleticism.”
The uncertainty stems from both Bulldogs personnel availability and its capacity for consistent execution.
Several iterations of the WHS roster have been shared with local media through this week, none of which identify at least players wearing uniform numbers that were seen on video as being involved in last week’s Bulldogs game. In addition, a player who started and played most of their first several games at quarterback did not play either of the last two games and could be seen on game video standing on the team sidelines – seemingly not injured – in street clothes against Washington.
That could be indicative – given the time of the school year when first-quarter grades are coming out – of some players either now being restricted from playing or just becoming eligible, due to academic reasons.
Beyond the uncertainty of exactly which Wyandotte players will be manning which positions, Chillicothe also has to deal with Bulldogs’ players’ own confusion on occasion about who’s supposed to be in the game and what formation and play is called. While that, more often than not, would figure to work against them, the confusion or playground-game chaos could produce mayhem for Chillicothe, in terms of being able to identify who to block on offense or to cover on defense. If the Hornets miss picking up a potential pass target or ballcarrier, the Bulldogs’ quickness could result in big gains or points, Rulo rues.
“That’s what makes us most nervous,” he acknowledged after Wednesday’s practice.
“Even some of their inconsistency can be scary, because you are not quite sure where they’ll line up. They’re a team you definitely cannot take lightly.”
Chillicothe played very well against a similar-looking St. Joseph: Lafayette team two weeks ago, winning by a point at home, but Lafayette was more predictable in its offensive and defensive alignments than Wyandotte appears to be.
What really helped the Hornets prosper against Lafayette was its own repetitive, effective execution on offense. They used a grind-it-out running game to keep the Fighting Irish’s dangerous offensive playmakers on the sidelines, a tactic the CHS coach would love to duplicate tonight.
“Any time you’re playing a team that’s so explosive, you’re hoping to chew up clock and be efficient,” Rulo confirmed.
If the Hornets do execute well on offense, they could not only have extended drives that produce points, but could generate long gainers of their own, even if they don’t necessarily go the distance. Execution could trump explosiveness, especially if Chillicothe avoids turnovers and creates a few, as seems very possible.
In what has been a most-welcome and advantageous, season-long theme to date, the Hornets – prior to any issue cropping up after Wednesday – should have all anticipated contributing players available and in relatively-full health, the head coach reports.
“We feel really blessed and thankful that we’re in a good spot (health-wise) right now,” said Rulo.
Tonight’s game is Chilllcothe’s last regular-season road trip, after which it might play three times in a row at home, depending on how it finishes in the district-playoff seeding ratings. For certain, the Hornets will host St. Joseph: Benton in their regular-season finale next Friday and then host a first-round playoff game the week after.
As noted at the beginning of this story, this is Chillicothe’s first game outside of Missouri since 1993, when they visited Fort Madison, Iowa. It also is their first game against a non-Missouri opponent since Fort Madison’s return visit in 1994.
It also is CHS’ 10th-ever game against a non-Missouri team and their first against a Kansas school since meet Atchison’s Maur Hill-Mount Academy in 1993.