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 – 6-0)
Carthage started fast against Joplin getting out to a 28-7 lead on Friday. The Eagles pulled within one score at 28-20 before Carthage would pull away for a 41-20 win. The Tigers are now the only remaining unbeaten team in the COC after Nixa’s loss to Webb City. Carthage travels to Republic this week before hosting Nixa to close out the regular season.
2. Webb City (C5 – 6-1)
Webb City picked up the most impressive win of any area team with a 28-0 win over a previously unbeaten Nixa team that was ranked No. 2 in Class 6. Nixa entered the contest averaging 40 points per game. Webb City running back Devrin Weathers still has yet to be held below 100 rushing yards in a game this year after he carried the ball a season-high 22 times for 132 yards. He now is just shy of 1,000 yards on the season at 987. Webb City definitely has a case for the No. 1 spot in these rankings, but they hold here after Carthage’s 21-point win over a Joplin team that is the source of Webb City’s lone loss on the season.
3. West Plains (C4 – 7-0)
West Plains continues to show complete dominance. This time it came in the form of a 70-6 win over Parkview. The Zizzer defense held Parkview to 40 total yards including -7 yards on 28 carries. They also forced three Parkview turnovers with two interceptions and a fumble. West Plains had nine tackles for a loss and four sacks. The offense is just as dominant with 325 points through seven games including back-to-back games with at least 63 points. The Zizzers host Waynesville and Bolivar to close out the year.
4. Lamar (C2 – 5-1)
Lamar was off this week due after losing both their regularly scheduled game with Monett and their replacement game with Butler. A road trip to Seneca is on the schedule this week before closing out the season at home against East Newton.
5. Thayer (C1 – 5-1)
If I was power ranking defenses, Thayer’s unit would be No. 1. The Bobcats have now allowed six points or fewer in five consecutive games. This time that Bobcats handled Ava 43-6 to easily beat the reigning SCA champion and Class 2 state runner-up. All-state defensive back Jayce Haven returned this week. He had nine interceptions on defense last year to go with almost 2,000 yards of total offense at quarterback. This team got even better this week and that should scare the rest of Class 1.
6. Marionville (C1 – 7-0)
I went out to watch Marionville in person this week. They Comets definitely did not disappoint in a 48-12 win over Sarcoxie. Sarcoxie actually scored on its first drive to take a 6-0 lead, so Marionville outscored the Bears 48-6 after that opening drive. The most impressive thing I saw in this game was Dakota Wilson’s touchdown run in the first quarter. From about 10 yards out, he took a handoff and disappeared into a pile of Bears only to keep his feet for a touchdown. Words don’t do the run justice. Watch it yourself in the video below. It takes place at the 56-second mark. Marionville travels to Ash Grove this week.
7. Nixa (C6 – 6-1)
Nixa ran into its toughest test of the season and came up short in a 28-0 road loss to Webb City. Nixa is still a very good team. They just aren’t on the level of a Webb City yet. The Eagles use a lot of young players and will learn from the loss, but Nixa will need to improve to compete in the state’s largest class that features a nationally ranked DeSmet team at No. 1. Nixa is still in the mix for a share of the COC title as long as they win out.
8. Skyline (C1 – 6-1)
Skyline extended its winning streak to six games by beating Lighthouse Christian 40-27. It was also the sixth consecutive game that the Tigers scored at least 40 points. This week’s game is intriguing with a road trip to Warsaw. The Wildcats are unbeaten at 3-0, but have not played a game since Sept. 18, so Friday’s action will be the first in almost exactly a month for Warsaw.
9. Cassville (C3 – 5-2)
Cassville doubled up Seneca in a 42-21 victory. The Wildcats are now the lone area team ranked in the Class 3 state rankings. Another big development this week was Cassville moving to the No. 1 seed in the district standings with Mt. Vernon falling to No. 3. It is true that Mt. Vernon owns head-to-head wins over both No. 1 Cassville and No. 2 Aurora, but a team can only move up or down one spot after the final district standings are set. So, if the season ended today, Mt. Vernon could jump over Aurora for the No. 2 spot, but could not also jump Cassville. So, if you are a Wildcat fan, if Cassville wins out and as long as Mt. Vernon is not No. 2 in the final standings, Cassville will get home field advantage in the district playoffs along with a first round bye.
