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Showdowns in The Show-Me State

Notes On The Final Four…And One-Sixth Of A Show Me Bowl

With all District 1 teams except good old Valle Catholic eliminated from the MSHSAA playoffs, The Geek takes time this week to reflect on the state of Missouri football.

Once upon a time, High School sports on TV were not a college recruiting hype-fest. These days, we can complain that a rapper’s kid or Nick Saban’s latest 5-star receives far more ESPN-time than a team that wins 50 games in a row, but the NCAA-ification of the prep ranks is not always a bad thing.

Generations shape the landscape. MSHSAA coaches of 30 years ago relied more on their memories of High School hand-egg, watching game-film of their opponents (or occasional Dallas Cowboys’ highlights on ABC) and believing in nothing but physical domination of rival teams. Most schools ran an extremely simple variety of The Veer or The Power-I or The Wishbone, and the same basic defense.

Final scores were so predictable that it crossed the line into comedy. “Let’s look at the series rivalry,” a local TV announcer would say. “Big Catholic School has beaten Smallville by 40 points every year for the last 10 years – but wait! – look in 1978, it was only 34 points.”

Prep coaches of today are fans. They see college and NFL teams on TV and are persuaded to try the tactics. Valle Catholic went so far as to install Chip Kelly’s silent “audible” system, complete with the big signs, cartoon characters, Jack Nicholson’s Kubrick Stare and so on. More “scrawny” youngsters are encouraged to play and develop speed and finesse. Outcomes are less predictable.

Oh, sure, many games still fall within the “10 times rule,” which is to say CBC could play Rockwood Summit 10 times and win all 10 games in a row.

The 10-times rule used to apply in the MSHSAA state playoffs often. It does not anymore. There were a few “academic” results from the lowest weight-classes last Friday, but otherwise, breaks and momentum carried evenly-matched teams to victory in virtual College Football Saturday fashion.

Anyone who doesn’t think Hassan Haskins and the Eureka Wildcats could have beaten the CBC Cadets in 10 tries is wearing Purple and Gold shades. But the Cadets conquered last week, becoming the first team to consistently move the ball against the Hit Squad for 4 quarters. Brett Gabbert, who passed for 279 yards and 3 touchdowns, will lead Christian Brothers College into a Show Me Bowl re-match with Blue Springs this weekend at Plaster Stadium in Springfield. Classes 1-through-5 will meet for a more-traditional Show Me Bowl at Faurot Field in Columbia on Thanksgiving weekend.

Classes 4 and 5 have been bracket-busted with upsets. Pattonville was already a proud blue-collar program, but the way in which they defeated Vianney in the 5A Quarterfinals will give first-year HC Steve Scott the keys to the city. With the score tied 27-27 and a minute to go, Scott hoodwinked the Golden Griffins and watched his team execute like champions.

Vianney chose to go for a 4th down on the goal-line despite Pattonville having stopped the Griffins twice on downs. No dice. Taking over, the Pirates lined up in a Single Wing/direct-snap formation on their own 3-yard line. The favorites stacked the box, hoping for a safety – and PHS running back David Ellison Jr. tossed a jump-pass to senior Dakari Streeter, who is as fast as his last name suggests. 97-yard score. Game over. Pattonville will meet a tough, but not invincible Fort Zumwalt North team Friday in the Semifinal.

Ladue survived Hillsboro 34-20 after some episodes. The Varsity Rams must also be relieved at how their bracket has turned out. The Rolla Bulldogs, who barely stayed above .500 in the regular season, shocked the St. Francis of Borgia Knights in a District Final 28-14 after intercepting Jacob Unnerstall 3 times. The Bulldogs regressed to their own level in the Q-Finals against Parkway Central, losing 49-21. But the Ladue Rams have already played and beaten PCHS once in 2017.

Want to know how strong Class 2 is? Lutheran South, an excellent Class 3 team, is playing in a MSHSAA Semifinal against Mount Vernon this weekend. The Lamar Tigers, winners of several Class 2 titles in a row, blew-out Mount Vernon by 40 points this season, and by 50+ in 2016.

Lutheran North, the Tigers’ 2A Semifinal opponent, beat Lutheran South 50-12 in Week 6 and mighty Caruthersville 64-7 in last weekend’s Q-Final. The Crusaders were knocked cold last time they faced Lamar, but everyone expects the 2017 re-match to rival the fireworks of Class 4 or 5.

Finally, not all is peaches and cream for the Valle Warriors. Starting QB Mason Skaggs sat out the 2nd half in an unexpectedly-competitive 33-10 Q-Final win over Thayer. Coach Judd Naeger may turn to Chip Kelly for no-huddle offense tips, but he’s Bill Belichick when it comes in injuries – we have no way of knowing whether Skaggs suffered a broken arm or Chinese Chicken Pox.

Valle’s offense is like a small, luxury sports car – it feels great on the highway, but a bad crash can total it. If saddled with a backup QB for a Final Four appearance, the Warriors may have to ground-and-pound their way to another state title bid, with defense and special teams playing a bigger role in the clutch.

Not exactly a comfort zone…but not a bad idea.  


The Greek is a weekly contributor to MVP Sports Channel.  Follow The Geek on Facebook.


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