Chillicothe (Mo.) HS Football Hornets Fall to SPX 31-6 in District Final

Chillicothe finishes 2021 season 8-4. St. Pius X moves on to state play at 10-1

Paul Sturm
Chillicothe News
Chillicothe High School senior defensive end Cameron Fleener forces a fumble by scrambling Kansas City: St. Pius X quarterback Jack Mosh late in the first half of Friday's (Nov. 12, 2021) Missouri Class 3 District 8 playoffs title game at Kansas City. The ball ended up going out of bounds, aloowing SPX a chance to kick a 26-yards field goal with two seconds remaining for a 10-6 intermission lead. St. Pius X went on to win, 31-6.

By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Carrying no negative baggage from being routed at home at midseason by Friday night’s Class 3 District 8 championship-game foe, the Chillicothe High School football Hornets scored first, trailed only 10-6 at halftime, and had the potential to reclaim the lead on their first possession of the second half.

When the Hornets – having stopped Kansas City: St. Pius X on the opening series of the second half – could not sustain a drive either, the host Warriors seized on excellent field position after CHS’ short punt into the cold, north wind to quickly extend their advantage to 11 points, setting them on the path to an eventual 31-6 triumph and a spot in the state quarterfinals.

While Midland Empire Conference champion SPX (10-1) advances, Chillicothe – after 5-consecutive wins, concludes the first season of head coach Chad Smith’s tenure with an 8-4 record.

Not only did the Hornets suffer the loss, but also suffered multiple injuries, the most significant of which seemed likely to be a leg injury afflicting junior end/defensive back Max Wagers, on the last play of the first half after he’d been a significant factor in the Hornets’ successes of the that half.

M. Wagers already was filling in defensively for senior Braxten Johnson, who suffered a leg injury in the first half of the previous game and was not sufficiently recovered to play in what became the Hornets’ finale.

Having exited for a while earlier in the district final, but returning before halftime, was running back/safety Brock Miller. Departing in the fourth quarter seemingly with a possible concussion symptoms was starting quarterback/linebacker Gage Leamer, who sustained a very hard hit in the third quarter, as well.

Although the final margin was more than three scores and the final outcome seemed inevitable through much of the last quarter, the contest seemed more-competitive than that.

Despite the untimely absence of Johnson, Chillicothe’s best perimeter running threat, the Hornets successfully used a combination of inside and outside runs to move the ball very well its first two possessions of the game.

Although the first one ended with a lost fumble deep in SPX territory by one of the backs filling in for the small, but hard-nosed, Johnson, the second was among the more-monumental of recent Chillicothe vintage, considering the circumstances.

After the St. Pius X takeaway and its offense’s advance of the ball to across midfield, the CHS defense earned a stop that led to the home team punting to the Hornets’ 13.

The Chillicothe offense took over with 4:12 remaining in the first quarter. It remained on the artificial surface for the next 20 plays and more than 12 minutes.

Making a series of clutch third- and fourth-down plays to move the yardsticks, as well as picking up some nice gains that gave them second- or third-and-short chances, the Hornets moved inexorably closer and closer to the end zone and the game’s first points.

Eventually, four different times they executed plays they thought had or might have put the ball in the end zone. The first three times, the officiating crew disagreed, but finally a fourth-and-goal quarterback sneak by Ga. Leamer clearly reached paydirt 3:55 before halftime. With just under four minutes to go before halftime, Chillicothe led 6-0, although some of the momentum was lost when, for the third or fourth time this season, the CHS extra-point kick attempt was blocked.

Undercut by a St. Pius X safety, Chillicothe High School football Hornets junior running back Brock Miller lands just short of the Kansas City team's goal line after a 9-yards gain on a third-and-4 play in the second quarter of Friday's (Nov. 12, 2021) Missouri Class 3 District 8 championship game. Four plays later, quarterback Gage Leamer completed CHS' more than quarter-long, 20-plays, 87-yards touchdown drive with a sneak, giving the Hornets a 6-0 lead. The lead didn't hold as St. Pius X gained a 31-6 triumph.

nAs it was, the multiple delays in scoring the touchdown had the potential to become an advantage for Chillicothe, since it lessened the time available for St. Pius X’s offense to counter. However, the Warriors not only had time to score once, but twice, before intermission.