10. Bolivar (C4 – 5-2)
Bolivar bounced back from a Week 6 loss to Waynesville with a 41-0 win over Hillcrest. It was the first shutout of the year for the Liberators. Now Bolivar has two huge games remaining with Class 6 Kickapoo and Class 4 No. 2 West Plains. The Liberators probably won’t have a chance at the No. 1 seed in the district, but they are in a tight race with Warrensburg for the No. 2 seed. Getting the No. 2 seed is HUGE for Bolivar. They have had a lot of players placed in quarantine this year, so getting a No. 2 seed would provide a bye week and a chance to get fully healthy versus having to play an opening round district game.
OTHERS TO WATCH (alphabetical): Aurora (C3 – 5-2), Buffalo (C3 – 5-2), Lockwood (C1 – 5-1), Ozark (C5 – 5-2), Rogersville (C4 – 52)
Five Other Things
Clever picks up first win
Congratulations to Clever football on its first win as a varsity program. The Blue Jays beat Stockton 35-32 on Friday. Jake Twigg led the way with almost 300 yards of total offense. He had 19 carries for 157 yards and four receptions for 139 yards. That included a 97-yard touchdown run. The win assured that Clever will be no worse than the No. 5 seed in the district.
Catholic returns after three weeks off
Springfield Catholic returned to the field on Friday after three weeks off. The Irish came away with a 6-0 win over Mt. Vernon. That marked Catholic’s first win of the year. Watch out for this Irish team come playoff time. Right now, they are a five seed in a seven team district, but there isn’t a single team in their Class 2 district they can’t play with. So far, they have lost to the area’s best Class 2 team in Lamar along with losses to Class 4 teams McDonald County and Marshfield. They host Class 4 Monett this week before traveling to face Class 3 Hollister in Week 9. The Irish, at best, will be a .500 team entering district play, but they will have played the toughest schedule of any team in Class 2 District 3.
I will admit, after back-to-back losses to open the season, Branson fell a bit below my radar. Then they rattled off back-to-back wins over Carl Junction and Neosho to get to 2-2 before back-to-back losses to Webb City and Carthage moved the Pirates to 2-4. Branson got back on the winning side of things this week with a dominant 48-14 win over Willard. Offensively, the Pirates did it with a dominant ground game that saw David Handaller carry 16 times for 153 yards and two touchdowns with Christian Berumen adding 16 carries for 147 yards and four touchdowns. Now, Branson is 3-4 on the year with the four losses coming to teams who are a combined 23-4 on the season. Three wins is the most since 2017 and tied for the second most since 2013 for the Pirates. They finish out with a game at Joplin this week before a home game with Republic to close the season. Win both those games and Branson will guarantee its first .500 or better finish since 2011.
Liberty quietly stacking wins
Brock Kenaga had 25 years of experience at Liberty coming into the season, but this was his first year as head coach. The Eagles started 1-2, but have since rattled off four straight wins including victories over Ava and Cabool to bookend the winning streak. The five-win total matches what Liberty had for the entirety of the 2017 and 2019 seasons. It is just two wins short of the 2018 season. The Eagles have a road trip to Salem this week before a Week 9 game at Houston that will likely decide the No. 1 seed in the district.
Mountain Home’s turnaround
We are going to take a quick trip south of the border to talk about Steve Ary and the job he has done with the Mountain Home Bombers. Mountain Home had the longest losing streak in Arkansas at 23 games entering its game on Sept. 11. Fast forward to now, and Mountain Home has won three of five games to get to 3-3 overall. The job that Ary, and his coaching staff that includes longtime Liberty coach Darin Acklin, have done is nothing short of impressive. To turn around a program while taking over in a pandemic deserves all the praise. The Bombers are led by dual threat quarterback Bryce McKay who has thrown for 748 yards and seven touchdowns and run for 892 yards and eight touchdowns.