By Chris Parker
Due to the on-going COVID-19 pandemic, MSHSAA has delayed the release of class and district assignments until after Sept. 11 when schools must declare whether they are playing fall sports in the regular fall or alternate fall.
With that in mind, I will use the class assignments from last year for the early season power rankings.
Before I go any further, THESE ARE NOT A HEAD-TO-HEAD RANKING, BUT A RANKING OF DOMINANCE BY CLASS. I am not saying I think the Class 1 schools on this list could beat all the Class 4-6 teams ranked below them or not ranked.
1. Joplin (C6 – 1-0)
The Eagles move up to No. 1 after an impressive 41-40 win over Webb City. Nathan Glades proved more than ready to be a feature back by rushing 24 times for 161 yards and three touchdowns. He also brought a kickoff back 92 yards for a touchdown. Always Wright was efficient as the new starting quarterback throwing for 197 yards and two touchdowns on 18-for-22 passing. This week, Joplin travels to face Nixa in the first home game for John Perry.
2. Carthage (C5 – 1-0)
Luke. Gall. We hyped up the names you know in the pre-season, as First-Team All-State selections Patrick Carlton and Aiden Logan were the cover of our preview magazine. Luke Gall is the name you better get to know. Only a sophomore, Gall took 19 carries for 245 yards and five touchdowns in a 35-14 win over Ozark. Credit also deservedly goes to the always strong Carthage offensive line, but Gall established himself as a force to be reckoned with. In sum, Carthage rushed for 366 total yards to go with 124 passing yards. Carthage makes a trip to Carl Junction this week.
3. Webb City (C4 – 0-1)
Webb City fell to Joplin for the second straight year, this time by a one-point margin. The Cardinals moved the ball effectively rushing for 385 yards and five touchdowns on 61 carries as a team. Devrin Weathers went for 164 yards on 21 carries and three touchdowns along with a kickoff return for a touchdown, but he was limited in the second half due to leg cramps. Up next is a home game with Neosho.
4. Mt. Vernon (C3 – 1-0)
Mt. Vernon just finds a way. The Mountaineers were tied 13-13 with defending state runner-up Cassville with time ticking away before Mason Ballay found Rafe Darter for the game-winning touchdown with under 20 seconds left on the clock. Mt. Vernon is now 10-3 in games decided by possession or less since 2017. Mt. Vernon travels to East Newton this week.
5. Lamar (C2 – 1-0)
Jared Beshore’s debut as head coach of the Lamar Tigers looked a lot like the Lamar football we have become accustomed to over the past decade. The Tigers handed Catholic a 56-12 defeat, which was the largest margin of defeat for the Irish since Oct. 9, 2015. Offensively, Lamar rushed for 371 yards and threw for 82 for 453 total yards of offense. Case Tucker carried 13 times for 182 yards and four touchdowns while going 4-for-5 for 95 yards through the air. Defensively, the Tigers held Catholic to 212 total yards and 101 rushing. That included holding Catholic running back Matthew Schmittling to just 49 yards. Last year, Schmittling rushed for 1,544 total yards.
6. Bolivar (C4 – 1-0)
Bolivar picked up a solid 16-8 win over (likely) fellow Class 4 school Rolla on the road in its first Ozark Conference game. The Liberators were able to win despite turning the ball over four times. Their defense forced two turnovers (an interception and fumble recovery) in its own right as it held Rolla to a 33% completion percentage through the air and 4.1 yards per carry on the ground. Bolivar travels to Parkview this week.
7. West Plains (C4 – 1-0)
It is hard to imagine many teams worked through as much adversity as the West Plains Zizzers this week. Multiple starters missed the game including a some ruled out within 24 hours of game time. The depleted Zizzers stepped up a 66-44 win over Glendale. Titus Seley and Connor Lair were two-way stars for the Zizzers. Seley carried 27 times for 235 yards and four touchdowns while adding two receptions for 78 yards and a touchdown. On defense, Seley had three sacks. Lair scored a 63-yard pick-six on defense to go with a forced fumble and two sacks. On offense, Lair turned eight carries into 136 yards. Dagen Kenslow stepped up at quarterback with a7-for-10 108-yard one-touchdown effort through the air to go with 19 carries for 151 yards and two scores. This week, West Plains hosts Hillcrest.
