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Southwest Livingston Football Home Run to Continue

Wildcats repeat district-finals win over North Shelby Friday, 34-22, to set up state semifinal at Ludlow against Drexel/Miami this coming Friday night (Nov. 20, 2020)

Paul Sturm
Chillicothe News
Southwest Livingston High School Wildcats senior end/cornerback Parker Keeney gathers in a Wes Hughes deep down field in the fourth quarter of SLHS’ 34-22 8-man football District 2 championship-game home win over North Shelby this past Friday. Keeney caught six passes for 87 yards and two touchdowns on offense and participated in 15 tackles on defense as the Wildcats advanced to the state semifinals for a second-straight year. They’ll host Drexel/Amoret: Miami at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 20.
  • Southwest assured of playing all postseason games in home county
  • After surrendering touchdown in first 3:15, Wildcats scored next 34 in last Friday's district final
  • SLHS senior QB Wes Hughes ran for 232 yards, three TDs, threw for two more scores

LUDLOW — Just as it worked out for them in 2019, the Southwest Livingston Wildcats’ path to a potential 2020 state-championship-game appearance won’t extend any farther than about 100 yards out their back door.

Last year’s 8-man high school football state runnersup earned the chance to play for a return to the title game this season last Friday night with a surprisingly-low-scoring 34-22 repeat triumph over North Shelby in the District 2 title contest at the Ludlow school’s field.

When paired with Drexel/Amoret: Miami’s 49-40 decision over Archie in the District 1 final the same night, SLHS became the host of this Friday night’s state-semifinal game against the Bobcats. Since Drexel/Miami (11-1) and Southwest (10-1) were their respective districts’ No. 1 seed and have played only at home thus far, the right to host the semifinal hinged on SLHS – utilizing students from not only Southwest Livingston, but also neighboring Hale and Tina-Avalon high schools – being the even-numbered district’s representative in an even-numbered year.

If the Wildcats prevail this Friday’s 7 p.m. battle (assuming no COVID-19 complications), they’ll complete their fuel-saving trek to the 8-man state-championship contest without having exited their home county. The title game will be played at Chillicothe’s Jerry Litton Memorial Stadium II Saturday, Nov. 28, at 1 p.m.

With time in the fourth quarter running short and his team protecting a 34-22 lead, Southwest Livingston High School football Wildcats defensive lineman Jaeden Sears prevents North Shelby Raiders quarterback Cale Stoneburner from releasing a desperation pass from deep in NSHS territory. Sears, one of the Hale R-1 High students on the SLHS squad, finished the game with 19 tackles, including four for losses, three sacks, and two forced fumbles. Southwest Livingston earned the right to host next Friday's (Nov. 20, 2020) Missouri 8-man state-semifinal game against Drexel/Amoret: Miami with its second-consecutive district-finals home win over North Shelby.

While its official won-lost record this season is 11-1, Drexel/Miami’s co-op club has not lost on the field itself.

With the cloud of the novel coronavirus menacing the prospects of a complete season or even a second week of it, late in the game at Concordia which the visiting Bobcats led by a wide margin, their head coach elected to insert a senior player who had not yet (but soon would be) ruled eligible to play for the Drexel/Miami team. The player, who has ended up playing little, had been forced to move from Adrian to the Miami district when his family’s home burned during the 2019-20 school year.

Because the Missouri State High School Activities Association had not yet acted upon the player’s request for a waiver of the association’s rule making a player who did not transfer under its limited explicit exceptions ineligible for 12 months from the time of his/her transfer, he technically was not eligible to play for Drexel/Miami, even though indications had been given that approval of the waiver request would be but a formality (which, within a short time after the Bobcats’ game with Concordia, it became.

However, because of the uncertainty of whether the public health crisis would allow even a second week of high school football games to be played this fall, Drexel/Miami head coach Philip Dean explained in a published story in September, with the Bobcats ahead 55-20 in the final few minutes, the coach utilized the player for six plays, so that – if no further games happened – the player at least would have participated in a game in his senior season.

Having received an informal indication from a MSHSAA representative prior to doing so that only he – not the player nor team – would face any repercussion from the humanitarian move, Dean and the Drexel school district self-reported the use of the ineligible player to the association. After initially responding with a notice that Dean would be suspended from coaching the first quarter of the next game, MSHSAA subsequently – even after declaring the player in question eligible – altered its official decision, both disciplining Dean and also declaring that the use of the ineligible player required forfeiture of the victory over Concordia.

Aside from that, Drexel/Miami has won every time out, including six times by shutout. Along the way, with an assist from COVID-19, it played two teams which Southwest Livingston ultimately squared off against, as well.

