Chillicothe (Mo.) HS FB Hornets Barely Hang On, 19-13, at Savannah

Need last-minute stop near midfield after leading 19-0 in final minute of third quarter. Improve to 4-3

Paul Sturm
Chillicothe News
Having received a very strong drive block from tackle Cameron Fleener (78), pushing his man back into the end zone and to the ground, and lead blocks from fellow backs Cayden Potter (33, right) and Silas Midgyett (not seen), Chillicothe (Mo.) HS football Hornets ballcarrier Corbin Rodenberg charges toward the end zone on a 12-yards touchdown run late in the third quarter of Friday's game at Savannah. The touchdown, which made it 19-0, ultimately proved to be the difference in a key 19-13 Class 3 District 8 victory over the Savages Oct. 8, 2021.

By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor

SAVANNAH, Mo. — A nearly-successful Chillicothe (Mo.) HS football Hornets goal-line stand which nevertheless drained two later-valuable minutes off the clock early in the fourth quarter and a decisive final-minute blitz sack by linebacker Gage Leamer on a fourth-and-2 Savannah play from the CHS 35 saved the Hornets from a costly and disturbing second-half collapse Friday night, allowing Chillicothe to slip out of Savannah with a 19-13 Midland Empire Conference triumph which virtually cements the Hornets into the No. 2 spot in the final Class 3 District 7 postseason seedings.

With the game’s winner effectively assured of the district’s second seeding behind Kansas City: St. Pius X by dint of the head-to-head decision, Chillicothe (4-3, 2-2 conf.) built a 13-0 lead in the first quarter and increased it to 19-0 with merely 1:53 to play in the third quarter on Corbin Rodenberg’s 12-yards cut-up dash around the left side.

However, a 42-yards catch-and-run by the host Savages’ Heisman LaFave 13 ticks before time expired in the third stanza sparked a SHS surge which, in the final couple of minutes, looked destined to snatch the game away from the guests.

When reserve quarterback Matt Collier just barely got across the goal line on a 4-yards option keeper with 8:11 to go in the contest and the extra-point kick was good, the 3-scores CHS lead was down to six points. However, Collier’s touchdown came on Savannah’s eighth snap after the Savages recovered a CHS fumble at the Hornets’ 15. The slightly-over two minutes those eight plays took off the clock loomed large when the Savages regained possession via punt at their 19 with 3:09 to go, rather than 60 or more additional seconds a quicker cash-in after the turnover would have afforded.

While it turned out Chillicothe’s defense was able to hold Savannah on downs with still nearly a minute remaining, had the Savages converted on its fourth-down play from the 35, they’d still have needed to traverse about 30 yards without a timeout in the final minute – doable, but not at all likely.

Also critical in tightening the time frame for Savannah’s last-gasp series was an extra-effort play Chillicothe seniors Ga. Leamer and Damarcus Kelow combined on following Collier’s TD.

With a third-and-4 situation at their own 43, the Hornets called a rollout pass to the right, but both of quarterback Ga. Leamer’s downfield options were relatively-well covered. However, just about the time it looked like he might have to throw the ball away or absorb a sack, he either saw or heard tight end Damarcus Kelow only about five yards away and flipped the ball forward to him.

Kelow, 1,300-yards-plus rusher last year, but effectively forced out of the backfield in recent weeks by a lingering injury, caught the ball still a couple of yards shy of the first-down marker, but the 215-pounder carried two or three Savages forward for an eventual 6-yards pickup that gave CHS a new set of downs.

Spotting tight end Dmarcus Kelow (10) just he pushes away a would-be Savannah  Savages tackler on a rollout play, Chillicothe (Mo.) HS football Hornets senior quarterback Gage Leamer cocks his arm to throw a pass Kelow caught and, with a strong run, turned into a gain sufficient for a key first down late in CHS' 19-13  win at Savannah Friday, Oct. 8, 2021. As a linebacker, Leamer later sacked the SHS quarterback on a fourth-down play near midfield to sew up the important Class 3 District 8 victory.

With each of the four subsequent snaps being either runs or a complete pass (one of the four plays was a would-be double-digits gain by Rodenberg which was wiped out by a holding penalty), the clock kept moving until finally permitting SHS barely three minutes to pull out the win with a march nearly the length of the field.

Although they broke a run for 22 yards to their own 47 to improve their chances, the Savages soon ran out of chances and dropped to 3-4 on the season (2-2 MEC).The uncertainty of the final minutes didn’t seem likely when Chillicothe scored touchdowns on its first two possessions.

Moving from their own 29 in seven plays, the Hornets grabbed the early upper hand on freshman Silas Midgyett’s 12-yards run and James Mathew’s conversion kick with 7:52 on the first-quarter clock.

They added on with Cayden Potter’s 1-yard score with 3:40 left in that same period. The second CHS TD came on the fifth play of a 29-yards possession set up by sophomore Javon Kille’s approximately 50-yards punt return.

After returning a first-period punt about 50 yards deep into Savannah Savages territory, Chillicothe (Mo.) HS football Hornets sophomore Javon Kille loses the ball as he's being tackled. Fortunately for CHS, senior lineman Cameron Fleener (78) is right there to fall on the ball. A few plays later, CHillicothe scored its second touchdown to take a 13-0 lead on its way to an important 19-13 Class 3 District 8 triumph Friday, Oct. 8, 2021

When Kille’s interception at the SHS 29 and return – partially diminished by a holding call during the runback - to the 15 (Kille actually got into the end zone, but the unnecessary infraction negated the TD) turned into a third CHS score and 19-points lead (conversion kick was blocked), the visitors – deceptively, it ultimately proved – seemed to be home free.

Chillicothe will be on the road again next weekend, this time for non-confeerence play.

It will visit Class 4 Kansas City: East (0-6). East has been outscored 254-7 thus far this season.