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Fast-Starting Southwest Livingston Dispatches Second-Straight High-Ranked Football Foe

Paul Sturm
On the game's first offensive play, Southwest Livingston Wildcats senior receiver Chase Neptune, having caught a crossing-route pass, outruns a diving South Holt/Nodaway-Holt Spartan defender's diving tackle attempt along the west sideline on his way to a 53-yards pickup. The Wildcats scored the contest's first touchdown a few plays later and, with a blazing start and dominant finish, advanced their record to 2-0 with a 70-36 Highway 275 Conference triumph in their 2020 home opener Friday, Sept. 4.

By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor

Largely owing to the giant shadow cast the past couple of years by 6’6” All-State quarterback Mack Anderson, his departure through graduation led to 2019 Missouri 8-man football state runnerup Southwest Livingston not getting the 2020 preseason “love” one might expect from a senior-heavy squad returning three All-State players and a half-dozen starters.

Perhaps utilizing that as motivation or just playing up to their experience and talent level and undeniably boosted by the return to the school after several years elsewhere of a senior player who earned Ma. Anderson’s old spot, the Wildcats quickly have loudly stated their case for being just as formidable this season as they were last.

Ranked fifth in a preseason poll of the burgeoning Missouri 8-man ranks – behind their week two foe South Holt/Nodaway-Holt, which barely played .500 ball in ’19, Southwest Livingston  on Friday (Sept. 4) followed their impressive, eye-opening 54-30 road win in the season opener at preseason No. 7 East Atchison with a 70-36 home blowout of SH/N-H’s Spartans. South Holt/Nodaway-Holt entered the action at the SLHS Field at Ludlow ranked No. 3 after shredding preseason No. 2 Worth County in week one, with Southwest Livingston one spot behind the Spartans.

Once Friday’s action began, however, the Wildcats were never behind their guests and, after only a handful of offensive plays, had them in their rearview mirror as they improved to 2-0 both overall and in the Highway 275 Conference.

In other week two play for the 10 area gridiron programs covered by the C-T, a surprising “Bell Game” blowout saw visiting Brookfield keep the bell, courtesy of a 42-7 thrashing of Marceline (see separate story).

Of the other six teams which had action – Keytesville/Mendon: Northwestern’s Thunder ended up with an open week when its scheduled foe (Chilhowee) decided in mid-August to not play the sport this fall, due to COVID-19 worries, only one – Hamilton: Penney – picked up a win. The Hornets needed one overtime to slip past Highway 13 archrival and neighbor Gallatin 32-26

Two of the remaining five – Carrollton and Polo – lost nailbiters, Carrollton 14-13 at Sweet Springs when the Trojans capped a last-minute drive with a touchdown on the final play of regulation time, only to have a pass attempt for a winning 2-points conversion be knocked away, and Polo 15-14 at Slater.

In other 8-man action besides Southwest Livingston’s, Braymer stayed within 7-0 of Concordia: St. Paul Lutheran through the first half, but eventually was defeated 35-16, while Norborne/Hardin-Central was dropping a 35-26 verdict to visiting Orrick, according to the Missouri State High School Activities Association football scoreboard page for week two.

Rounding out the area roster of scores, Trenton was shut out for a second-straight time, losing 35-0 at East Buchanan.

Despite a standing request, no individual statistics or details on the Braymer, Trenton, or Polo games were reported to the C-T.

Southwest Livingston 70, South Holt/Nodaway-Holt 36

LUDLOW — A 53-yards pass completion from Wes Hughes to Chase Neptune on the game’s first play from scrimmage set up Hughes’ 1-yard touchdown keeper four snaps later as the home team seized the lead for keeps.

After SH/N-H scored on its first series, but failed to convert – leaving Southwest still in front 8-6, the Wildcats – with the Neptune-Hughes duo shredding the Spartans’ pass defense repeatedly – reeled off five of the six touchdowns plus four conversions to claim a 46-18 lead with just under three minutes to go in the opening half. Neptune caught scoring strikes of 32 and 42 yards and Kayden Sturgeon, Patrick Warren, and Hughes ran for a score each in that stretch.

To its credit, South Holt/Nodaway-Holt parlayed scoring the last TD before halftime into 20 unanswered markers and, just past the mid-point of the third period, was within a score at 46-38. However, fueled by a gutsy call by its head coach Oren Magruder, Southwest Livingston got a tourniquet applied and then choked off the Spartans’ attack.

Ahead by only one score and facing a fourth-and-long inside its own 20-yard line with about three minutes to go in the third period, Magruder sought to defibrillate his sagging offense by going for a first down, rather than punt.

