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Chillicothe Back Home Tonight, Seeking First ’20 Grid Win

Week 7 play finds Southwest Livingston back in 275 title race

Paul Sturm
Chillicothe News

By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor

As the last third of Missouri’s jumbled, but still chugging forward, 2020 high school football regular season begins this Friday, it finds two of the 11 teams covered by the C-T charging after conference championships – one a bit unexpectedly, thanks to last week’s results – and three, including Chillicothe, still in pursuit of their first victories of the season.

Chillicothe’s Hornets had hoped to begin a reversal of fortune last week at St. Joseph: Lafayette, but a pair of nearly-season-long millstones around their neck – turnovers and a shortage of experienced, healthy personnel – sank them once more.

Now, even though facing a Savannah Savages team which doesn’t seem to have quite the overall firepower of the past couple of SHS teams, the Hornets will encounter a team nevertheless on the rise.

Having dealt with COVID-19 issues and adapting to graduation losses early in the season, Savannah (3-1, 3-0 conf.), led by senior running back Evan Yount, barrels into Friday’s game in Chillicothe with three victories in a row, the most recent an unexpected 69-14 shellacking of Cameron. Chillicothe coach Tim Rulo said it’s his understanding that Cameron had close to 10 players prominent in its lineup miss that contest, due to pandemic precautions.

“It’s going to be a battle,” conceded Rulo. “They’re definitely looking good. … They’ve looked good the last two games.”

With graduated Chase Spoonemore, who bedeviled the Hornets the past two meetings, no longer is Savannah’s quarterback, senior back Yount is the focal point of his team’s attack.

He rushed for 158 yards and four touchdowns on 23 carries against a far-stronger and savvier Chillicothe defense last year, so trying to design a play to slow him will be a key task for the Hornets’ coaching staff and players this week.

“(Yount) is one of the best backs in our conference. Very talented,” praises the Chillicothe coach. “Everything goes through him offensively.”

Making it difficult to contain him is a sizable and increasingly-effective offensive line, the Hornets coach details.

“They’re just so big up front and so physical up front, they just do a great job of running the football and taking care of business that way,” Rulo says. “Their linemen are huge in size.”

On the other side of the ball, the Savages, who have a new head coach this season in Kevin Kopecky, seem focused on mobility, not sheer size.

“Their defense is predicated on being fast and getting to the ball,” he revealed Sunday.

“Their defense (personnel) have no ‘lineman numbers’ (jersey numbers in 50s-70s). That basically means they’re putting all of the speed they can on that defensive side of the ball. And those are big guys; they’re not little guys by any means.”

Chillicothe’s hopes of making a successful bid for their first win of the year might be enhanced by the anticipated return of some recently-idled players, particularly among defensive starters. In last week’s loss at Lafayette, routinely among the Hornets’ four down linemen on defense were seniors who began the year as defensive backs and weigh 180 pounds or less. In addition, one of the linebackers was a player of less than 170 pounds who was expected to be a reserve defensive back, if used at all on defense this season.

Like Chillicothe, Braymer/Breckenridge’s co-op team and Keytesville/Mendon: Northwestern’s remain on the hunt for a triumph. One of them, however, ultimately will get one in 2020 – barring COVID-19 interference – because they have agreed to make up their September postponement on Oct. 30.

That is to be the first week of postseason play and the Bobcats and Thunder were on track to meet then anyway as the likely Nos. 8 and 9 finishers in 8-man District 2. However, with the prospects of whichever won their meeting having any chance the following week against the No. 1 seed being virtually nil, both recently advised the Missouri State High School Activities Association that they wished to opt out of the playoffs and instead use the week 10 opportunity to make up their coronavirus-negated contest.

Assuming that game is able to be played, Braymer/Breckenridge will visit Keytesville.

Before then, Braymer/Breckenridge (0-5) this week will get to have its Homecoming game, after all.

Scheduled opponent Concordia has run afoul of the coronavirus temporarily and won’t play this week or next. However, the Bobcats’ southern neighbors – Norborne/Hardin-Central – did not have a week seven game scheduled and graciously agreed to give Braymer a Homecoming night opponent. The teams met at Norborne only two weeks ago with the N/H-C Aggies (3-3) stampeding to a 52-16 win.

