Down 32-24 late in the first half, Ludlow-based co-op team outscores visiting North Shelby 32-6 the rest of Friday's (Nov. 15, 2019) Missouri 8-man District 2 championship game. Wildcats earn rematch with Pattonsburg-based co-op aerial circus in state semifinals Saturday, Nov. 23

LUDLOW, Mo. — Even though, somewhat out of character, only one of their touchdowns came on a play covering more than 20 yards, the Southwest Livingston/Hale/Tina-Avalon football Wildcats roared from behind past the visiting North Shelby Raiders 56-38 in their 8-man District 2 championship game Friday (Nov. 15, 2019) by playing the “long” game.

Having led only briefly (8-6) in the opening half and trailing 32-24 late in the second quarter before Mack Anderson’s 16-yards dash to the right pylon in the closing moments of the half, the Wildcats posted 32 of the game’s last 38 points.

“We didn’t do anything exceptionally different in the second half,” Southwest first-year head coach Oren Magruder stated in a post-game broadcast interview. “We didn’t change the defense or anything like that. Our kids just wore them down.”

Their reward is another crack at the sizzling passing attack of Pattonsburg/Gilman City/North Harrison, the team which ended the 2018 Wildcats season with a 68-20 district-finals decision at Pattonsburg on a frozen night in the wake of significant snow a couple of days before.

“We’ve just got to play our defense the best we can and be physical again and see where we wind up,” Magruder observed about the Panthers, who advanced to this year’s state semifinals with a 74-62 triumph over Worth County Friday. “They’re a heck of a ballclub.”

Within 32-30 at intermission in their own district final Friday, SLHS’ Wildcats (10-1) took the lead on the opening series of the second half when star senior quarterback Anderson scrambled forward and then a bit to his right to buy just enough time to spy classmate Balazs Sturgeon open in the end zone for a 16-yards touchdown strike. With their fourth and final successful 2-points conversion attempt, Southwest Livingston went in front 38-32.

Its defense followed with a stop that gave it a chance to build even more momentum. It did, posting a third-successive TD with a drive that, after a scramble to the left side put the ball at the NSHS 8, Ma. Anderson capped the possession with a 3-yards run around the left flank behind a double block from fellow senior Dagun Bassett and downfield blocks by lineman Jaeden Sears and wide receiver Chase Neptune.

That made it 44-32 for the hosts and, although it didn’t put the game out of reach, it did set things up so that North Shelby never again had the football with a chance to tie or take the lead.

The Raiders (9-3) from Shelbyville in distant northeast Missouri scored to get back within 44-38 before the third stanza ended, but surrendered Ma. Anderson’s sixth of seven rushing touchdowns on a 12-yards carry relatively early in the last segment to again make the margin 12 points. When the Wildcats’ defense held again on the following possession, for all intents and purposes, it decided the outcome, although Ma. Anderson attached an exclamation point with a 52-yards ramble that set the final spread at 18.

“Our kids played really hard,” Magruder commented for the C-T. “They got pushed around early by a (physically) bigger team, but kept fighting.

“A very good group effort.”

Ma. Anderson’s other first three scoring runs covered eight, one, and 16 yards. They helped offset two scoring runs by NSHS quarterback Dayton Mettes and the 6-yards run by Ethan Geisendorfer that started the game’s scoring inside the opening minute.

Ma. Anderson finished the game, according to the SLHS coach, with 324 rushing yards on 32 carries, while also connecting on seven of 18 pass attempts for 87 yards and the one TD to Sturgeon.

Defensively, lineman Ja. Sears and linebacker Sturgeon led the Southwest surge with 15 and 14 tackles, respectively. One of junior Sears’ stops was a sack on a pass attempt.

Bassett and Ma. Anderson chipped in nine tackles apiece, including a Bassett tackle for loss. Ma. Anderson had an interception, as did Ethan Hoerr, like Ja. Sears among the Hale students on the co-op club. Defensive back Hoerr took part in eight tackles, according to Magruder’s state report.

Having not seen a lot of an option offense during the regular season, Southwest Livingston’s defense not only had to deal with the larger size of many of North Shelby players, but also the offensive style of the Raiders.

Once the Wildcats learned how to fight off the would-be blocks and get in good position, they limited the gains North Shelby was getting. Then when Southwest opened the multi-scores lead, it forced the Raiders to try to go to the air more than they preferred.

“They were getting blocked early on,” Magruder said of his defensive line, “but they’re just going to keep coming, Patrick Warren is a battler. Owen Oesch is a battler. Jaeden Sears and Dagun did a pretty good job of setting the edge all night for us.”

Sophomore lineman Oesch finished with five stops, including one behind the line, while Warren was part of seven tackles.