We. Hughes – a quick, but small, senior who has stepped into predecessor’s Ma. Anderson’s huge shoes nearly flawlessly after his family moved back into the R-1 school district after spending several years in Illinois – took the shotgun snap from Jaeden Sears, the All-Stater from Hale who had another sensational game on the defensive line, and arched a pass far up the left sideline where Parker Keeney was streaking just past his defender. Ball and receiver arrived at the same place at the same time and, as Keeney secured the catch and was immediately brought down, the Wildcats not only had a fresh set of downs, but fresh life, courtesy of a tide-turning 38-yards gain into SH/N-H territory.

Then, on a fourth-and-1, Hughes ran to the right side and went 21 yards to paydirt with exactly two minutes remaining in the third period, When he found Ethan Hoerr on a quick slant route from the right side on the conversion, the SLHS lead was doubled to 16 points and the Wildcats were on their way to posting the Highway 275 Conference game’s last 30 points. The closing kick included a second Warren scoring run (four yards), another 32-yards Hughes-to-Neptune hookup down the middle, and a 10-yards Hughes jaunt with 4:25 to play.

“Great team effort,” SLHS head coach Oren Magruder lauded his senior-laden team. Noting outstanding play by both of his lines, especially Sears and Owen Oesch on the offensive side, he declared, “We won the lines of scrimmage.”

Statistically, Southwest Livingston, even with its penalty-impacted, third-quarter lull, produced 344 air yards and 195 more on the turf. It also played turnover-free offense, while coming up with three takeaways – fumble recoveries by defensive lineman Glen Holt and Hunter Woodcock and Warren’s perfectly-timed second-quarter interception at about his own goal line.

While South Holt/Nodaway-Holt’s run-oriented attack did have some success, the Wildcats’ defense – led by Sears and his fellow linemates and a secondary that generally tackled well in space – had enough answers to allow the team’s offense to pull away.

Individually, We. Hughes and Neptune broke their week-old school records for passing and receiving yardage, according to their coach. Hughes completed 15 of 26 throws for 335 yards and Neptune’s dozen catches went for 24 yards and three scores. Hughes added 141 ground yards and four scores on 19 carries.

On defense, Sears recorded 10 tackles – five for loss  and three of them sacks, while Neptune had a team-topping 13 tackles. Cornerbacks Hoerr (11) and Keeney (10) both had double-digits stops, as did linebacker Warren. Lineman Owen Oesch had eight tackles, one behind the line. 

“We tackled well ‘in space,’ against the physically-larger Spartans backs, Magruder praised.

The unbeaten Southwest Livingston/Hale/Tina-Avalon co-op club will visit DeKalb/Union Star’s co-op team (0-2) next Friday before hosting Mound City in a league showdown and replay of last year’s state-championship game in week four. Based on their showings thus far, that could find them ranked 1-2 when it arrives.

Hamilton: Penney 32, Gallatin 26

GALLATIN — Having seen a pair of 2-touchdowns leads in the first half evaporate when they were shut out in the second half, the Hamilton: Penney Hornets had to watch a Gallatin extra-point kick attempt miss in the fourth quarter to preserve a 26-26 tie and eventually get to overtime.

Once in OT, the visitors held defensively, then surprised the Bulldogs’ “D” with an all-juniors 25-yards scoring pass to Nate Wyckoff from Tucker Ross for the winning touchdown on the initial snap.

“It nearly was intercepted, but fell into our receiver’s hands,” Penney head coach Caleb Obert admitted.

That was Ross’ and Wyckoff’s second TD hookup of the contest, having combined on a 5-yarder in the waning seconds of the first half to lead 26-14 at the break.

The teams traded first-frame scores with Gallatin answering Andrew Rich’s 11-yards scoring jaunt. Ross’ 61-yards dash and Sawyer Morrow’s PAT kick 3-1/2 minutes into the second quarter restored Hamilton’s lead and, with only 92 seconds left in the half, Ross picked off a Bulldogs aerial and ran it back 70 yards to the end zone. Morrow’s kick made it 20-6.

The clubs then swapped TDs in those remaining 90 seconds to keep it a 2-scores game heading to the second half.

“We took advantage of some good field position early to put points on the board,” Obert detailed. “Our defense played very well in the first half minus a couple big pass plays.”

Statistically, the teams had similar success with contrasting approaches. According to Hamilton statistician, Gallatin out-gained the Hornets 362-324 with Hamilton (1-1) rushing for 244 yards and the home team throwing for 274.