Two offensive snaps after Chillicothe seized the lead, the Warriors tied things and then took the lead. A short hitch-route pass to the offensive right side to big end Jayshawn Ross turned into a 63-yards catch-and-run touchdown play when the Hornets failed to make the initial tackle or slow the sophomore long enough for help arrive.

When standout placekicker Joey Wilson booted the conversion through the uprights, Chillicothe found itself down 7-6 63 seconds after earning the lead.

Not only did allowing the rapid-response touchdown put the Hornets behind, it left SPX with 1:09 remaining in the half to try to add on after the Warriors’ defense held and forced another short punt into the wind.

Gaining the ball at their own 30, the hosts used a couple of quick pickups through the air and quarterback Jack Mosh’s 15-yards scramble to get inside the Hornets’ 20 with 20 seconds left.

There, the Chillicothe defense tightened and almost produced a points-denying turnover. However, a fumble forced on Mosh’s scramble in the last 10 seconds and with SPX out of timeouts for the half, landed immediately in front of his foot, which struck it and propelled it forward and over the sideline about eight yards away.

Doing so, rather than remaining on the field of play where either CHS could have recovered or the clock would have run out with a SPX recovery, stopped the clock. That gave the Warriors a chance to send on Wilson for a 26-yards field goal with just less than two seconds to go in the half. That meant – inconsequentially, it turned out – a 10-6 St. Pius X lead at the break, rather than a 1-point game.

Following intermission, each team’s defense forced a punt, but the Warriors’ with-the-wind boot from near midfield put Chillicothe inside its own 15, while the Hornets’ against-the-wind from their 20, brought the home team’s offense back onto the field at the CHS 45.

With Chillicothe largely having blunted the SPX running game, the Warriors went to their polished passing game and, even with a first-play incompletion, added to their lead in three plays.

A 21-yards catch-and-run by Joshua Quintero was followed by a 24-yards touchdown strike to hime at the 6:33 mark of the third period. Even with Wilson’s kick, it still was a 2-touchdowns game with more than 1-1/2 quarters remaining.

However, the CHS offense – weakened by M. Wagers’ absence after the injury he suffered on the last play of the first half – could not reenergize. For a second time in the third quarter, it went three and out and, from inside its own 20, punted. Even its best kick of the night into the wind – a 36-yarder by Griff Bonderer – still gave SPX the ball close to midfield.

For a second-straight series, the Warriors needed only three plays to effectively put the game out of reach.

A defensive pass interference flag on CHS and an 18-yards catch-and-run brought the ball to the Hornets’ 32. From there, running back Robbie Sharp swept around left end and dashed up the Chillicothe sideline for the score. The second touchdown in less than 3-1/2 minutes and Wilson’s third extra-point kick left St. Pius X holding a 24-6 lead entering the last stanza.

Another Hornets punt and a couple of Warriors penalties during the return pushed the hosts back to their own 29 to begin their next series, but that proved of no consequence, other than delaying another SPX score a bit.

A Chillicothe major penalty and three double-digits runs put the ball in the Hornets’ end zone one last time on Shane Dorian’s 19-yards gallop with 7:57 remaining. Wilson tacked on the last point of the 31-6 final score.

With junior Bonderer subbing for the injured Ga. Leamer under center, Chillicothe picked up a couple of first downs after St. Pius X misfired on an onside-kick attempt. However, after advancing as far as the SPX 20, a sack and short run meant a turnover on downs with about 1:40 left. The Warriors knelt down with the ball three times and the Hornets’ coaches, accepting the inevitable, opted not to use the last two timeouts available.