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Hamilton streaks past top seed South Harrison into state play

Hornets (8-3), Marceline (9-1) will seek district titles, state-quarterfinals berth on Friday, Nov. 13. Brookfield ended its 2020 season at 5-5 with a strong effort in a 20-6 loss to KC: St. Pius X

Paul Sturm
Chillicothe News
  • Henderson interception, Morrow 95-yards TD run on next play pivoted Hamilton's game early
  • Marceline drilled league foe, will face another for district crown
  • Polo finished 2020 3-8 after going winless previous two seasons
  • Brookfield matched wins total of prior three years combined with break-even 5-5 mark in ’20

Heavily-favored or perceived underdog, it seems there’s never any denying Hamilton: Penney High School’s football Hornets a berth in the state playoffs.

Four times state champions during the run, the Hornets last Friday advanced to the postseason’s round of 16 – the district finals in the current iteration of Missouri’s state-title-deciding playoffs – for a 13th-consecutive year by dominating Class 1 District 7 No. 1 seed South Harrison 40-28.

Fourth-seeded Hamilton (8-3) blew the game open in the third quarter with three Sawyer Morrow touchdown runs – the last a 90-yarder – after possessing only a 14-6 lead at halftime.

The Hornets’ triumph helped set up an unlikely District 7 championship game this Friday. They’ll travel to Princeton to play the third-seeded Tigers (8-2), who shocked host second seed Milan 42-36 with a fourth-period rally after losing to the Wildcats 39-8 during the regular season.

“They are playing well,” Penney High head coach Caleb Obert says of Princeton, which defeated South Harrison late in the regular season.

Also set for a crack at another district championship this Friday is Marceline (9-1) after shredding Fayette 55-20 in District 6 action at home last Friday.

The top-seeded Tigers will welcome third seed Harrisburg (8-3) this week after Harrisburg emphatically reversed the result of its 24-22 regular-season home loss to Westran with a 46-8 blowout on the road last Friday. Marceline crushed Harrisburg 56-8 in its regular-season finale.

Two C-T-area prep pigskin teams had their 2020 seasons draw to a close last Friday.

In Class 2, Brookfield backed up its expectation that it would be competitive with anyone in its district by hanging with undefeated, Midland Empire Conference champion Kansas City: St. Pius X in an eventual 20-6 BHS loss.

In Class 1, overwhelming favorite Mid-Buchanan easily terminated Polo’s campaign, 55-6, at Willow Brook.

COVID-19 problems prevented Norborne/Hardin-Central from playing in the 8-man ranks, forfeiting its game to favored North Shelby. That concluded the N/H-C Aggies’ season with a 6-4 record.

Hamilton: Penney 40, South Harrison 28

BETHANY — Hamilton outscored the host Bulldogs 33-0 in the odd-numbered periods, allowing it to heap comeback pressure on the favorites.

Following a huge defensive play when Corbin Henderson intercepted a South Harrison pass at the PHS 5 on the contest’s opening series, Hamilton began the game’s scoring with a 95-yards lightning bolt touchdown run from Morrow on its first play from scrimmage.

The Hornets doubled their lead to 14-0 after one quarter with quarterback Tucker Ross’ 38-yards dash and another Morrow point-after kick.

A short Bulldogs scoring run was the only points production in the second stanza, but left the game very much up for grabs entering the second half. “We were a little sloppy with some mishandled snaps and penalties,” Obert said of the period.

With confidence bred of its recent winning tradition, Penney High’s team seized control following intermission.

Morrow went in from 10 yards out and then 16 yards as the third period unfolded, expanding the Hornets’ lead to 27-6, before he and his blockers effectively sounded the death knell for South Harrison’s hopes of victory from deep in Hamilton’s end of the field again.

Taking a handoff in the figurative shadow of the Hornets’ own goalposts, Morrow found daylight and raced 90 yards for his fourth touchdown of the game and a 33-6 PHS lead through three periods.

Even had he not tacked on a 3-yards scoring run in the final frame, the Bulldogs’ 3-touchdowns fourth quarters would not have kept Hamilton from taking its seemingly-ordained spot in the district finals this week.

“We were able to extend the lead before getting some younger kids in,” Obert reflected on the superfluous narrowing of the final margin of victory.

Statistically, Morrow’s pair of nearly-goal-line to goal-line runs propelled him to a game total of 281 rushing yards on 17 carries. Playing no small part in the room he had to run was the threat Ross provided with his legs, netting 112 yards on his own 17 runs. Hamilton racked up just over 450 ground yards. The teams combined for barely 30 yards through the air.

On defense. Henderson’s early defensive heroics, which helped turn the tide the Hornets’ way, were part of an overall very strong day he had there. He led PHS with 12 tackles, eight of them unassisted.

Ross had seven stops – five solo, while Jared Potts and Morrow were in on six each – half of them solo and three of the 12 for SHHS lost yardage. Lineman Fisher Nixdorf contributed a handful of stops, two for losses, and freshman Clay Finch was in on six tackles.