For its part, the first-year Keytesville/Northwestern Thunder (0-5) apparently will have a rematch of its own with Hughesville: Northwest/Sedalia: Sacred Heart (3-1) scheduled to visit. Northwest/Sacred Heart filled the Sept. 11 gap on the Thunder’s schedule when Braymer was in quarantine and posted a 54-8 romp.

The decision by Braymer/Breckenridge and Keytesville/Northwestern not to be involved in the 8-man district playoffs now means the district regular-season leader will have not one, but two, weeks off between its regular-season finale and first postseason contest.

In a mid-week development, 2019 state runnerup Southwest Livingston slipped back into the district-ratings second-place spot by a very slim margin behind undefeated Concordia: St. Paul Lutheran with North Shelby not far back. That apparently was because St. Paul Lutheran’s foe this week, Drexel/Miami, apparently had to forfeit its season-opening victory, dropping that team’s record to 5-1, rather than 6-0.

However, Southwest (5-1, 5-1 conf.) has three very-winnable games remaining, while St. Paul has both Drexel/Amoret: Miami this week and – in a schedule change – very tough Pattonsburg next week. A SPL Saints loss in either those probably would give Southwest’s Wildcats a clear path to the No. 1 seeding and double-bye.

That was not to be the only prey in coach Oren Magruder’s team’s crosshairs the rest of the season, however, thanks to a surprising result last week, but then subsequent developments threw a monkey wrench into the equation.

When East Atchison (Tarkio/Fairfax co-op) shocked top-ranked and 2-times defending state champion Mound City 34-6, it put SLHS’ Wildcats in a tie (in the “losses” column) for the Highway 275 Conference lead. Given that East Atchison had lost to Southwest 54-30 in the season opener, it had been anticipated Mound City would follow up its narrow week-4 road win over the Wildcats with a home win over East Atchison and cruise on to the league crown.

However, East Atchison’s win briefly meant Southwest Livingston re-controlled its league destiny. Wins in its next two scheduled outings would likely mean sharing the title with Mound City/Craig (because defending league champ East Atchison had two games postponed, due to the pandemic, only one of which it might have a chance to make up, it seems destined to finish with either one or two less Highway 275 wins than Southwest or Mound City, even though it could equal them in the “losses” column with only one).

That scenario was derailed Thursday, however, when Southwest Livingston’s planned league foe this week – Rock Port – had to beg off, presumably due to COVID-19 problems. Although Southwest was able to connet with southwest Missouri’s Jasper Eagles as a replacement – a game now set for 2 p.m. Saturday at Jasper, even with a league-finale win at North-West Nodaway (currently 2-4) next week could leave the Wildcats – like East Atchison – even with Mound City/Craig in the “losses” column, but with fewer wins at season’s end.

The Ludlow-based Wildcats, who also utilize players from Hale and Tina-Avalon schools, are joined in pursuit of a league crown by Marceline.

MHS’  Tigers (5-1, 3-1 conf.), having stepped away from Lewis and Clark Conference action to win handily last Friday, should have little or no trouble prevailing at L&C neighbor Salisbury (0-6) this week before having a probable league-title and district top-seeding showdown with Westran at home next week.

Of the other handful of C-T area teams, no conference championships or district No. 1 seedings will hang in the balance the final three weeks of the regular season, but improving or firming up the most-favorable district seeding will be of importance.

Even after posting its second win of the year last week, Polo’s Panthers (2-4) probably still need to beat one of their final three opponents – Princeton this week, then Milan and Putnam County – to sneak past Plattsburg into the No. 4 spot in Class 1 District 8.

Also in Class 1, Hamilton: Penney (3-3) would like to use a week over Plattsburg (3-3) this week as the start of a 3-0 finishing kick which could give it the District 7 No. 3 seeding ahead of Princeton and Gallatin.

Carrollton (3-3) will welcome unbeaten Lexington Friday. Even if the Trojans lose, as they did to Class 3 Richmond last week, the bonus points for facing the Class 2 Minutemen should help keep them solidly in the No. 4 spot in District 6.

In Class 2, Brookfield (2-4) hopes a visit from Clark County (3-3) will be the cure to its 4-games losing streak, but the Indians nearly handed undefeated Palmyra its first loss last Friday, falling 15-14. Palmyra bested BHS’ Bulldogs 24-6 in week four.

Trenton (0-4) likely is looking at its last decent opportunity to avoid a winless season this week as it goes to Maysville/Winston.