CHS gridders will pursue first win on road against 1-0 Tigers
By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
CHILLICOTHE, Mo. — A clash of offensive tempos appears to loom when the 2020 Chillicothe football Hornets visit Kirksville for the second game of the season Friday (Sept. 4).
Using a rapid-paced, run-oriented attack, KHS’ Tigers, with a new head coach this year in Kevin Krietemeyer, built a 28-7 halftime lead in their 35-25 debut win at Macon a week ago.
“I’m really proud of the offensive line,” Krietemeyer told the Kirksville Daily Express’ Austin Miller after that game. “We controlled things up front.
“We talk about making it a fight in a phone booth and they did a really good job.”
KHS ran for around 320 yards against Macon, about three times what it averaged a year ago. That helped the Tigers withstand committing several turnovers.
“I definitely was really impressed with their offense,” Tim Rulo, third-year CHS coach, commented after reviewing video of the Kirksville-Macon clash.
“They were super up-tempo, it looked like, definitely running plays really fast,” usually with less than 10-15 seconds of the 40-seconds play clock elapsed. “There were times when Macon wasn’t even set (in its defensive alignment) and ready to go, so definitely need to be ready to go for that.”
Kirksville’s new quarterback, Jaden Ballinger, ran for four touchdowns and upwards of 130 yards.
Remarked Rulo, “I was impressed by their quarterback. … I thought he did a good job with pure athletic running; he played some running back for them last year. Was impressed with his vision (on when and where to run).”
The KHS QB had scoring treks of nine and 26 yards on the first two Tigers possessions and later went 25 yards in the second quarter and nine again in the third.
In addition, running back Landon Yardley carried for just over 80 yards.
While the Tigers didn’t throw a lot, they did connect on a late-first-half touchdown throw from Ballinger to 6’5” Noah Copeland.
“He had a really nice touchdown to Copeland, who’s kind of their big target,” the Chillicothe coach continued.
Rulo gave Kirksville “props” for operating a new offensive approach (to that program) effectively the first time out.
“A lot of different formations,” he detailed. “A lot of counter-trey, power-type run-blocking schemes and then they’ll throw in a little RPO (run-pass option) game and quick-passing game.
“(With) COVID (limitations during the summer) and the new coach… I thought they did a great job.”
As for Kirksville’s defense, Rulo anticipates something other than the 4-2-5 scheme the Tigers used against Macon, but probably not exactly the same thing KHS did in last year’s 50-21 CHS win here.
“They’re big up front. They’ve got some really big guys – guys 270 (pounds), 280 – that they play,” the Hornets’ head man discloses. “We’re not that big up front (on offense). We’ll just have to make sure we know what we’re doing (assignment-wise).
“They ‘stem’ a little bit up front, where they’ll move their ‘D’ linemen around a little bit, pre-snap.”
Both Chillicothe and Kirksville will strive to be more sure-handed with the pigskin this week.
The Hornets fumbled it away twice in their 21-7 home loss to Marshall, once on their own failed execution and once forced by an Owls hit. Kirksville turned the ball over twice that often, including three interceptions – one a “pick six,” yet won.
While the CHS coach obviously laments the giveaways and other easily-noted mistakes his inexperienced team had in its opener, what’s gnawing at him is a number of smaller things imperceptible to the untrained eye that loomed just as large in turning a possible “W” into a factual loss.
“The more I’ve watched the (Marshall game) ‘film,’ gosh, the more I realize … there were so many different things we were so close in in being able to come away with the win,” he reflected Sunday.
On Wednesday, he responded positively to an interviewer’s question about how the fully-revamped offensive line had done in the opener.
“I thought all five guys played really well,” Rulo stated of the group of tackle-turned-guard Landon Swift and first-time starters Trey Tipton, Josh Watterson, Trace Rardon, and Anderson De Jesus.
Chillicothe moved the ball consistently all game against Marshall, out-gaining the victorious Owls 234-211 in yards, but converted for points only on the one occasion when it had a short field.
Cashing in when they get the ball into the “red zone” or breaking a big play for six points tops the head coach’s/offensive coordinator’s checklist for this Friday.
“No. 1, definitely want to get in the end zone,” the CHS coach declared Wednesday. “I don’t want to make it too simple, but we definitely want to score more than seven points.
“I think it’s more just finishing (drives). We got so close and then we’d make a mistake here, a mistake there, and it would be minor mistakes.”
While it has a one front-line player Rulo considers unlikely to play at Kirksville, due to injury, Chillicothe expects promising sophomore starting outside linebacker/backup slotback Brock Miller to be in uniform. A preseason illness prevented him from having the needed number of practices to play last week, Rulo disclosed after the opener.
Getting a real game under the heavily-inexperienced Hornets’ collective belt, even though it was a loss against Marshall, should be of positive value, Rulo, who observed his 40th birthday Wednesday, anticipates.
“How do you gain experience? By doing, right?,” he asked rhetorically during Sunday’s chat. “We’re just going to have to continue to do that.
“You can’t expedite experience. … You can try to help guys feel more comfortable by getting them ready to go in practice, but live reps are really important.”
“We saw growth from our scrimmage against Trenton (the previous Friday) to now,” he had stated shortly after the Marshall game, “and now we need to improve even more and see even more growth as we move into (this) week against Kirksville.”
One unknown which might or might not play into Friday’s outcome is Chillicothe’s 90-minutes bus trip, it’s first with COVID-19 spread-mitigation measures in place.
“It’s going to be such a new experience on so many levels,” Rulo acknowledged after Wednesday’s practice in his weekly chat with local reporters. “One, just having to wear masks (gaiters) on the bus the whole trip (and) we have to have a seating chart to space guys out on the bus.”
Krietemeyer was hired as Kirksville’s new coach in April after a 14-17 record in three years at a smaller eastern-Missouri school, Bowling Green. He previously guided an Illinois school’s program for four years and earned a combined 17-4 mark the last two seasons there.
Given the restrictions many schools are placing on who can attend games this fall, owing to the pandemic, all CHS football games will be live streamed by Uclick TV in addition to the live, over-the-air and web-streamed broadcasts by KCHI Radio.