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. Carthage (C5 – 2-0)
The defending Class 5 state champion Carthage Tigers avoided a loss to Carl Junction by overcoming a 13-point deficit to win 21-20. Luke Gall was the workhorse in the backfield again with 26 carries for 85 yards. Sophomore Hudson Moore made several key plays including the touchdown tied the game. The fact that Carthage was able to still win this game despite turning it over five times speaks volumes about how they respond to adversity. Winning a game like this will serve the Tigers well in the long run.
2. Webb City (C4 – 1-1)
Webb City played up two classes in Week 1 and lost by a point. They responded in Week 2 with a dominant 45-0 showing against Neosho. Devrin Weathers, who rushed for 192 yards and three touchdowns on just nine carries, was very impressive. Two of his touchdown runs in the video below are worth watching. At the 1:25 mark, he goes up the middle for a 64-yard touchdown with three different Neosho players getting a hand on him. At the 1:44 mark, Weathers shows off his speed beating everyone to the edge and going for a 59-yard touchdown.
Up this week is a road trip to face a Republic team that is 2-0 and has yielded just eight points through two weeks.
3. Lamar (C2 – 2-0)
Lamar followed up a strong Week 1 showing by holding off Reeds Spring 27-23 in Week 2 to move to 2-0. It was the home opener and the debut of Lamar’s new turf field. The Tigers trailed 14-6 with just 46 seconds until the half, but a fumble recovery and a quick strike touchdown from quarterback Case Tucker to Mason Gastel pulled Lamar within two at the break. The second half was an equally good battle with Lamar coming out on top. Up this week is a McDonald County squad coming off a 35-19 win over Catholic.
4. Mt. Vernon (C3 – 2-0)
Mt. Vernon rolled up 49 points in a 49-28 victory over East Newton in Week 2. The Mountaineers have now won 16 consecutive regular season games dating back to Sept. 14, 2018. The last team to beat Mt. Vernon in the regular season? Reeds Spring. Who comes to town to face Mt. Vernon this week? Reeds Spring. It should be one of the better games in the area this week.
5. Bolivar (C4 – 2-0)
Bolivar might have been the most impressive team this week. They had 17 players quarantined this week including basically all of their quarterbacks. Fortunately, the offensive line was intact and that ground attack helped the Liberators to a 42-7 win over Parkview. Up this week is a home game against Lebanon.
6. West Plains (C4 – 2-0)
West Plains is another team that has been hit with COVID-19 quarantines, but has still managed to stay unbeaten despite being shorthanded. The Zizzers escaped with a home win over Hillcrest in a 27-26 decision. Hillcrest ran the ball effectively on the Zizzers with 166 yards on the ground. West Plains travels to face a Rolla team that beat Glendale last week and lost by just eight to Bolivar in Week 1.
7. Nixa (C5 – 2-0)
Welcome to the Power Rankings, Nixa. The Eagles moved to 2-0 with a 35-34 win over defending Class 6 runner-up Joplin on Friday. Sophomore Austin McCracken was once again thrust into the quarterback role after senior Reid Potts went down with an injury. He showed poise once again after not practicing at the position all week. For me, the most impressive play on tape was Steven Ward II’s 53-yard touchdown reception. Go to 1:13 in the video below and witness it.
Nixa travels face Willard (0-2) this week.
8. Kickapoo (C6 – 2-0)
Kickapoo has established itself as one of the favorites to win the Ozark Conference title after beating Lebanon 30-26 on Friday. The Chiefs defense stood tall inside the 10 against Camdenton several times in Week 1. They had to do it again on Friday, as Lebanon had a chance to win the game with a pass to the end zone with under a second left in the game. Kickapoo host Waynesville this week.
9. Joplin (C6 – 1-1)
A single points makes a huge difference. No team knows that better than Joplin. In Week 1, Joplin picked up a huge win over rival Webb City by a single point. In Week 2, the Eagles were on the other side of that coin in a one-point loss to Nixa. Nathan Glades led the ground attack with 140 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries. Always Wright threw for 175 yards and three touchdowns with sophomore Dante Washington being on the receiving end of all of those touchdowns. Joplin’s offense has been dynamic and is the No. 3 scoring offense in the COC through two weeks. The defense will need to get better for a deep run in the playoffs, as Joplin has yielded the most points through two weeks of any team in the COC.
10. Thayer (C1 – 1-1)
Thayer took care of business against a Highland (Ark.) team that is now 1-11 over its last 12 games. The Bobcats won the game 36-0. This week, Thayer steps into SCA play with a road trip to Mountain View to face Liberty.
OTHERS TO WATCH (alphabetical): Aurora (C3 – 2-0), Buffalo (C3 – 2-0), Carl Junction (C4 – 1-1), Cassville (C3 – 1-1), Cabool (C1 – 2-0), Lebanon (C4 – 1-1), Lockwood (C1 – 2-0), Marionville (C1 – 2-0), Republic (C5 – 2-0)
Five other things
New 2-0 Teams
Several area programs are 2-0 for the first time in a few years this season. Nixa, Warsaw, Marionville and Lockwood are all 2-0 for the first time since 2017. Kickapoo is 2-0 for the first time since 2016. Republic and Aurora haven’t been 2-0 since 2014 and 2013, respectively. Nevada and Buffalo are both 2-0 for the first time since before 2010 when MSHSAA has records. Nevada’s two wins are more than the Tigers had in 2018 and 2019 combined.
Republic defense gets huge test
No area defense has been better through two weeks than Republic. The Tigers have allowed eight (8!) total points through two games to help the Tigers move to 2-0 for the first time since 2014. This week, Republic welcomes in Webb City, as they have a chance to make a big statement on their home turf.
Aurora on the rise
The Houn’ Dawgs proved a lot on Friday night in a 22-7 win over Monett. In Week 1, Aurora won a 50-36 shootout with McDonald County while rushing for 474 yards and seven touchdowns as a team. To be successful in the Big 8, you have to be able to play strong defense. On Friday, Aurora held a good Monett team to just seven points. They also controlled the ball with 52 carries and 317 yards as a team. That is a great formula to win football games at any level, but especially the Big 8. They can’t look past Rogersville this week, but a home date with rival Mt. Vernon awaits in Week 4. The Houn’ Dawgs will look to snap a five-game losing streak in that game.
Hillcrest upset bid falls short
Justin Gerald has things moving in the right direction on the north side of Springfield. The Hornets came up one point short of a big win over a West Plains team that has been a Class 4 and Ozark Conference power for many of the past seven years.
There are a lot of things to like from their game film, but Gunnar Brooks’ touchdown reception at the 50-second mark of the video below is worth your time.
Cabool impresses again
I discussed Cabool in this space last week, but their Week 2 performance warrants another mention. Cabool beat Greenfield 67-6 in Week 2 to improve to 2-0. We have around 65 football teams in our coverage area. Through two weeks, no other area team has scored as many points as Cabool’s 135. The next closes team is Lockwood, which has scored 102 through two weeks. On the other side of the ball, only Republic has yielded fewer points than Cabool’s 14. So through two weeks, that is the best scoring offense and second-best scoring defense. The schedule gets much tougher going forward with SCA play kicking off with a home game against Willow Springs this week.