Kirksville scored lots, but took pigskin loss to begin 2021

CHS’ home-opener foe Friday edged Hornets a year ago

Paul Sturm
Chillicothe News
Already having gained about 20 yards on a carry around right end, senior fullback Damarcus Kelow of the 2021 Chillicothe High School football Hornets prepares to use a stiff-arm to pick up a few more on a late-first-period run at Marshall Friday, Aug. 27. Kelow gained 106 rushing yards while playing only a half of CHS' 27-8 season-opening victory.

By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor

Knowing some tough sledding lie ahead with the start of Midland Empire Conference play the next week, the very-inexperienced 2020 Chillicothe High School football Hornets journeyed to Kirksville last year and twice took leads. Then, after they fell behind late in the third quarter, they answered with a long scoring drive to tie the game, only to see the Tigers pop a 67-yards touchdown run less than a minute later to claim a 27-21 victory.

That followed a 10-points KHS win over Macon as part of 3-0 and 4-1 starts for the Tigers, but they faded in the second half of the season, finishing 6-5.

With about half of their offensive starters back and junior Ike Danielson having stepped up to be the quarterback while last year’s effective starter Jaden Ballinger moved to slot back, Kirksville bolted to a 28-6 halftime lead at home against Macon in the 2021 opener last Friday, only to see its young secondary get torched multiple times by deep throws in the second half as Macon rallied to win, 42-41.

“We have to be better disciplined to not give those plays up,” said Kirksville second-year head coach Kevin Krietemeyer told Austin Miller of the Kirksville Daily Express after the defeat in which Macon’s talented returning quarterback and strong receiving group racked up over 360 air yards and five scores. “It comes down to eye discipline. We’ll be better next game.

“It’s a good loss for us. (Macon is) a good football team and we’ll be better next week.”

Obviously, Kirksville’s defensive backs won’t have to worry about defending over-the-top passes nearly as often when the Tigers visit Chillicothe this week. Whether the KHS defenders will have any better success keeping the scoreboard calm against a Hornets team which will run the ball at about the same percentage that Macon threw it could decide CHS’ 2021 home opener.

Because of that inversion in approach, Kirksville figures to tweak its defensive lineup and alignments, which likely could not produce worse points and yardage numbers than the scheme used against Macon.

“We will most likely see something totally different,” C. Smith predicts.

Even with its inexperienced team last year, Chillicothe ran the ball for 270 yards and averaged nearly five yards a pop as one ballcarrier (Cayden Potter) topped 100 yards and a second (Damarcus Kelow) was three feet short of triple digits. With an overhauled line that performed well at Marshall and backed by a strong cohort of backs, which might include Potter returning from a preseason injury, Chillicothe projects to have as much or more ground-game success this time around.

While the decisive 67-yards touchdown run by Kirksville’s Randon Baumgartner helped give the Tigers 275 rushing yards themselves in that game, a critical factor in tipping the scales the Tigers’ way was the Hornets’ three lost fumbles (out of six) and two interceptions (Kirksville had three turnovers itself). If CHS come close to repeating its zero-fumbles showing of last week’s win at Marshall this Friday, it figures to sustain drives and blunt some of the Kirksville offensive firepower.

Danielson threw for 317 yards and five TDs himself against Macon, with Baumgartner snaring six balls for 168 yards and three scores and Ballinger hauling in a 34-yards scoring strike.

Kirksville ran the ball well also with single setback Landon Yardley, who ran for 121 (including a 58-yards touchdown burst) against Chillicothe last year, posting 124 last week.

“I’m pretty pleased with how we played on offense overall,” Krietemeyer told the Kirksville paper.

“They run the spread and like to throw the ball downfield,” discloses CHS head coach Chad Smith. “They also will run ‘zone read’ running plays (with Yardley and Danielson) and like to pull a guard and tackle on shotgun counter plays.”

The Hornets’ defense was very good against Marshall last week until leg cramps felled multiple first-stringers in quick succession in the third and fourth quarters. However, Marshall’s attack was largely 1-dimensional, attempting only five passes. Against the far-more-diverse and effective Kirksville attack, Chillicothe will be strongly tested, especially its pass defense, which looked shaky against Hallsville’s pass-oriented attack during a “jamboree” scrimmage two Fridays ago.

This Friday’s game on their home Bob Fairchild Field will be the first of four CHS appearances at Jerry Litton Memorial Stadium II in the next five games.

While it means relatively little right now, Chillicothe’s victory over Class 4 Marshall in week one puts it atop the first standings/ratings in Class 3 District 8, via the benefit of the “bonus” points for playing the larger-classification school.

The only other district teams to win in the season’s opening week were fellow MEC members Kansas City: St. Pius X and Cameron, each of which downed a Class 3 school