MVP Sports Channel

Score One For The Big Guys

District 1 Finals Preview

It is common for sports departments to cover large-school competition above all else. Sure, they’ll report on small schools winning championships, especially in the metro areas. But the biggest headlines are saved for the biggest programs and the brightest lights. CBC, Kirkwood and Webb City have received more coverage in St. Louis and Kansas City newspapers than dozens of equally-worthy Class 1-through-3 teams combined.

The Geek has a soft spot for small Missouri schools. Not only are they likelier to play on green grass (the kind you mow in the summer) but many Class 1 and 2 teams can, as Coach Arlen Pixley puts it, “ball.” Class 2 dynasty Lamar would be a tough out for almost anyone in MSHSAA. Class 3 teams have forfeited rather than face the Trinity Catholic Titans, a 2A team from the Gateway City.

But last Friday’s District 1 fireworks belonged almost exclusively to the large campuses. The Field Turf. The 50-row bleachers. Drum-lines instead of noise-makers.

Classes 1-through-3 held Semifinals that mostly resembled “squash” matches on TV wrestling, making a pair of brutes look good before the PPV blow-off. Classes 4, 5, and 6 on the other hand?

The big boys made last weekend into the stuff of legend.

Poplar Bluff vs Jackson…oh, man. Oh, man, oh man. JHS 56, PBHS 49. Triple overtime. Nearly 1200 yards of offense. A 2nd-half comeback by the Indians and a chance to win for the Mules erased by a heart-breaking fumble in OT. 5 passing touchdowns for Cooper Callis, who war-whooped in a huddle of teammates when the marathon Class 5 battle ended.

In Class 4, Hillsboro and Farmington turned the Night Of The Flexbone into a 48-42 track meet. The Black Knight offense was cooking for most of 4 quarters, but the HHS offense really got cranked-up in the 2nd half…to the point where it was hurting the team by driving too quickly. The Hawks realized it with 3:00 left and bled the clock before senior QB Tyler Isaacson scored the winner.

Both 6A Semifinals were hectic. Kirkwood was defeated 16-14 by Lindbergh High, ending a reign as defending Missouri champs. Credit the Pioneers that it didn’t come easy for LHS. Varsity Flyer PK Garret Butz missed an extra point which would have tied the game at 14…with (gulp) 4 minutes left. After a dramatic defensive stop and a tense drive downfield, Butz attempted a game-winning field goal from 35 yards…and made it.

Eureka High School had unexpected trouble in a 14-12 nail-chewer over Lafayette. The Lancers hoodwinked EHS quarterback Tyler Kennedy, limited Hassan Haskins to short pick-ups, and missed a last-second FG of their own which would have secured an upset.

So on the basis of 2 footballs kicked end-over-end into the autumn sky, the Class 6, District 1 title bout is set – Lindbergh at Eureka in a Suburban West rematch.

Notes and predictions for the District Finals…

Class 6 – Lindbergh Flyers (10-1) at Eureka Wildcats (11-0, Suburban West Champions)

There is a time-honored cliche in prep football, “The hardest thing to do is beat the same team twice.” But another old adage may better-apply to this one, which will be won or lost on the line-of-scrimmage.

Lindbergh was demolished on the LOS when these teams met in early October. It’s possible to imagine a tense scrum with either side emergering victorious, or another statement-win by Eureka. A lopsided win for the Flyers won’t happen unless Hassan Haskins blows a tire…or the Wildcats blow a gasket. Haskins, by the way, just committed to Jim Harbaugh and the Michigan Wolverines. PREDICTION: EUREKA 29, LINDBERGH 13

Class 5 – Jackson Indians (8-2) at Vianney Golden Griffins (9-1)  

One of the saddest events on a High School field is when a gritty, passionate team hits The Wall in the postseason. When your fastest defensive back can’t keep up with the slowest of 5 opposing receivers, you’ve hit The Wall.

The Indians threatened to crash through in 2016’s District Final, bloodying the Griffins with 7-0 and 14-7 leads early-on. But Cooper Callis does not have the supporting-cast depth that Tionne Harris of Vianney enjoys.

To have a slim chance to survive, the rural underdog must control the ball and shorten the game. That’s a stiff challenge, since the Indians thrive on a high-tempo attack. PREDICTION: VIANNEY 44, JACKSON 7

Class 4 – Cape Central Tigers (7-4) at Hillsboro Hawks (8-3, Mississippi Conference Champions)

This match-up doesn’t feel so pre-ordained in 2017. Both squads have had ups-and-downs getting to this point. The Hawks can use the Sikeston Bulldogs’ regular-season win over CHS as a blueprint for victory on Friday…play keep-away, score early in both halves, grab turnovers.

Coach Pixley and the Varsity Tigers must keep things simple on offense. Zone-read option plays with Cameron Cox and scholarship talent Aaron Harris threatening left and right. Save any fancy pitches and Fluky Screen Left because if Hillsboro wins the turnover battle, you’ve probably had it. PREDICTION: CAPE CENTRAL 31, HILLSBORO 24

Class 3 – Salem Tigers (8-3) at Park Hills Central Rebels (11-0, MAFC White Champions)

The Tigers turned a corner by shutting down high-powered Kennett in a 14-13 Semifinal win. Now they must travel to face the #1-seed, undefeated Rebels who are the 2014-15 Florida State Seminoles of High School football.

Don’t compare common opponents and point totals. Jace Bland and the Rebs just keep winning, though they have played-down to the level of competition at times in ’17. PREDICTION: PARK HILLS CENTRAL 28, SALEM 24

Class 2 – Malden Green Wave (10-1, SEMO South Champions) at Caruthersville Tigers (8-2)

Another rematch where the playoff tussle could be much-more competitive than the first, in this case a 33-7 watershed for the Tigers in Week 2. DeAndre Davis is out of commission for Caruthersville, and the Green Wave has rolled for 16 touchdowns since the playoffs began.

Keep an eye on the District 2 final between Trinity Catholic and the Lutheran North Crusaders – each program has looked staggeringly-great at times this season. The winner of that game will face the District 1 champ in the MSHSAA Quarterfinals. PREDICTION: CARUTHERSVILLE 32, MALDEN 25

Class 1 – Hayti (9-2, SEMO West Champions) at Valle Catholic Warriors (9-1, I-55 Conference Champions)

HC Dominique Robinson is advancing the culture at Hayti. We won’t call it “changing” the culture, since the program has been building to this point for years. But when Robinson speaks with poise and confidence, he is leading his boys emotionally.

The Indians will still need the egg to bounce their way. Indian fans are excited after watching do-it-all junior Ivory Winters run like a Class 5 tailback in the 66-7 Semifinal win over Chaffee. But the Valle Catholic Warriors have talent to burn, and embarrass teams like Chaffee by 60 points in their sleep. PREDICTION: VALLE CATHOLIC 24, HAYTI 21


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