By Chris Parker
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 – 3-0)
Carthage was off last week after a COVID-19 outbreak within the team. It canceled their highly anticipated game against Webb City. The result of that game would’ve taken on even more importance today, as it was announced Webb City was moving up to Class 5 and was placed in a district with Carthage. Carthage stays in the top spot as they are still the unbeaten defending state champion. Carthage hosts Branson this week.
2. Webb City (C5 – 3-1)
Webb City was in danger of having to reschedule senior night after Carthage was forced to cancel two days before their game. The Cardinals were able to add Kickapoo on about 52 hours’ notice. They handed the Class 6 Chiefs their first loss of the year in a 38-10 decision. On Monday, Webb City found out they would be moving up to Class 5 this year. They will share a district with defending Class 5 state champion Carthage. So there is a chance we could get a battle of state champions, but it would have be under the highest stakes of a win-or-go-home game in district play.
3. Mt. Vernon (C3 – 4-0)
Mt. Vernon’s defense stepped up to get a Bell Bowl win over Aurora by a 19-6 margin on Friday. The Mountaineers have now won 19 consecutive regular season games. Mt. Vernon was placed in Class 3 District 6 on Monday. They share a district with Cassville, Aurora, Hollister, Reeds Spring and Seneca. The Mountaineers already have wins over three of those teams head-to-head. They will get a shot at a 4-0 district record when they play Hollister later this year. Up this week is a home game against Rogersville.
4. West Plains (C4 – 4-0)
West Plains put together a second-straight defensive masterpiece in a 28-6 win over Camdenton. The Zizzers have allowed 13 total points in the past two weeks. Few area teams had a better result on Monday with the district assignments than the Zizzers. Webb City moved out of their district and class. While Bolivar, the team that ended West Plains’ season last year, moved to a new district. West Plains has a sizable 14.36-point lead on second place Carl Junction in the district standings. That first place position is especially important for West Plains because it means home field advantage in a district where the other teams include: Carl Junction, McDonald County, Rogersville, Monett, Marshfield and Hillcrest. It is also a seven-team district, so a first place finish in the standings means a bye week and guaranteed spot in the district semifinals.
5. Nixa (C6 – 4-0)
Nixa continued to roll with a 35-7 win over Republic. The Eagles will move up to Class 6 this year. They share a district with Kickapoo, Joplin and five Kansas City area schools. Right now, just 23 of the 32 teams in Class 6 have played a game with most of St. Louis sitting out right now. All eight teams in Nixa’s district have played four games so far. The Eagles are No. 2 in the standings after four weeks. Getting that No. 1 seed would be huge as it would mean staying home for the duration of the district playoffs instead a trip, or multiple trips, to Kansas City.
6. Lamar (C2 – 3-1)
Lamar beat rival Nevada 44-28 in the Silver Tiger game. It was a nice bounce-back win for Lamar after falling to McDonald County by one point in Week 3. Lamar stays in Class 2 this year, but the team that knocked Lamar out last year, Ava, has moved up to Class 3. Right now, Lamar is the only team in its district with more than one win on the season.
7. Thayer (C1 – 3-1)
Thayer’s shutout streak was snapped in Week 4, but just barely. The Bobcats beat Salem 48-6. The defense has yielded six points in three games since losing to Hayti in Week 1. Speaking of Hayti, Thayer moved out of the Class 1 district that hosts most of the area’s teams and into Class 1 District 1 where that same Hayti team resides. Thayer still hopes to have quarterback and defensive back Jayce Haven back this season. A second matchup with Hayti in a district playoff would be very entertaining.
8. Buffalo (C3 – 4-0)
Buffalo remained unbeaten with a 47-12 win over Stockton on Friday. The Bison were scheduled to play at Sherwood this Friday, but that has changed to an intriguing trip to face Aurora after both teams had their originally scheduled games canceled. The Bison stay in Class 3 this year, and they are solidly in the driver’s seat for a No. 1 seed in their district. They have a 10-point lead in the points. Ava did move into Buffalo’s district this year, which would make for an entertaining rematch if it came to happen.
9. Bolivar (C4 – 3-1)
Bolivar suffered its first loss of the season against Glendale in a 20-15 decision. Bolivar’s defense continued to shine in holding Glendale to a season-low 20 points. The Liberator offense just wasn’t able to get anything going. It was the first time since Sept. 7, 2012 that Glendale scored fewer than 26 points and won a game. Bolivar will play in Class 4 District 6 this year. Right now they are the No. 2 seed to a very strong Helias Catholic squad.
10. Cassville (C3 – 3-1)
Cassville is back at full strength, which should have everybody in the Big 8 and Class 3 on notice. Senior running back/linebacker Zach Coenen and senior quarterback Hayden Sink both returned to the lineup in a 43-6 rout of Rogersville on Friday. Cassville lost its only game on a late touchdown to Mt. Vernon in Week 1. Coenen and Sink are obviously difference makers. The Wildcats share a district with Mt. Vernon, so there is a chance we get a chance to see the two match up again this year.
OTHERS TO WATCH (alphabetical): Cabool (C1 – 3-1), Kickapoo (C6 – 3-1), Marionville (C1 – 4-0), McDonald County (C4 – 3-1), Ozark (C5 – 3-1)
Five Other Things (District Edition)
What will Class 6 postseason look like?
There are 32 teams in Class 6. Right now nine of those teams have not played a game. Our local Class 6 district (District 3) that has Joplin, Kickapoo and Nixa along with District 4 each have eight teams that have all played at least three games. Class 6 District 1 has just two teams that have played at all so far. I would hope if this maintains, MSHSAA would adjust the district assignments to better balance out the teams. It wouldn’t be fair to make some teams battle through two games just to get to the district championship, which is also the state quarterfinal in Class 6, while Class 6 District 1 has just two teams playing that get a pass straight to the district title game.
Class 5 loads back up
Last year, Class 5 had just 36 teams. Under the new classification rules where the top 32 enrollments go to Class 6, 20% of the remaining schools go to Class 1 with the remaining schools divided among the other four classes, Class 5 is up to 51 teams this year. The biggest mover is, of course, Webb City. The Cardinals moving into the same district as Carthage sets up a chance for an absolute classic district game if we get there.
The importance of district quarterfinal byes
Last year, Class 5 was the only class that had consistent byes for its teams with most every class being eight districts of eight teams with a few exceptions. That is out the window this year. All four Class 6 districts have eight teams while four Class 1 districts have eight teams. That means the other 36 districts across all classes have fewer than eight teams, which opens up at least one bye and sometimes two in the district playoffs. Those byes are even more important this year. Many teams are having to quarantine because of COVID with some canceling games. That bye week will be key for any team who is missing players to quarantine and would otherwise have to play without them.
Catholic moves down to Class 2
One under-the-radar move was Springfield Catholic moving down to Class 2. The Irish play a tough Big 8 schedule. Right now they are last place in their district standings at 0-3, but their losses are to perennial Class 2 power Lamar along with Class 4 schools McDonald County and Marshfield. They would be one of the more dangerous seven seeds imaginable if they stay in that spot. They share a district with Houston, Forsyth, Strafford, Fair Grove, Liberty and Willow Springs.
Class 3 is brutal
The new classification procedures have made Class 3 an absolute gauntlet. Defending Class 3 state champion Odessa and state runner-up Cassville remained in Class 3. Also joining Class 3 are defending Class 2 state champion Lutheran North and Class 2 state runner-up Ava. Valle Catholic, a program that has won 15 state titles, also moves up two classes from Class 1 after winning the title there last season.