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Banged-up Chillicothe HS Football Hornets, Benton Rematch Again Tonight in 2020 Playoffs Opener

CHS to be without up to six regulars in tonight's (Oct. 30) Class 3 District 8 playoffs opener at home. It's the second time in three years the clubs will have back-to-back meetings

Paul Sturm
Chillicothe News
Chillicothe High School football Hornets Cameron Fleener (foreground) and Tucker Wagers (36, partially obscured) dive to corral St. Joseph: Benton quarterback Tyler Murphy for no gain at the CHS 15 in the third quarter of last Friday's 34-14 CHS victory at St. Joseph. The same two teams will tangle in the quarterfinals of the Class 3 District 8 playoffs tonight in Chillicothe.

By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor

For the second time in three years, Chillicothe High School’s football Hornets will try to follow up a regular-season-ending win at St. Joseph: Benton with a district-playoffs home opener against the very same Cardinals tonight. However, the hosts will be without some key cast members – perhaps as many as six – for act two.

Last Friday’s 34-14 CHS triumph at Benton gave the Hornets the No. 4 seeding for the Class 3 District 8 playoffs. Benton, by virtue of an early-season, head-to-head win over Kansas City: Central, wound up as the No. 5 seed and thus will be Chillicothe’s opponent on Bob Fairchild Field at Jerry Litton Memorial Stadium II at 7 o’clock this evening. Weather conditions are expected to be milder than earlier this week.

Already having relived some recent history, the host Hornets will want to go “whole hog” and complete the rematch repeat. In 2018, after topping the Cardinals by a very similar count (34-19) at St. Joseph to gain the host’s role for the district-quarterfinal replay, Chillicothe took round two, as well, 41-20.

The Midland Empire Conference schools’ teams met in both the regular-season finale and a district-playoffs game last year, too, but with a week’s separation. The veteran-laden Hornets took both 2019 meetings more handily.

Chillicothe (2-7) will seek a third-consecutive 2020 win tonight, while Benton (1-6) will pursue an upset that would snap its 5-games losing streak.

As cited, complicating CHS’ pursuit of consecutive conquests of the Cardinals is reduced availability of important personnel.

About a half-dozen Hornets left last Friday’s game either for the duration of the contest or a portion and, according to their head coach, Tim Rulo, at least four – three starters (one on both offense and defense) and one often-used reserve – will not see action in the “do-over.” A pair of other starters – again one a 2-ways regular – are considered questionable.

That development figures to make an already-competitive contest even moreso.

As for the strategic task facing each club this week, little, if anything, which occurred during last Friday’s game suggested any need of change from last week’s aims.

Benton’s defense still will have to try to derail the Hornets’ flexbone attack that – behind consistently-effective blocking – prospered in both the inside, power runs and perimeter plays. Three CHS ballcarriers had at least 90 rushing yards and the team more than 380.

“Offensively, man, I thought we dominated the line of scrimmage. I thought we moved the ball really well,” acknowledged Rulo.

On defense, keeping senior multipurpose back Garison Dydell reined in will remain Chillicothe’s top task. Dydell rushed for 123 yards and one score and caught four passes for 55 yards last week, but had no carry net more than 16 yards and no reception gain over 21.

“Our defense, I thought, did a great job of taking care of (Dydell), … keeping him contained as best you can because he’s a good athlete,” remarked Rulo after the triumph at St. Joseph.

Having traversed the last half of the regular season with an overarching aim of getting the two wins projected as necessary to get the No. 4 seeding, the Chillicothe coach says the postseason mindset is simplified.

“At this point of the season, you’ve just got to focus on the next game,” he asserted following last Friday’s triumph at Benton. “We’re excited that we get another game and we’re excited to be at home.”

Getting to host this playoff game – likely the Hornets’ last Litton Stadium appearance this fall – was important to Rulo beyond strategic impact.

“Really happy for the seniors,” he shared. “They get another home game – at least one more; Lord willing, more.”

Tonight’s Chillicothe-Benton winner will visit the district’s undefeated top seed – Missouri River Valley Conference-East champion Richmond – next Friday.