MVP Sports Channel

Indian Burn | defense

Most fans think Tim Tebow and Colin Kaepernick were unceremoniously dumped by the NFL due to their religious and political views. That’s certainly valid, but another big reason is the stubbornness of pro coaches and GMs.

The pipe-dream model for an NFL quarterback is a tall, slow guy with a rocket arm, eagle-eyes and a tough chin who stands in the pocket for 99% of a 15-year career. Signal-callers who specialize in running are judged by a harsher standard, since those tactics remind the National Football League establishment of “fluky, inferior” High School and NCAA football.

But no gridiron is safe from stereotyped thinking. For instance, prep and college coaches (and reporters) have become extremely offense-minded in the past few decades. A 14-7 final score is now considered a snoozer, not a slobber-knocker.

A handful of purists (like The Geek) maintain that defense isn’t dead, just hiding, as talented boys choose to play offense in the YouTube era. But most coaches feel that the modern playbook – touchdowns skills of the modern student-athlete – make scoring points the name of the game.

Or so they say. At least 3 conference titles were decided in MSHSAA’s District 1 last Friday night, and it can be argued that each scrum was won with defense.

Valle Catholic beat Jefferson a rather novel way – instead of trying to find Andrew Graves in the Blue Jays’ myriad of formations, the Warriors let Graves have his yards and stopped every other runner cold in a 49-14 statement win that sealed yet another I-55 championship for the Class 1 aristocrats.  

The Hillsboro Hawks beat North County for the Mississippi Large Schools title, setting up a likely 3-time undefeated reign as champs. Conference rival Festus can play defense, and the North County Raiders can score points – but the Hawks are the league’s only complete team and it showed again on Friday night. A fierce goal-line stand in the 2nd half was the tipping point as a tense 34-28 scoreboard turned into a 48-28 breeze for the Blue & White.

But the jaw-dropping result of Week 6 was Poplar Bluff winning a crucial conference game on an unlikely play for the 2nd weekend in a row. (Just to make it more of a fairy tale, the final score was 29-28 in both battles.) This time, the Mules’ victim was none other than Jackson High School, the side which had scored 75+ points on a tough Farmington outfit the week prior.

Jackson HC Brent Eckley has lived and died by QB Cooper Callis’ ability to steer an explosive offense. In Weeks 3-5, the Indians out-scored opponents 26 touchdowns to 13. Four more touchdowns came in the first 38 minutes on Friday night. But with a 28-23 lead, Eckley picked the wrong time to try for another.

The Indians faced a 3rd down and 5 on the home-standing Mules’ 16-yard line with just over 3:00 on the game clock. Jackson ran fluky screen left* which is where a high-fallutin’ spread offense sends several WRs out to block for a designated pass-catcher. It is drawn up as an extended “running” play.

Except it’s a pass, and when a QB releases the ball, bad things can happen. PBHS senior Brett Barousse, who had practiced against fluky screen left with his scout team, intercepted Callis and ran 80 yards for the winning score as Bluff went bananas over a SEMO North title.

The Injuns don’t try many field goals, but kicker Matt Jaco is competent enough to make a chip-shot. A run up the middle for 3 yards would have taken time off the clock, and given Eckley the option to go for a game-sealing 1st down or try the short FG to preserve at least a tie, and likely a win, in regulation. JHS was, after all, playing excellent ‘D for a change.

Maybe defense has gotten so bad, coaches don’t know what to do with it when they’ve got it.

The Geek’s Week 7 River Rankings

#1 – Vianney Golden Griffiths (6-0)

The Golden G’s give up 200+ passing yards to lowly DeSmet in a 56-21 win. Maybe they’ve been looking ahead to Saint Louis U. High this weekend.

#2 – Eureka Wildcats (6-0)

The ‘Cats recorded a mean 38-0 shut-out on the road Friday. How mean? Facing the Eureka JV in the 2nd half, Parkway North still finished with less than 150 total yards. That’s total yards as in rushing, passing, kick returns, punt returns…everything. Yikes.

#3 – Lindbergh Flyers (6-0)

Flyer sophomores did not fare as well in Week 6, allowing so many garbage-time points to Mehlville that Rico Payton was forced back onto the field. (He scored another touchdown, of course.)

#4 – Kirkwood Pioneers (4-1)

KHS coaches are hoping their Junior Varsity suits up for the Turkey Day Game. That would mean the Varsity has business elsewhere.

#5 – Poplar Bluff Mules (6-0)

Another week, another stirring win. Programs are losing their nerve against these guys.

#6 – Jackson Indians (4-2)

One more bitter rivalry looms with Cape Central on the calendar this Friday.

#7 – Hillsboro Hawks (5-1)

After a Mississippi lay-up (DeSoto High School) this Friday, HHS will look to even bigger goals as the Class 4 postseason draws near.

#8 –  Cape Central Tigers (4-2)

The Tigers pound University City 50-6, but the Lions are so bad they didn’t score a point until Week 4. More for CHS to prove this week vs Jackson.

#9 – Lafayette Lancers (3-3)

Less than a month after a brave effort vs Kirkwood, the Lancers give up 155 yards and 3 touchdowns to unheralded RB Kyle Mill of the 2-4 Marquette Mustangs while limping to a 28-20 win. Lordy.

#10 – Valle Catholic (6-0)

Formerly-unbeaten Hayti is clobbered by Malden; Caruthersville makes a statement against Dexter.

But Valle humiliates a Class 2 power team with a running clock in the 4th frame. Our #10 ranking goes to the tiny school that’s making it look easy.

Out: Hayti

Knocking: Farmington, Sikeston, Malden, Caruthersville

*Attribution to Bill Simmons.

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