Southwest Livingston HS to Face 2019 State-Title-Game Conqueror at Home Friday
By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
Clearly the prime high school football matchup in the C-T coverage area this week will occur at Ludlow. After all, how often do undefeated teams from the same conference who just happened to have played for the prior year’s state championship hook up during the regular season?
Southwest Livingston’s Wildcats, whose roster includes students from the adjoining Tina-Avalon and Hale school districts, will put their 3-0 start – both overall and in the Highway 275 Conference – to the test when they welcome the Mound City Panthers at 7 p.m. Friday at the SLHS field.
Mound City, 2-times defending 8-man state champion, will hit the field with an identical 3-0 mark on the year, but its most-recent triumph – a 40-18 decision over Albany last Friday – came in a non-conference outing.
A year ago, the Wildcats’ and Panthers’ week four clash shaped up as intriguing and important, but no one envisioned it as a preview of the eventual state-title game at the University of Missouri’s Memorial Stadium just over two months later.
With Southwest Livingston having taken a bit of a thumping from East Atchison in its season opener only three weeks prior and Mound City standing 3-0 as it began defense of its 2018 crown, the Wildcats made the trip northwest as a clear, though not heavy, underdog. However, catching the Panthers without a key player or two, Southwest Livingston got out in front in the second period and drew away to a 58-34 win, a result Mound City avenged by an 82-46 margin in the state-championship rematch.
Both teams have lost “big guns” from last year’s squad – Southwest graduating All-State quarterback/athlete Mack Anderson, who rushed for over 330 yards in the regular season meeting with Mound City and 189 in the state final, and MCHS saying goodbye to starting running backs Dylan George (231 yards and four TDs in the state final) and TJ Hopkins (141 yards, three TDs in the state final).
However, each side has key returnees back – the Wildcats with 2-ways All-Stater Jaeden Sears, All-State receiver Chase Neptune, and All-State defender Patrick Warren, now playing linebacker after being at nose guard last year, and Mound City with big (6’4”, 175-pounds) starting quarterback Landon Poppa.
Mound City dictated the state-title game with its offensive line and big backs, not throwing a pass that entire contest as it accumulated 485 rushing yards.
However, two of its three linemen graduated, along with the two backs, so new personnel are having to step into the breach.
With Sears and junior Owen Oesch back and senior move-in quarterback Wes Hughes nimbly taking over from Ma. Anderson, Southwest’s offense has barely missed a beat, although it’s moving the ball and scoring points (194 in 2½ games) more through the air than on the ground this time.
While Mound City stands 3-0, its most-recent outing saw it best Albany by only 22 last week after turning back the Warriors by 48 last year.
Southwest Livingston, using an array of weapons, not only has won three times, but its first two were over teams ranked – for what rankings are worth – in the 8-man top five in the state. They avenged their 2019 East Atchison loss by 54-30 count on the road, then largely-controlled South Holt/Nodaway-Holt for three-fourths of a 70-36 triumph two weeks ago.
The remainder of the C-T docket this week – all the games which will be played currently are slated for Friday – include Hamilton: Penney (2-1, 1-0 conf.) having its home opener against KCI Conference foe East Buchanan (2-0, 0-0), Brookfield (2-1, 0-1 conf.) hosting imposing Palmyra (3-0, 1-0 conf.) in Clarence Cannon Conference play, Carrollton (1-2) hosting non-league foe Salisbury (0-3), Polo (1-2, 1-0 conf.) trying to follow up its first win since 2017 as it visits Gallatin (1-2, 0-1 conf.) in the Grand River-East, Marceline (2-1, 2-0 conf.) calling on Fayette (2-0, 1-0) in a pivotal Lewis and Clark clash, Norborne/Hardin-Central (1-2) hosting Alma: Santa Fe (0-1), and Keytesville/Mendon: Northwestern (0-2) hosting St. Joseph: Bishop LeBlond (0-3).
The Keytesville/Northwestern game against Bishop LeBlond will kick off at 6 p.m., BLHS AD Michael Evans announced via Twitter Thursday.
Again this week, Braymer and Trenton will sit out while having players in COVID-19 quarantines.