Rushing Record, Defense’s Second-Half Reversal Key Chillicothe (Mo.) HS’ 50-21 Grid Win

On ‘Senior Night,’ senior Johnson becomes fifth Hornets ballcarrier with triple-digits ’21 game; ‘D’ blanks Benton after intermission

Paul Sturm
Chillicothe News
Thanks to teammates' blocking, Chillicothe (Mo.) HS senior running back Braxten Johnson finds a narrow lane up the left sidelie for a 42-yards touchdown run i the final 30 esconds of the third quarter of Friday's (Oct. 22) 50-21 home win over St. Joseph: Benton. Johnson rushed for a career-high 172 yards and two scores and became the fifth different Hornet to have at least 100 rushing yards in a game this season, a new team record, apparently.

nullBy PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor

On “Senior Night,” one of eight 2021 Chillicothe (Mo.) High School football Hornets ran wild to establish a new team record and the club’s defense stiffened after intermission Friday night (Oct. 22) as CHS wrapped up its regular season with a 50-21 Midland Empire Conference verdict over visiting St. Joseph: Benton.

Chillicothe (6-3, 3-3 conf.) will start Class 3 postseason action at home next Friday, hosting Kansas City: Central (1-8) at 7 p.m. As District 8’s No. 2 seed behind Kansas City: St. Pius X, the Hornets will have the right to host its Nov. 6 district-semifinal contest, as well, if it disposes of Central.

The host Hornets’ third-consecutive victory, while expected, looked anything but certain at halftime.

Pierced by a big-play Benton passing attack that featured a highly-successful gimmick play and multiple third- and fourth-down-and-long conversions, Chillicothe headed to the locker room in a 21-21 deadlock.

However, sparked by a Braxten Johnson-led, diversified running game that unofficially finished the night with over 400 yards gained and a defensive turnaround which prevented the guest Cardinals from scoring any more, the Hornets ended the evening pulling away, scoring two touchdowns in each of the last two periods.

The record-setting was a further validation of what was perceived as a team strength – depth and breadth of ballcarrying talent – entering the 2021 campaign.

After having 49 yards in the opening half, senior halfback Johnson tacked on 127 more, including two touchdown treks, in the last half to post a team season-best 176 yards carrying the ball. Although averaging virtually five yards a tote through eight games, he entered Friday’s action with only 182 total rushing yards and two scores, numbers he effectively doubled in one evening.

In handily reaching triple figures by having half of his dozen attempts produce double-digits gains, including second-half jaunts of 43 and 39 yards, Johnson became the fifth 2021 Hornet to reach the milepost level of 100 or more yards in a game. Previously, it had been accomplished by Damarcus Kelow, Cayden Potter, Silas Midgyett and Corbin Rodenberg.

This year’s team thus became, as best as can be determined from records compiled and research by local sports media member Randy Dean, the first CHS squad to have a handful of backs carry to reach or surpass the century mark in a season.

A C-T check of Dean’s records listings – many gleaned from examination of C-T accounts of the team’s play through the years – found three prior seasons when four Hornets had hit the mark –

2002 (Cody Denton, Jerald Potter (Cayden’s father), Jon Lindley, T.J. Midgyett (Silas’ cousin), 2004 (J. Potter, Clint Macoubrie, Brent Christopher, and Michael Marriott), and 1987 (David and Tony White, Hamilton Trinidad, and Travis Clark).

Having seen Benton (1-8, 0-6 conf.) stunningly pull back into a tie – this time at 21-all  – on a 36-yards, alley-oop lob from quarterback Carson Newlon to big end Denver Domann on fourth-and-8 only 26 seconds before intermission, Chillicothe upped its game when it returned to Bob Fairchild Field following the mid-game break.

A long drive to begin the third quarter ended with a lost fumble inside the BHS 20, but, after the Hornets’ defense posted a takeover on downs at the Benton 14 when it halted a fake-punt run for a 5-yards loss, the offense had a very short field and didn’t squander the opportunity.

Four plays later, Johson scored from three yards away with 4:17 left on the third period and the dam had burst.

On the ensuing CHS series after Max Wagers’ interception inside the CHS 20, Johnson – obviously with significant edge blocking from his teammates – turned the corner of the left flank for gains of 11, 20 and 42 yards on consecutive plays, the last one reaching paydirt again for the contest’s first 2-scores spread, 35-21, 25 seconds before the third quarter ended.

In the fourth, Brock Miller caught a 4-yards touchdown pass from senior quarterback Gage Leamer on a fourth-down play and Damarcus Kelow, another 12th grader, barreled off right tackle and up the sideline for a 23-yards TD with 1:15 left. Junior placekicker James Mathew’s six conversion kicks extended his string of such successes to 14 over the two games.

Senior quarterback Gage Leamer of the 2021 Chillicothe High School football Hornets prepares to flip a 4-yards touchdown pass to Brock Miller on a fourth-down play in the fourth quarter of CHS'  50-21 home victory over St. Joseph: Benton Friday night at Jerry Litton Memorial Stadium.

Statistically, Chillicothe racked up 410 rushing yards on 56 attempts, while holding Benton to only 49. The Cardinals did throw for 247, though.

The contest was, for this season, unusually clean for the Hornets, in terms of penalties. Only two flags were enforced against them for a total of 20 yards.

Both teams had trouble with turnovers, however. CHS lost both of its fumbles and threw one interception, but the defense took the ball away from Benton six times. Defensive tackle Kelow joined cornerback Javon Kille, linebacker Rodenberg, and M. Wagers in having interceptions, while Johnson and Ga. Leamer fumble recoveries.