Chillicothe (Mo.) HS Hornets Hope to Flip MEC Football Clash on Its Head
By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
CHILLICOTHE, Mo. — Eager for an end to their winless ways during the first half of their 2020 season, the Chillicothe High School football Hornets appear to have found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. Or, if you favor the psychological pitfalls of sports, maybe not.
The Hornets (0-4, 0-2 conf.) visit Midland Empire Conference opponent Kansas City: St. Pius X (4-0, 2-0 conf.) Friday for 7 p.m. action in a clash of one team trying to get over the hump amid some intermittent positive signs and one looking to keep a high-flying start going.
On paper, the contest shapes up as a mismatch. Of course, as the saying goes, games aren’t played on paper. Given that, there’s always the chance an inspired Hornets squad, outscored by only seven points cumulatively during the first halves of their games to date, could spring a trap on a SPX Warriors squad deservedly on “cloud nine” after upsetting defending MEC champion and long-time kingpin Maryville 26-14 at Kansas City last Friday.
“We’re climbing the mountain,” CHS head coach Tim Rulo said after last week’s home loss to Cameron, referencing the incremental progress his maturing, but still green, team is making, “and the best part of climbing a mountain is getting to the top, so why would we want to stop now?”
If Chillicothe can solve its second-half woes, primarily tied to excessive turnovers, it will make itself a tougher foe. In an option-based attack, however, that often can be a tricky transition to make, especially against an opponent with the current confidence of St. Pius X.
While not ignoring the challenge, Rulo has encouraged his team to embrace it as “an awesome opportunity for our guys to go and compete and get better.”
St. Pius X, under first-year head coach Anthony Simone – defensive coordinator for former long-time head coach Rick Byers, uses a “pro-style” offense with multiple formations, led by junior quarterback Jack Mosh and featuring tall (6’4”), big-play wide receiver David Deters.
While balancing that, in terms of number of plays, with a fairly-basic running game, when the Warriors want or need a big play, Mosh – from shotgun or pistol depth – generally looks first for Devers, especially if he’s single-covered, utilizing high throws that exploit the target’s height, jump-timing, and strong hands. If he doesn’t find him open, the quarterback often will drift to one side while waiting for Devers to adjust his route and head for some open space.
While Mosh will run some and, depending on the opponent’s speed and pursuit, can be dangerous with his legs, SPX’s biggest plays predominantly begin with a Mosh throw and Devers catch.
Of the St. Pius X ballcarrier’s, junior Shane Dorian (6’, 225 pounds) is a handful to get down on his interior carries when the defense is spread out to account for the passing threat.
“Very ‘pro’ style of offense … doing a lot of different formations, but basically your fullback ‘dives,’ ‘traps,’ some (isolation) plays,” shares Rulo, “and then they’ll get into some ‘spread’ looks where their quarterback is a little more involved with some zone (read) plays where he’s pulling the ball (faking a handoff and running or throw it himself).
“Then they have (Deters) – he looks about four inches taller than last year – and he’s made some heckuva catches. He had all three touchdowns against Maryville, so definitely a very-talented wide receiver, who is definitely their favorite target.”
As for the Kansas City Catholic school’s defense, the Chillicothe coach reports, “Each week, they seem to have a unique defensive game plan set aside for who they’re going to play, so that makes it a little tougher to scout or get a feeling for what they’re going to do.”
The Warriors’ defense probably turned last week’s win over a still-COVID-19-crimped Maryville squad with a goalline stand in the middle of the second quarter that the host’s offense followed with a 99-yards scoring drive capped by about a 30-yards pass to Deters following a holding penalty that put SPX in about a first-and-28 jam.
“They played well and came up with stops when they needed,” saluted Rulo. “… They had the big stop down on the goal line … where it was first-and-goal from like the (SPX) 1- or 2-(yard line) and (they were) able to stop Maryville four times.”
Diminishing Chillicothe’s chances will be the continued absence of defenders Brock Ward and Kamryn Rinehart and lesser injuries that could limit some others’ availability or effectiveness.
“Another week of healing and progressing and hopefully getting other guys coming back soon,” Rulo says of the no-better health situation.
“(I’m) Just grateful we’re getting a chance to play as I see more cancellations happening in other sports and other schools, due to COVID and quarantining.”
Regardless of the Hornets’ result at St. Pius X, Chillicothe’s remaining regular-season schedule shapes up as less-challenging. That provides hope for two or more victories which could help lift the Hornets as high as fourth place in the final 7-teams district standings. If so, it would let them host their first-round game.