It may be either a lean or ugly (or both) championship weekend at the Dome for the state football championships. I'll preface this by saying, I wish all the local teams luck. But my gut feeling says it's going to be a tough road to get there, or the red carpet won't be rolled out for them once they do.
Fox has been a great story this year. Third-year coach Nick Gianino has guided the Warriors to the highest peak that program has ever seen. They'll battle Hazelwood Central team that comes from the tough Suburban North Conference. The Hawks boast a strong ground attack led by Maurice Scott and quarterback Terry Gibson. The SNC hasn't been the prettiest conference to watch this year, but they know how to play in the big games. However, I call for the upset, and pick Fox to make it to the Dome.
That's the good news. The bad news is they'll meet either Jeff City or Blue Springs South. Jeff City is a program with the man power to run over anyone. Meanwhile, BSS redeemed themselves last week against Rockhurst; who embarrassed the Jaguars on national television at the start of the year. I don't care who wins that semi-final, they'll put 50-plus up on Fox in the Class 6 final. But if I'm picking, I'll go with the Jays of JC.
Hazelwood East will host Jackson. East has pulled a Jekyll and Hyde routine all year long. They've beat teams like Hazelwood Central, but then turn around and loss to an inconsistent Riverview team. The Indians were in the semi-finals last year, and this season have barreled through the Class 5 bracket. Jackson likes to play good old fashioned running-oriented football, and have the moxy to make it to the the Dome. But Mike Jones' squad has turned it on in the playoffs, and I see them topping Jackson.
Again, don't look now East, you get the winner of Ray-Pec and Raytown South game. Ray Pec has won three titles in the last four years, and just knocked off the defending Class 4 champions last Friday. They should take care of an upstart Raytown South team, and make the trip across state.
Second verse same as the first, Hazelwood East will have the best seats for a football clinic, compliments of the Panthers on Friday the 28th. The salt in that wound; it will be broadcasted regionally on Fox Sports Midwest.
Sheldon Richardson and Anthony Pierson have lead the Jaguars of Gateway Tech to within one win of the state championship game. However, they'll have to do that on the road against a Helias team that will be hosting the game at Jeff City's home; Pete Adkins Stadium. If you don't think this will be a hard trip for G-Tech, just ask Fort Zumwalt West how that went for them. I see Richardson and Co. putting up a decent fight, but Helias moves on from the top half of the bracket.
Who are these Cardinal Ritter Lions? Ritter has flown under the radar, but now has a shot at playing for a state title. Brian Simmons' crew had only one hiccup this year, losing to Career Academy by six. But they righted the ship, and now host Sullivan. Both schools boast 12-1 records, and both had amazingly weak schedules. Sullivan's lone loss came to Union (who lost in the 2nd round of Class 4) and like to pass the ball. The Lions have a two-pronged running attack with Maurice Taylor and Trey Perry, who've combined for 38 touchdowns. I'll give the edge to Ritter, since they'll host this game at the Lions Den.
They'll face the winner of Chillicothe and Cassville. Chillicothe is the top team in the state and is 13-0. I think Chillicothe will stay undefeated and represent the west side of the state. If this matchup occurs, it might be the closest one in Classes 2 through 6 at the Dome. I'll give the home team the edge, and chalk one up for St. Louis; Ritter wins Class 3.
Maplewood has gone through it's schedule like a buzz saw, and has been ranked #1 in the state wire to wire. They've posted five shutouts and have only allowed more than
14-points twice. One of those occasions was against Brentwood, who they blew away 36-15 in week two. They then proceeded to shutout the Eagles in a playoff rematch. The Blue Devils have athletic skill on both sides of the ball, and really could have played Class 3 schools all year and still had the same record. The proof of their two-sided skill: Bryant Allen leads their offensive attack with 23 touchdowns and Devin Lindsey has recorded 17 sacks. No, that's not a typo. The kink in their armour is they tend to make a lot of mental mistakes and costly penalties. Of course that's like saying Superman has a stain on his cape. Bottom line is, Maplewood can bring the wood to opponents when they need to. I think they'll top a tough Clark County squad, even though CC is 13-0 on the year.
If Maplewood makes it to the Class 2 final, I think they'll find a wet blanket named the Maryville Spoofhounds awaiting them. Maryville will win easily in their semifinal against Fair Grove to earn their ticket to St. Louis. No spoofing about it, Maryville is the #2 team in the state, and they love to run. They racked up 347 yards on the ground in their most recent win. History typically leans towards the strong running team in small class championship games. My take: Maryville will eat up the clock with their ground attack, and force Maplewood to throw to keep up. That combination doesn't typically work in high pressure games (at the Dome no less.) The Blue Devils will come up one win shy of a title.
Check in next week, as I talk about the state finals.
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