The 2018 high school football season is in the books! We take a look at the best of the best from each class in our final CoxHealth Football Power Rankings (based on dominance by class). Below, Jordan Burton and Chad Plein take a look at the teams to watch for 2018.
(Record, final result, previous ranking in parenthesis)
1. Lamar (14-0, Class 2 State Champions, 1) – The Tigers don’t just top this list. They pretty much deserve to be number one on the all-time Missouri list; winning their unprecedented seventh straight state championship, 37-20 over Lafayette County. It was the 49th consecutive win for “the Brotherhood”, who overcame injury, adversity and the overwhelming weight of expectations. Next year figures to be an even bigger challenge with Lutheran North and Trinity Catholic lurking, but the Tigers will undoubtedly be up for the challenge led by returning All-Region honorees Travis Bailey, Landan Hardman and Duncan Gepner.
2. Webb City (15-0, Class 4 State Champions, 2) – They say defense wins championships and that was never more true than this year’s Webb City Cardinals. Big Red shut down Ladue Horton Watkins 14-0 to capture the program’s incredible 14th state title. It proved to be a redemption tour for the seniors who hadn’t been part of a championship team since their freshman year of 2014; a lifetime for this program. Expect Coach Roderique’s club to be the favorites heading into next season as well with several All-COC Large performers returning, including regional offensive player of the year Durand Henderson and standout WR/DB Alex Gaskill.
3. Ava (12-1, Class 3 Quarterfinals, 4) – Expectations were high and the Bears exceeded them, battling eventual state champ Lamar to the final play in the Class 2 quarterfinals. “Scrappy” was the term used to describe Coach Swofford’s group and it was that blue-collar mindset that led them to an undefeated SCA title and the brink of a major upset. The Bears lose some key seniors, but will once again be favored to win the SCA with standout two-way players Caleb Johnson and Stephen Copeland returning.
4. Carl Junction (10-2, District Semis, 3) – At the risk of rubbing salt in an open wound, you have to wonder how many state titles the Bulldogs would have if not for some school named Webb City. Aside from their season-opening and season-ending loss to the Cardinals, Class 4 2nd ranked CJ won every single game by at least three touchdowns. It doesn’t figure to get any easier next fall, but having All-Region 1st team running back Rayquion Weston and quarterback Joe Kennedy can’t hurt.
5. Mt. Vernon (10-5, Class 3 Runner-up, NR) – Magical run would be an understatement for this group. The man, the myth, the legend of Tom Cox continues to grow as the veteran coach guided his band of ‘Neers all the way to the state championship game. Ultimately, they fell 47-9 to Maryville, but certainly nothing to hang their heads about after the district five-seeds upset their way through five straight playoff rounds. Matching this year’s success won’t be easy in 2018, but returning Will Boswell, the Class 3 MFCA Defensive Players of the Year, won’t hurt.
6. Lockwood (11-3, Class 1 Semifinals, NR) – It kind of felt like the Tigers were overlooked all year, but at the end of the day Coach Rader’s crew went deeper than Pierce City, Lockwood, Thayer and all the rest before ultimately to state runner-up Valle Catholic in the Class 1 semifinals. This was a special senior class led by Logan Sparkman and Josh Osterdyk. Paxton Masterson and Evan Bates are tasked with taking over the leadership duties next fall as the only returning All-Region players.
7. Carthage (9-4, Class 5 Semifinals, 8) – We wondered all season who would step up in Class 5 and it turned out to be the blue Tigers. They left no doubt in the district championship against Willard and then dispatched state-ranked Columbia Battle like they were a JV team before ultimately falling to eventual state champ Staley 54-13 in the semifinals. All-Region co-offensive and defensive players of the year Arkell Smith and Dillon Lancaser depart with a strong senior class, but quarterback Zeke Sappington returns next fall to lead a talented group of returning starters.
8. Thayer (9-4, Class 1 Quarterfinals, NR) – As always, the Bobcats took their lumps in the SCA, dropping three games during the regular season, but when it came playoff time Coach Webber’s team rose to the occasion, shutting out undefeated Pierce City in the district championship before falling to eventual state runner-up Valle Catholic in the quarterfinals. Reloading in Class 1 is never easy, but the Bobcats always seem to find a way and having quarterback Ayden Stone back under center next fall won’t hurt.
9. Greenfield (8-2, District Championship, 7) – The Wildcats were nearly unstoppable…unless they played Sacred Heart. The Sedalia-based 8-man powerhouse handed Greenfield its only two losses with the latter coming in the district championship. Coach Jason Smith’s team is on track to move back to 11-man next season and while they lose several key performers, athletes Bailey Baker and Gage Burns are a couple of nice building blocks.
10. Reeds Spring (9-3, District Championship, 9) – You could say the Wolves lulled us to sleep with their 0-2 start, but came to life when it mattered most, winning nine straight games before falling to Mt Vernon 30-28 in the district championship. Kelly Newton quietly set the school rushing record while leading the Wolves to a COC Small title in the final official year of its existence. Now headed for the new Big 8, Coach Gosch will miss Newton and those seniors, especially their trio of All-Region linemen; Logan Plumb, Austin Bradfield and Asa Baker.
KNOCKING ON THE DOOR: Lincoln, Seneca, Lebanon, West Plains, Camdenton, Pierce City
2018 Preseason Power Rankings
2. Webb City
4. Carl Junction
7. West Plains