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MVP’s MSHSAA Football Preview: Part 3

The Gridiron Geek’s MSHSAA Football Preview Part 3 – The Bootheel

The Geek is concerned that his prep gridiron preview is beginning to feel like the NFL preseason.

You understand. In Week 1, it’s amazing to have the familiar jerseys and world-class athletes of The Shield back on TV. Week 2 exhibitions are fun because the starters play into the 2nd quarter, and there’s often a few competitive games.

But by Week 3, you’re getting itchy. Let’s kick it off for real already!

So for the final installment of our flash-education in Missouri football, let’s try to speed things along. Here’s a look at 3 programs Kentuckians may be more familiar with – Jackson, Cape Girardeau Central and Hayti High School, followed by a preview of 3 important scrums taking place this weekend.

The Cape Central Tigers took their 4th straight trip to the “Final 8” last season after QB Kway’Chon Chisom ran laps around an overwhelmed Hillsboro defense in the District 1 championship. But the Black & Orange failed to get past a talented Ladue High team in the quarterfinals, and Chisom graduated in May.

Known as a miracle-worker, Central’s 2nd-year head coach Arlen Pixley has molded the traditionally power-running Tigers into a wide-open offense. Even with Chisom gone, Pixley is likely to stay the course with impressive WR Austin Parker going into his senior campaign.

Week 1 jitters could be an issue, however, as Mountain-View Liberty (a mere Class 2 team from the Ozarks) stunned CHS in last season’s opener and will visit the Tigers’ magnificent home field for a rematch this Friday.

Cape’s arch-nemesis Jackson High School faltered at times in Jamboree play against a pair of lower-enrollment teams and the hapless Seckman Jaguars. But calls the Indians “loaded” and the top team in the Bootheel. Senior QB Cooper Callis passed for an amazing 3000+ yards, 35 touchdowns and 65% completions in his junior campaign, which is probably what that #1 ranking is really about. The “Injuns” play in Class 5 and will face a killer post-season bracket which includes Poplar Bluff and 2016 Show Me Bowl champs Vianney.

Did we mention that everyone makes the playoffs in MSHSAA? That may sound like “everyone gets a trophy” nonsense, but District match-ups are seeded in the traditional way – top vs bottom and middle seeds vs middle seeds. That means the unlucky boys who finish the 9-game regular season at or near the bottom of their District standings are more likely to receive a big ol’ tattoo on the backside than a trophy.

The Hayti Indians are excellent tattoo artists. The Class 1 power fought hard against quasi-NCAA program Valle Catholic in a 2016 District final loss, and will field a roster full of talented juniors this season. But the whole starting offensive backfield must be replaced. Look for Coach Neal Cruce’s squad to win 1 or 2 playoff games and bow out – and then make another serious run for the grail in 2018.

A Few Spectacular Season-Openers

Jefferson vs Cabool

Jefferson High School wunderkind Andrew Graves may be the most talented player within a 50-mile radius. The RB ran for 2000+ yards, 28 touchdowns and a mind-boggling 14+ YPC as a mere sophomore in 2016. Graves also snagged 5 interceptions and returned punts. Cabool, meanwhile, had the most peculiar season imaginable, somehow going 0-10 while nearly beating several strong teams. 3 of the Bulldogs’ losses came by a touchdown or less.

Put simply, on Friday the ‘Jays will face the toughest football outfit in America – toughest among those who haven’t won since 2015.

Fox at Farmington

A few short years ago, the Fox Warriors and Farmington Black Knights were ordinary teams running the “NCAA” shotgun-spread offense (available via Skymall for 3 easy payments of $19.99). But after enough Friday-night failure with the generic approach, both schools took a step back…and considered their options.

Fox installed the Veer, an age-old but still-effective rushing attack. Farmington installed the Flexbone, known to blissfully ignorant pundits as “the triple option.” The programs quickly transformed into power-football MSHSAA contenders. The Black Knights should be favored to prevail this weekend with former Warriors star Tony Pisoni having moved on to college.

Ladue vs Fort Zumwalt North

The Ladue Rams are currently classified as a “4A” enrollment school. That’s a big deal, since the institution is large enough to be right on the low-end watermark of Class 5 and have recently competed as a 5A enrollment team. For “tweener” programs which hover between classifications, a few less students entering 9th grade in a given year can be a blessing to the football squad.

But that won’t help the Rams this weekend, as they take on 2016’s 5A state runners-up from Fort Zumwalt North. The Panthers should enjoy a depth advantage (always a key in August scrums) but must replace graduated QB Cade Brister who ran for 2000+ yards and 44 TD’s last season.

Check MVP Sports Channel again next week for opening-Friday game recaps and The Geek’s River Rankings!


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