COVID-19 test result kept Wildcats from getting in required number of preseason practices by original Friday date (Aug. 28). 2020 week one area slate has couple of influential contests
By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
United States workers will have one of those theoretical “long weekends” at the end of next week when the Labor Day observance on Sept. 7 makes it a 3-days weekend.
In quite a rarity – possibly even a first, the area high school football scene will have its own 3-days weekend of games this weekend as the new season commences. Considering all that 2020 has brought, maybe that makes sense.
After all the other C-T-area teams kick it off for this season on Friday (Aug. 28), last year’s 8-man state runnerup Southwest Livingston Wildcats will journey to distant Fairfax Sunday morning for a 1:30 p.m. clash with East Atchison (Fairfax-Tarkio co-op).
The reason – logically enough – is COVID-19. According to Wildcats second-year head coach Oren Magruder, a positive test result for the coronavirus for one of Southwest Livingston’s players shortly before the scheduled start of preseason practices on Aug. 10 forced quarantining of Wildcats players for a number of days. As a result, the SLHS team, which includes players from Hale and Tina-Avalon schools, was not able to get the Missouri State High School Activities Association-required minimum number of preseason practices before Friday’s scheduled date for the Highway 275 Conference contest.
Because school officials and coaches at the two eastern Atchison County schools didn’t want to lose an opportunity to get the game in, given the uncertain prospects for the 2020 season playing out in full, they were willing to postpone the game until Sunday. That will allow Southwest Livingston to get in practices Friday and Saturday that will satisfy the MSHSAA preseason preparation requirements.
The contest is expected to be a competitive one of reasonably-high quality. Southwest’s Wildcats were voted fifth in a media preseason poll of the 8-man football scene and East Atchison seventh. Given that, the outcome figures to weigh heavily into this season’s conference title race.
Both were ranked a year ago when they squared off at Ludlow and East Atchison shocked the Wildcats, 68-22. That, however, turned out to be Southwest Livingston’s only loss until it fell to Mound City, another 275 school, in the state-championship game.
The area’s week one slate also has another game which, despite coming right off the bat, should loom large in determining a conference champion.
Defending Lewis and Clark Conference champion and Class 1 state semifinalist Marceline will host Scotland County’s Tigers Friday.
MHS third-year coach Mark Ross has tabbed Scotland County as the biggest threat to unseat his squad on the L&C throne. Last year, at Memphis, with a more-veteran group, Marceline prevailed in a tough battle, 22-12.
In addition to Southwest Livingston’s contest, the expanded area 8-man scene will find Chillicothe High School graduate Zach Douglas making his head coaching debut with the Braymer Bobcats at Hughesville: Northwest. He will be trying to guide the Braymer-Breckenridge co-op club to its first victory since 2017.
The new Thunder team comprised of players from Mendon: Northwestern and Keytesville – mostly the former – will have its first game ever on Cal Hubbard Field at Keytesville High, facing Schuyler County, which this year has switched from 11-man to the 8-man game. By dint of scheduled week two opponent Chilhowee having opted to skip the fall season as a COVID-19 precaution, the Thunder now is due to have its first four games ever all on its home turf, not playing on the road until early October.
Rounding out the area 8-man picture for the opening week of 2020 play, the Aggies of Norborne/Hardin-Central will debut at home Friday against the Kansas City, Kan: East Christian Academy team which has been winless the past two years. The N/HC Aggies have beaten East’s Lions in the season opener each of the past three years, but last year’s game was a 48-46 nailbiter.
In addition to Marceline’s game, Friday’s area 11-man schedule for the first week of the new season will have Brookfield visiting Trenton, Hamilton: Penney at Higginsville, Carrollton welcoming Fayette, and Polo hosting Plattsburg.
The all-Bulldogs battle at Trenton is one which used to occur regularly when THS was a long-time independent and Brookfield was in the Tri-Rivers Conference. However, when BHS shifted into the Clarence Cannon and the state’s regular season was reduced to nine games, there was nowhere on Brookfield’s schedule to fit in any other non-conference game besides its in-county rivalry duel with Marceline.
This year, however, with the departure from the CCC football ranks by Louisiana a couple of years ago, each school was looking for a week one foe and, understandably, are renewing acquaintances. Speaking of acquaintances, the last time the schools’ teams squared off on the C.F. Russell Stadium gridiron, current BHS head coach and former Trenton assistant coach Scott Stevens was a THS player.
Both teams are looking to get 2020 off on the right foot after finishing 2-8 a year ago.
Hamilton’s Hornets hope to begin a bounce-back from last year’s recently-uncharacteristic 6-6 campaign at the expense of Higginsville’s Huskers, a 9-3 team in 2019 with two of its losses administered by Class 2 state quarterfinalist Lee’s Summit: Summit Christian Academy.
The non-conference clash will be the programs’ first since the Lafayette County club thrashed the Hornets 42-0 at Higginsville in the 2011 Class 2 state quarterfinals, the only time in a 4-years stretch Hamilton didn’t capture a state crown and the only loss it sustained in that span.
Carrollton, with a veteran team and high ambitions this fall, will try to maintain the mastery it had over Fayette’s Falcons last year. Chillicothe High alumnus Scott Finley’s Trojans topped Fayette 14-6 on the road to start their 5-6 2019 campaign and defeated them again – this time 29-8 at home – in the district playoffs for their final victory.
Ten years after he first took the helm, Kyle Ross returns to the sidelines as head coach at Polo Friday after a 2-years absence. The Panthers didn’t post a victory in the interim, a situation they’ll be challenged to rectify against Plattsburg’s Tigers, who finished 5-6 last year while playing as a Class 1 program in the very strong, mixed Class 1 and 2 KCI Conference.
Polo does, at least, return a number of experienced players from a season ago.