Chillicothe (Mo.) Gridders Grind Up East’s Bears 62-0

Runaway in KC develops as expected for Hornets’ fifth victory; Benton next for CHS

Paul Sturm
Chillicothe News
Used at fullback for the first time in several games as he nursed an injured ankle, Damarcus Kelow, left, gallops along the Chillicothe (Mo.) HS football Hornets sideline on a 46-yards run to the Kansas City: East 4-yard line in the second period of CHS' 62-0 non-conference road victory Friday, Oct. 15, 2021. Kelow carried in for a touhdown on the next play.

By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Little intrigue was expected from the Chillicothe (Mo.) High football Hornets’ first-ever visit to Kansas City’s East High School Friday. None developed either.

On a beautiful, but crisp, evening with the KC downtown skyline silhouetted against the late-evening sky over the trees to the west, Chillicothe cruised into the end zone on each of its first eight possessions and mixed in its third punt runback for six points this season, while its defense denied winless East’s Bears any first downs until the final six minutes of the game in what mercifully ended in just over two hours as a 62-0 CHS non-conference triumph.

Summarized CHS head coach Chad Smith after the game, “I felt like the boys really worked hard (in practice) this week and, even though we had a (opponent) that had the record they have, came out and took care of business and played very well.

“A lot of mistake-free football.”

Chillicothe (5-3, 2-3 conf.) will close out its regular season and officially sew up the second seeding for the upcoming 7-teams Class 3 District 8 playoffs next Friday when it hosts Midland Empire Conference foe St. Joseph: Benton (***).

The district playoffs will open Oct. 29 with the Hornets hosting that game.

“They’ll always come out and fight you,” the CHS head coach said of the 1-7 Cardinals. “They’re going to come out hard, play hard.

“Their record doesn’t mean they don’t have good football players. We have to make sure we have a good week of practice and come out ready to go.”

Chillicothe's game with East (0-7) projected as one-sided and lived up to that advance estimation.

After holding on three downs on the game’s first series, CHS’ punt return unit produced its first of two big plays. Tall senior lineman Cameron Fleener, who later got a chance to carry the ball a few times in the second half, got just enough penetration to block the attempted EHS punt, giving the Hornets’ offense its initial possession at the East 32-yard line.

Senior fullback Damarcus Kelow, his long-injured ankle apparently improved enough for him to return to that role after starting the last couple of games at tight end, carried the ball for 11 yards each on the first two CHS offensive snaps to make it quickly a first-and-goal situation.

A few plays later, senior halfback Braxten Johnson took a handoff and followed the barely-resisted surge of the linemen in front of him into the end zone from seven yards away at the 8:42 mark of the first stanza.

With sophomore placekicker James Mathew flawlessly kicking the extra point after each of them, Chillicothe went on to post four first- and four second-period touchdowns as it took a 56-0 lead to the intermission locker room.

After a successful East punt following the Bears’ second offensive series, CHS junior end Max Wagers easily galloped past the error-prone EHS secondary to gather in senior quarterback Gage Leamer’s long pass and outrun a single pursuing defender about the last 30 yards of a 69-yards touchdown pass.

The long hookup continued Wagers’ penchant for big-play receptions this season. He entered the contest averaging about 25 yards on his seven prior catches.

Another quick defensive stop by Chillicothe and punt by East was followed by a EHS offside penalty and then, from the CHS 51, a halfback option pass thrown by Brock Miller to an uncovered Griff Bonderer for a third Hornets touchdown within the game’s first seven minutes and 21-0 lead.

Having caught a halfback-option pass from classmate Brock Miller, junior end Griff Bonderer of the 2021 Chillicothe (Mo.) HS football Hornets crosses the goal line ahead of a Kansas City: East defensive back to complete a 51-yards scoring play in the first quarter of CHS' Friday, Oct. 15, 62-0 non-conference road victory.

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“It was a good opportunity for us to fine-tune some things and do some things we haven’t done in a game (setting) this season,” C. Smith said of the rare play call.

Already well behind, East gambled on a fourth-and-1 conversion at its own 37 on the ensuing possession, but several Hornets zeroed in on quarterback Yannick Deoutar’s right-side run and held him to no gain.