“Playing a tough South Harrison team that is very talented, I thought out kids did an excellent job stepping up to the challenge,” praised the Hamilton head coach.

Marceline 55, Fayette 20

MARCELINE — Class 1 District 6 top seed and lopsided favorite Marceline will rematch with 56-8 regular-season-finale victim Harrisburg this Friday following the Tigers’ 5-scores dispatching of another Lewis and Clark Conference member in the semifinals last Friday.

MHS’ “Black Rage” defense took the ball away from the Falcons seven times – the same number of takeaways it had against visiting Harrisburg two weeks before, while the diversified offense was running for 300 yards and passing for about 145.

Junior quarterback Jacob Stallo hit on 15 of his 19 passes with three producing points. Hunter Nelson had 115 rushing yards and shared the team tackling lead with Brendon Catron and Wyatt Molloy, MHS coach Mark Ross reports.

The Marceline defense also put points on the board via Nathan Cupp’s fumble recovery and touchdown. Jack McCauslin had two interceptions and Cupp one.

“We are proud of the way the boys played,” stated Ross. “The defense was great all night.”

Senior defensive tackle Hunter Sanders of the Brookfield High School football Bulldogs, seen here forcing Marceline ballcarrier Wyatt Molloy back to the inside on a sweep during the Sept. 4, 2020, "Bell Game" at Marceline, sacked Kansas City: St. Pius X quarterback Jack Mosh and forced a fumble which teammate Trent Polley recovered at the BHS 31 late in the first quarter of last Friday's Class 2 District 8 semifinal game at Kansas City. On the next play, BHS's Jaden Abongo scored on a 69-yards pass play, pulling the Bulldogs within 7-6 of the favored and top-seeded undefeated KC team. Brookfield kept the outcome in doubt until virtually the final seconds, but suffered a season-ending 20-6 defeat, concluding its campaign with a 5-5 record.

KC: St. Pius X 20, Brookfield 6

KANSAS CITY — Although their season ended, Brookfield’s Bulldogs (5-5) went out with an impressive performance on the artificial-turf home field of the undefeated Midland Empire Conference champion St. Pius X Warriors.

After a SPX touchdown run of about 10 yards capped the hosts’ first possession, the Warriors had the ball inside the BHS 40 on its next series when Bulldogs senior defensive tackle Hunter Sanders beat a “trap” block and got to the quarterback quickly before he could get very far on his planned rollout to the right side. As he wrapped him up for the sack, Sanders and the ’Dogs got an unexpected bonus when the ball came loose. Linebacker Trent Polley dove on it at the BHS 31.

Looking to seize on the momentum that takeaway gave their team, the Brookfield coaching staff dialed up a “gadget” play to start the ensuing possession. It worked so well, it wound up ending the possession, as well.

Senior reserve quarterback Carsen Beckman was inserted and lined up as a slotback on the right side. Going in motion to his left – his throwing-arm side – toward the short side of the field – the BHS sideline, he took quarterback Derek Liebhart’s toss deep behind the line of scrimmage and immediately shifted the ball in his grip while slowing down.

With the Brookfield sideline close by yelling that no defender had gone with left end Jaden Abongo as he headed upfield, Beckman lofted an on-target throw that – with no defender within 20 yards of him – junior Abongo could afford to slow slightly to make sure he caught at about the SPX 25 and still be able to lope into the end zone unfettered.

The 69-yards touchdown brought Brookfield within 7-6 in the late minutes of the first quarter, but when St. Pius X clamped down immediately on the conversion-attempt inside run, the Bulldogs stayed behind.

Although their defense limited SPX to a short, late first-half touchdown pass to star wide receiver David Deters and a second Robbie Sharp touchdown run on the opening possession of the third quarter, the Bulldogs never scored again.

Down by 14, they did threaten to make it a 1-score game again late in the third period, but, on an inside run from the Warriors’ 9, the ball was knocked free from the BHS ballcarrier at the 5 and recovered by the home team at the 2.

“I am very proud of the way our guys played and fought all game Friday,” Scott Stevens, fourth-year head coach at Brookfield, reflected.

“This is a really special group of kids that worked hard every day. These seniors showed great leadership all year and did a great job of putting their stamp on this Brookfield football team.”

After having only five combined victories the prior three years, BHS’s senior-heavy squad finished this season 5-5.

Mid-Buchanan 55, Polo 6

WILLOW BROOK — No specifics on the PHS Panthers’ season finale were reported, but they were able to avoid being shut out by the unbeaten and state-top-ranked Dragons at the rural Buchanan County school south of St. Joseph.

After avenging their season-opening loss to Plattsburg to advance to the Class 1 District 8 semifinals a week earlier, Polo completed its 2020 season 3-8 following winless 2018 and 2019 campaigns.