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Chillicothe (Mo.) HS Football Hornets Bow Out Reluctantly at Richmond, 62-41

Notable underdog trailed district top seed Spartans by only three points late in third period before hosts pulled away. CHS offense generated nearly 500 total yards.

Paul Sturm
Chillicothe News
Finding a huge hole off right guard with the help of blocks from Nick Greenslate (55) and others, junior fullback Damarcus Kelow of the 2020 Chillicothe (Mo.) HS football Hornets takes off for the Richmond end zone 65 yards away on CHS' first offensive play of the second half of Friday's (Nov. 6) Class 3 District 8 playoffs semifinal game at Richmond. Kelow unofficially rushed for 225 yards and reached the end zone four times, but Richmond still prevailed, 62-41, ending CHS' season at 3-8.
  • Chillicothe (3-8) trailed clear favorite Richmond only 38-35 in last minute of third quarter Friday
  • Kelow unofficially rushed for 225 yards, 4 TDs, while Tucker Wagers ran, received for 110
  • Chillicothe's late 3-games winning streak halted, but not without tremendous fight vs. top seed
  • Feared more for his running, Richmond QB Elliott hit on 12 of 15 passes for 220-plus yards

By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor

RICHMOND, Mo. — Despite a far-inferior season record which, were there oddsmaking of such games, would have marked them as substantial underdogs, Chillicothe (Mo.) HS’ football Hornets gave Class 3 District 8 top seed Richmond all it wanted and more on the Spartans’ own field Friday (Nov. 6) before falling 62-41 in district-semifinals play.

“A great game. Not one you want to see come to an end for those seniors and for us, just because we didn’t come out on the right side of it, but, again, a great battle, for sure,” reflected Tim Rulo, CHS third-year head coach, about 20 minutes after game’s end.

“Super proud of our boys for how they played.”

The loss in the highly-entertaining, offenses-dominated contest, which saw CHS trailing only 38-35 in the final minute of the third quarter, closed the door on the Hornets’ fast-finishing season with a 3-8 record. Richmond (8-1) moves on to host Maryville for the district crown next Friday.

“This game was such a culmination of just how much we progressed and how well we played this year,” Rulo said.

However, he added, “It still stinks to lose.”

The teams scored on each of the game’s first six possessions before each came up empty the last time it had the ball in the opening half. Because the hosts converted for two points on each of their three touchdowns, they had a 24-21 advantage at intermission.

Despite the robust scoring pace of the opening half, it actually accelerated for a while when play resumed.

Before the third period was 2-1/2 minutes old, three more TDs had been put on the scoreboard, including a 65-yards gallop by Hornets junior fullback Damarcus Kelow on the only offensive play CHS had in that flurry.

However, after RHS junior quarterback Keyshaun Elliott, the 6’3”, 210-pounds grandson of former National Football League running back Lenvil Elliott, dashed 29 yards to the end zone for the third of his four touchdown runs at 9:35 of the third stanza, the visiting Hornets calmed the frenetic scoring pace while still putting the ball in the end a fifth time themselves.

A 15-plays, 75-yards CHS march which ate up – pleasingly from the Hornets’ point of view – virtually eight minutes of game clock was capped by Kelow’s 7-yards TD carry with 1:35 left in the third period. His successful conversion run after his third of four scoring carries drew Chillicothe within 38-35.

“Very happy with how our guys executed offensively,” saluted Rulo verbally.

However, with a CHS onside-kick attempt unsuccessful, Richmond needed only three snaps to go 45 yards for yet another Elliott touchdown 26 seconds before the quarter ended and this time the Hornets were unable to answer.

Two more Spartans scores on Elliott passes to Layne Cavanah swelled the lead to 62-35 before Kelow found paydirt a fourth time with 61 ticks left in the season to close the scoring.

The 103 total points posted made the CHS-RHS contest Friday’s highest-scoring 11-man football game in the state in week two of postseason action. Only one 8-man game – ironically, Chillicothe’s Livingston County compatriot Southwest Livingston whipping Concordia 88-22 – produced more points on Missouri gridirons Friday.

Statistically, Chillicothe unofficially amassed 476 yards of total offense, a tribute to the excellent blocking that came despite the illness absence of usual right guard Trace Rardon, who became ill Friday morning, Rulo revealed.

Of those 476 yards, 231 came on 27 Kelow runs, another 121 from Tucker Wagers carries and catches, and 101 on Ga. Leamer aerials, on which he connected five times in eight tries, including two 41-yards pickups.

A long pass from quarterback Gage Leamer settles perfectly in stride into the grasp of Chillicothe (Mo.) HS football Hornets end during one of CHS' two first-period touchdown drives in Friday's (Nov. 6) Class 3 District 8 playoffs semifinal 62-41 loss at Richmond. The junior-to-junior hookup netted 41 yards, taking the ball to the RHS 5-yard line, from where two Damarcus Kelow runs stuck the ball in the end zone. Leamer, continuing his strong finish to the season, was on target with five of his eight throws in the contest for 101 yards leaving him with a very solid 47 percent completion rate for the season and nearly 690 passing yards. Johnson led the team with 22 receptions for virtually 350 yards on the year.

“Proud of how our ‘O’ line played. … Really proud of those guys,” said Rulo of the primary group of seniors Trey Tipton and Landon Swift on the left side, senior Josh Watterson and Rardon’s junior replacement Nick Greenslate on the right and junior Anderson De Jesus at center. They were able to step up and get the job done and help us take care of the ball and be physical up front.

T. Wagers, who gained 81 rushing yards, provided the highlight-reel play of the contest with his on-the-run, 1-handed stab of a second-period pass. With his run to the RHS 1 after his lone reception, T. Wagers picked up 41 yards. He’d already scored the Hornets’ first touchdown of the game with a 30-yards dash around left end on a toss sweep.

With a sensational effort, slotback Tucker Wagers of the 2020 Chillicothe (Mo.) HS football Hornet spears – with one hand on the dead run – quarterback Gage Leamer's third-and-5 pass from the CHS 40. T. Wagers ended up gaining 41 yards on the play and CHS moved the ball on into the end zone several plays later to take their last of three leads in the game at 21-16. Despite T. Wagers' 100-plus yards from scrimmage on runs and receptions, Richmond prevailed 62-41, ending Chillicothe's 3-games winning streak and its season with a 3-8 mark.

With his new career-best output at Richmond, Kelow unofficially finished the season with just over 1,330 yards. Of that total, 680 came in the final four games and nearly 400 after sustaining a shoulder injury a few plays into the second half of the regular-season finale at St. Joseph: Benton.

If not for that injury, he’d likely have added at least 50 more yards in that game and earned a nice chunk in the first period-plus of the following week’s rematch with Benton – time he was held out of action because of the injury.

Richmond’s Elliott did plenty of damage with his legs – finishing with 142 rushing yards on only 13 carries, but unexpectedly was even more effective throwing. He hit on 12 of 15 throws for 222 yards and three scores – all to sophomore Cavanah – with only one inconsequential interception.

“He threw the ball well,” the Chillicothe coach admitted.

Cavanah, nephew of CHS teachers Brad and Sarah Cavanah and grandson of Missouri high school football coaching legend Shane Cavanah of Marceline, snared 10 of Elliott’s passes for 203 yards.

The host Spartans finished with 437 total yards on only 41 snaps. CHS’ greater yardage amount came in more than 50% more plays (66).

“Our defense made some plays,” Rulo assessed. “We had some nice tackles for loss or no gains, which is exactly what you want.

“I thought our defense again played well. I know maybe the score doesn’t show that. I thought they battled … against a very athletic team.”