8. Cassville (C3 – 0-1)
Cassville came up just short to Mt. Vernon in a 21-13 loss. The game was tied going into the final minute, but Mt. Vernon connected on a touchdown pass with under 20 seconds to go to win the game. It is hard to knock Cassville too much for a late loss to such a quality team in class. The Wildcats played without all-state linebacker Zach Coenen who is also a big piece of the offense at running back. Even without Coenen, the Wildcats were able to generate 251 yards rushing and 324 overall.
9. Monett (C3 – 1-0)
Defense ruled the day for Monett against Hollister with Dylan Lynch scoring two pick-sixes to help the Cubs beat the Tigers 20-13. His first interception for a touchdown came at the 5:18 mark of the second quarter to make the score 6-0. His second came with 6:23 left in the game to help the Cubs get the lead out to 20-13 after a two-point conversion. The Cubs host an Aurora team this week that went for 50 points in its first game.
10. Thayer (C1 – 0-1)
Thayer played its first game without two-way star Jayce Haven and came up short against Hayti in a 30-28 loss. Hayti is 26-2 since the beginning of 2018 with the two losses coming last year to Thayer and eventual state champion Valle Catholic. Asking Thayer to go on the road and pick up a win one week after losing their top player to an injury was a big ask, and Thayer responded by playing a Class 1 power to two points. Right now, I still think Thayer is the best area Class 1 team.
OTHERS: Lebanon (C4 – 1-0), Lincoln (C1 – 1-0), Buffalo (C3 – 1-0), Ava (C2 – 0-1), Kickapoo (C6 – 1-0), Lockwood (C1 – 1-0)
FIVE OTHER THINGS FROM WEEK 1
1. Kickapoo makes a statement – Coach Nate Thomas has said this was the year they had been building toward. Many of the seniors on the team have seen significant playing time since their sophomore years. On Friday, Kickapoo beat last year’s Ozark Conference champion Camdenton Lakers 28-7. The defense led the way. Kickapoo picked off two passes and force three turnovers on downs with two of them coming inside the 10-yard like. Offensively, Kickapoo controlled the clock with 339 yards rushing and time of possession of 29:47. Kickapoo gets another shot this week to solidify itself as a contender for the Ozark Conference title in a road game at Lebanon.
Kickapoo Defense: Held Camdenton to 7 points and 277 total yards of Offense and Two INT’s. Forced 3 Turnover on Downs with 2 happening inside the 10 yard line.
Kickapoo Offensive Line: 339 yards rushing and helped account for 29 minutes and 47 seconds in Time of Possession.
— Kickapoo Football (@Kpoofootball) August 30, 2020
2. Buffalo and Ava battle to in another classic game – Buffalo and Ava opened up the regular season against each other for the third straight year. In 2018, Buffalo beat Ava 20-16. In 2019, Ava beat Buffalo 38-36. On Friday, Buffalo beat Ava 47-42. Buffalo’s Jamen Smith put on a show with 307 yards and four touchdowns through the air. New Ava quarterback Zach Mendel rushed for 203 yards and five touchdowns on 28 carries. Buffalo stands a strong chance at running through an unbeaten regular season this year.
3. Nixa’s McCracken sets Nixa record – Sophomore back-up quarterback Austin McCracken set a Nixa record with four touchdown passes in his first start for the Eagles. He helped get the John Perry tenure off to a great start with a 42-6 win over Branson. The Eagles get a big test in Perry’s first game at Nixa with Joplin coming to town this week.
4. Republic pitches a shut out – Republic went on the road to Neosho and shut the Wildcats out 21-0, as they debuted their new turf field. Last year, Republic never allowed fewer than 14 points. According to Republic Tiger Sports, it was the first conference shut out for the Tigers since 2005.
What a difference a year makes: last season, the Tigers allowed an average of 32 points per game. Last night, they posted their first conference shutout since 2005.
— RepublicTigerSports (@Republic_Tigers) August 29, 2020
5. Cabool on the rise – How about the job head coach Tyler Spittler is doing at Cabool? Last year’s five wins were the most since 2014. The Bulldogs started out this year with a 68-8 win over a Miller team that played for a district title last year. The 68 points are the most Cabool has scored in a long time. MSHSAA records only go back to 2010 and the Bulldogs have not cracked 60 in that time. How they got it done was impressive as well. Braxton Davis and Daniel Hutcheson are known players out of the backfield, but neither rushed for more than 64 yards. Freshman Tyler Fleetwood did rush for 104 yards on seven carries. Watch out for the Bulldogs on the Class 1 scene.