”A great game to be a part of,” Obert commented Sunday.

Hamilton: Penney now enters KCI Conference play this coming week with a third-straight road outing. It will visit North Platte (0-2).

Sweet Springs 14, Carrollton 13

SWEET SPRINGS — Blanked for 3-1/2 periods, the visiting CHS Trojans suddenly found offensive life, moving down the field to tie the game at 7-7 with a few minutes left.

Sweet Springs responded with a scoring march, leaving Carrollton with less than 45 seconds to try to tie or win. The Trojans came ever so close to doing just that.

According to head coach Scott Finley, his team moved the ball well over half the length of the field before finding the end zone as the last seconds ticked off. Within a point and with a usually-reliable kicking game, Finley could have tried to ride the momentum into overtime, but instead went for the regulation-time triumph. When a SSHS linebacker reacted well to the pass call and deflected the throw away from its intended target, Carrollton unexpectedly had started 2020 0-2.

The Trojans will try to right their horse at Lone Jack against the 0-2 co-op (with Kingsville) team next Friday.

Concordia: St. Paul Lutheran 35, Braymer 16

BRAYMER — First-year BHS head coach Zach Douglas had his club within 7-0 at halftime – a rare 8-man defense-dictated contest for the first 24 minutes, but the Bobcats (0-2) could not get things turned their way after intermission.

Parker Shoe had a busy and strong night running the football, Douglas stated in a post-game radio interview, while senior Jacob Henry did some good things, as well.

Having scored multiple touchdowns in back-to-back games for the first time since the first two weeks of last year, BHS will get a golden opportunity to post its first triumph since 2017 in its next outing. The Bobcats will go to Keytesville to face the new Thunder co-op program in Braymer’s second Central River Conference outing of 2020.

Keytesville/Mendon: Northwestern, as previously mentioned, was idle in week two.

East Buchanan , Trenton 0

GOWER — EBHS Bulldog Blake Antle ran for about 130 yards and four touchdowns as visiting Trenton dropped its second-consecutive all-Bulldogs battle.

Trenton (0-2) limited “East Buck” to a touchdown in each of the first two quarters to still be in the game at halftime, but Antle scored twice more in the third to put the nails in the THS coffin.

Trenton will commence GRC-East play next Friday at Princeton (1-1). The Tigers made the long trip south to Cass County for week two action and made it worth it by doubling up Cleveland: Cass Midway 38-19.

Slater 15, Polo 14

SLATER —  The visiting Panthers’ bid to end their own 2-years-plus winless streak came up frustratingly short for a second week in a row.

Having lost 7-0 to Plattsburg in the season opener in a contest in which the only points were scored in the game’s first minute and after a lost Panthers fumble, head coach Kyle Ross’ squad came not only within one play, but one point in week two.

Instead, after performances which conceivably could have it standing at 2-0 at present, rather than the opposite, Polo will move into the Grand River Conference-East portion of its campaign in its next outing. Maysville (1-1), which co-ops with Winston, will visit the Panthers next Friday after being drilled by Class 1 regional power Mid-Buchanan 73-8 Friday.

Orrick 35, Norborne/Hardin-Central 26

NORBORNE — The host Aggies’ hopes of jumping out of the chute 2-0 were not realized.

Junior quarterback Brayden Schick had a hand in all four N/H-C touchdowns, rushing for two as part of his 19 carries for 97 yards night and throwing a scoring strike each to Kelton Laire and Keaton Andrews. Schick was 15 of 24 through the air, but for only 106 yards. Laire had six of the catches for 76 yards.

On defense, sophomore Kelton Gordon led Aggies tacklers with being part of 15. Mason Freece got in on 10 and also picked off a pass. J.W. Doyle participated in nine stops, while sophomore Kobe Gibson had two interceptions and Schick one while those two notched eight tackles apiece. Korbin Pugh recovered a fumble.

Next for Norborne/Hardin-Central (1-1) will be the long trip to Shelbyville to face 2-0 North Shelby in its Central River Conference opener next Friday.

Southwest Livingston Wildcats senior cornerback Ethan Hoerr, a Hale student, perfectly uses a rolling shoulder block to take the legs out from under much-larger South Holt/Nodaway-Holt ballcarrier Gannon Phelan and hold him to a short gain on an outside option play in the first period of the teams' Highway 275 Conference high school football clash at Ludlow Friday, Sept. 4, 2020. Southwest built a big first-half lead, saw it shrivel to eight points in the third quarter, and then pulled away again to prevail, 70-36.