Five CHS offensive plays later, Corbin Rodenberg became the fourth Hornet to find the end zone in the first frame, going in standing up on a straightahead run from the fullback’s spot in a “I” formation set. Mathew’s latest conversion kick made it 28-0 54 seconds before the opening period was terminated.

For a change of pace, the visitors didn’t wait for their offense to get the second-stanza scoring started.

Having nearly intercepted a pass with a chance for a long return on third down from the EHS 5, Braxten Johnson gathered in East’s punt at the Bears’ 39 and, picking up several carefully-executed blocks, ran to his right toward the CHS bench and angled all the way to the promised land 56 seconds into the second segment.

In what might a season record for Chillicothe for most players with punt returns for TDs, Johnson joined Griff Bonderer and Javon Kille in having taken opponents’ kicks the distance in 2021.

Senior Braxten Johnson of the 2021 Chillicothe (Mo.) HS football Hornets angles toward the Kansas City: East end zone on a 39-yards touchdown return of a second-quarter punt in CHS' 62-0 non-conference road victory Friday, Oct. 15. Johnson, who already had run for a first-quarter touchdown, is the third Hornet to return a punt for a score this season.

A bit over three minutes later, a 4-plays drive from midfield concluded with Kelow getting into the scoring act.

Having not played on offense for several possessions after his early success, he took a toss sweep run around right end 46 yards to the EHS 4 and strolled in untouched off right tackle on the next play, making it 42-zip.

Another quick 3-and-out by the Bears and a 25-yards punt return by Bryce Dominique to the East 29 set the stage for a 3-plays touchdown sequence. Cayden Potter runs of 17, two and 10 yards – the last another uncontested jaunt off right tackle – tacked on seven more points with still 4:40 left in the half.

Not surprisingly by this juncture, East failed to secure a first down, again having a Deoutar fourth-down, short-yardage attempted sniffed out immediately and stuffed for a 3-yards loss, courtesy of blitzing linebacker Ga. Leamer.

Taking possession on the East 36, Chillicothe picked up four yards with Miller carrying, then gave the ball to junior Potter, who run off right tackle once more allowed him to score – this time from 32 yards away – without any defender laying a finger on him. With 1:21 on the clock until intermission, Mathew’s eighth conversion kick split the uprights for a 56-0 Chillicothe spread at halftime.

Receiving the opening kickoff of the second half with the “running clock” already in use, Chillicothe ran several plays with its No. 1 unit before sending backup quarterback Bonderer on to replace Ga. Leamer. As the line stayed intact in front of an all reserves set of ballcarriers, the football kept steadily edging closer and closer to the East goal line.

Eventually, on the 13th play of the possession – and last of the third quarter, Fleener’s third-straight run left the ball at the EHS 9 to begin the fourth period, the host Bears having not gotten their offense on the field the entire third period.

On a second-and-goal play on the second snap of the final frame, sophomore running back Lucas Heldenbrand carried the ball right up the middle behind an all-reserves line for a 5-yards touchdown that advanced the CHS lead to 62-0. The Hornets then intentionally took a knee on the point-after attempt with 11:01 to go in the game.

After East fumbled on its ensuing kickoff return with Kolby Wagers coming away with the ball, the hosts’ offense still didn’t get on the field until after Chillicothe ran four more plays without getting first-down yardage.

At the 6:35 mark of the fourth, the East offense made its first appearance of the last half, getting the ball at its own 38.

On a third-and-4 play, Deoutar gained just enough for the officials to signal they’d produced their initial first down of the night.

They added another with back-to-back 9-yards runs, but, on third-and-4 from the Chillicothe 33, a deep pass up the right side was underthrown, landing right in the chest of sophomore deep-reserve cornerback Lane Nickell. Although he was hit and fumbled after making the pickoff, the ball went right to teammate Ricky Wilson. With under a minute remaining on the accelerated clock, Chillicothe had cemented its shutout.

Statistically, the Hornets put up 63 points without having anyone run or pass for at least 100 yards. Early stats analysis indicated Potter rushed for a team-most 82 yards and Kelow – lugging the ball only four times – had 72 more.

CHS did not commit any turnovers, while its reserves took the ball away twice.