One is the aforementioned Concordia Fighting Orioles, who wound up being the Wildcats’ district-semifinals opponent two Fridays ago. Southwest Livingston overwhelmed Concordia 88-22.

The other is Jasper, which Southwest visited for a Saturday game in early October when both its and Jasper’s planned foes were unable to play, due to the virus.

The Wildcats rolled up an 84-36 victory over Eagles, who then lost to Drexel/Miami 63-26 a week later and by a 50-0 count in a rematch two weeks ago.

In terms of personnel and statistics, Drexel/Miami – about 2-1/2 hours distant from Ludlow – has an almost-exclusively run-oriented offense, having thrown for a mere 520 yards in 11 games, according to an online listing.

Its top runner is 6’1”, 175-pounds sophomore Jacob Coffey, who is less than 30 yards shy of 2,000 for the year. He averages more than nine yards per carry and has scored 42 touchdowns.

Also a definite threat is 6’1”, 180-pounds junior Cory Cumpton, who essentially has 1,000 rushing yards and a 10-yards-per-carry average. Senior quarterback Ethan Irvin has rushed for another 650 yards.

Defensively, the Bobcats’ top tackler is Coffey, as well, with 149 from his outside linebacker post. He is listed with 96 solo stops and 27 for losses. He has a team-high eight sacks and has recovered four fumbles, in addition to forcing five.

Irvin is a ballhawk in the secondary with seven interceptions and senior cornerback Brayden Law a team-best five fumble recoveries. Senior defensive end Gage Sanders (6’1”, 200) has been in on 95 tackles and Cumpton 85, according to the online stats listing. 

"I have a ton of respect for Coach Dean," SLHS second-year head coach Oren Magruder told the C-T prior to the start of his team's postseason play. "He’s a very good guy and cares about his kids.

"I know they will play hard and they have a very fast team. Their running back (Coffey) is one of the best in the state and will challenge our defense."

The Bobcats have averaged scoring about 51 points per game, but the Wildcats are tops in the state at in excess of 65, even with multiple games ended after only one half. However, Drexel/Miami has surrendered less than 10 points a game on average, a super-impressive total for 8-man ball. Opponents have scored almost 29 per contest on Southwest Livingston.

Southwest Livingston High School football Wildcats senior quarterback Wesley Hughes directs traffic downfield as he rolls out to his right on a second-quarter play against visiting North Shelby in the teams' Friday, Nov. 13, 2020, 8-man DIstrict 2 championship game at Ludlow. The quarterback ended up keeping the ball and gaining some yardage as part of the WIldcats' run of 34 unanswered points from the first through third periods of the game they won 34-22.

In defeating North Shelby in the district final for a second-straight year last Friday, Southwest Livingston put up the last 26 points of the first half and the first eight after intermission before fending off any North Shelby comeback hopes rather handily.

After the visiting Raiders scored a touchdown on a shovel pass covering about 25 yards on their opening possession, the SLHS defense shut them out until the final minute of the third quarter.

By then, the Wildcats' attack had posted five unanswered touchdowns – alternating three scoring runs by senior quarterback Wes Hughes with a pair of his scoring strikes to senior Parker Keeney of about 10 and 20 yards, respectively – as the hosts built a 34-6 lead.

North Shelby, with only one senior on its player roster to face the senior-laden Wildcats, scored a third time with about 3:20 remaining to cut its deficit to 12 points, but it was too little, too late.

“The lines of scrimmage were awesome on both sides of the ball,” Southwest Livingston second-year head coach Oren Magruder commented to the C-T.

“Matt Kelchen, Morgan Anderson, and Owen Oesch did a great job blocking all night. On defense, Morgan Anderson, Jaeden Sears, Owen Oesch, and Glen Holt did a phenomenal job of keeping them boxed in and getting penetration to allow Patrick to run around and make tackles.”

Southwest Livingston High School Wildcats senior Hunter Colliver chases scrambling North Shelby quarterback Cale Stoneburner out of bounds in the fourth quarter of this past Friday’s 34-22 Southwest win in the 8-man football District 2 championship game at Ludlow.

Statistically, We. Hughes ran the ball 34 times for 232 yards and completed 12 of 23 passes for 165 more yards, although he was intercepted twice.

Senior linebacker Patrick Warren and defensive lineman Jaeden Sears each were credited with being in on 19 tackles, with Sears making four of them behind the line of scrimmage, including three sacks. He also forced two fumbles.

Morgan Anderson had three tackles for loss and a sack shared with Warren among his eight stops, while sophomore Glen Holt had nine tackles, two for lost yardage.  Junior defensive lineman Owen Oesch chipped in another two tackles for loss.

Senior cornerback Keeney had 87 yards and the two scores on his six catches and was in on 15 tackles defensively.