With high school football’s regular season only nine weeks, and playoffs beginning in Week 10, this Friday (Week 3) is the first checkpoint of 2013.
It’s an early chance to try to separate the true contenders from the really good teams, the really good teams from the good teams, and the good teams from the teams that’ll probably only win 1-3 games this year.
And the schedule makers have done their part in Week 3, with several intriguing matchups.
Obviously, Week 3 isn’t a make-or-break week. It’s still a long season, injuries can happen, teams can be figured out and game-planned for.
But, I think we’ll see start to see some separation this week. The difference between 3-0 and 2-1 could end up being a more favorable matchup and seed in your district. The difference between 2-1 and 1-2 could swing a team’s confidence and outlook.
If you’re 0-3 after three weeks, you probably should hold off on reserving hotel rooms for St. Louis.
You can get by with a 2-0 or 3-0 start with a soft schedule early on, but eventually, you’re going to have to play a team that’s just as good if not better than you.
With that said, here are the big showdowns for this Friday.
• Cassville (1-1) @ Lamar (2-0)
Lamar may be the favorite to ‘3-peat’ as Class 2 champions, but conference is a far different story. The Class 2 Tigers are probably considered home underdogs this week against Class 3 Cassville, a team that hasn’t had a Big 8 loss since 2008. Before losing at Branson in Week 1, Cassville hadn't lost in the regular season since 2009.
The Wildcats have blown out Lamar in the last three meetings. Obviously, a loss won’t really affect Lamar that much since it plays in Class 2. But if the Tigers can at least keep this one close, or do the improbable and win, that would give them even more confidence in the early postseason against the likes of Strafford and Liberty.
Cassville just wins, year in and year out, so it’s hard to pick against the Wildcats. It’s easy to pick Lamar as the Class 2 finalist, and depending on how Class 3 plays out, this could be a matchup of two future state champions.
• Camdenton (2-0) @ Lebanon (2-0)
The race for an Ozark Conference title is equivalent to the BCS National Championship. With 10 teams in the conference, each regular season game is now a conference game. That means each week, the battle for the conference lead can flip wildly depending on who wins and upsets.
The OC may be a bit down this year. Hillcrest is lurking, but I think the winner of Camdenton-Lebanon will battle Kickapoo for the OC title.
• Strafford (2-0) @ Marionville (2-0)
This is easily the first legitimate test of the season for both of these teams. We knew Strafford would be pretty good, Marionville is a bit of a surprise with a new coach (Jamie LaSalle) and quarterback (Jacob LaSalle).
• Republic (2-0) @ Ozark (2-0)
Top to bottom, the COC-Large is probably the deepest league in the area this year. Ozark was expected to take a step back with its massive graduation loss from a year ago.
This matchup has all the makings of a 45-41 game. If it were fantasy football, I’d advise you to bench both defenses and start any skill position players from either team that you can.
• Nixa (2-0) @ Branson (1-1)
We’ll get a better picture of Branson and Nixa this week, as it’s the first conference game for each team. This game would seem to be a highlight reel waiting to happen, with Alec Murphy and Jacob Karlson (Nixa) going up against Branson and DaQuan Irvin, who can do DaQuan Irvin-y things like account for four touchdowns in three different ways like he did against Cassville.
But, I think this ends up being a low-scoring game, somewhere around 21-17.
Branson only allowed 17 points last week in a loss at Bolivar, and Nixa has given up 14 total points through two weeks.
• Joplin (2-0) @ Hillcrest (1-1)
Another BCS –like matchup that will elevate the winner into conference title contention. A Hillcrest win would put the Hornets in perfect position behind Lebanon and Camdenton, who both still have to play Kickapoo.
Joplin would be the surprise of the league with a 3-0 start.
• Other games to watch
Reeds Spring (2-0) @ Marshfield (0-2) – Marshfield’s brutal early season schedule doesn’t get any easier. The Jays might get the distinction no school would want: the best 0-3 team in the area.
Carthage (1-1) @ Webb City (1-1) – A crack in the Cardinal armor, maybe? The winning streak’s over but unfortunately for Carthage, the Cardinals probably start a new one this week.
Bolivar (2-0) @ Harrisonville (2-0) – Give the Liberators credit. They always try to schedule up. Good thinking. Like everyone else in Class 4, they know they’ll eventually have to play Webb City.
Liberty (2-0) @ Thayer (1-1) – If the COC-Large isn’t the deepest conference, then it’s probably the SCA. Both of these teams are ranked in the top six in their respective classes, Thayer No. 6 in Class 1 and Liberty No. 2 in Class 2.
Around the O-Zone
1. Great effort from the football Bears last Saturday in a game nobody (except those on the MSU sideline) expected them to win. That was a game they could’ve easily shrugged their shoulders and said ‘Eh, good effort. Let’s get ready for next week.’ when they fell behind 21-0. But BAM, two touchdowns within 10 seconds and it really got interesting. MSU goes to Murray State this weekend. In the 2010 meeting, the Racers set a school record for most points in game.
2. No one’s too hyped about Mizzou and Arkansas’ 2-0 starts, right? I hope I’m not alone on this. I consider their non-conference schedules pretty much like preseason NFL. The wins obviously count for them, but we’ll see just how good each is when SEC play arrives in a few weeks.
3. I’m not a college basketball coach, but I play one on my X-Box 360 and I have no problems doing it on the internet. Looking at the Bears’ basketball depth chart for next season, here’s my early prediction for the starting lineup and playing time:
Starters: PG – D. Williams; SG – M. Marshall; SF/CG – J. Gulley; F – E. Addo; F – C. Kirk
Off the bench (in order of most playing time): G. Thurman; T. McCullough; R. Mvouika; D. Thomas; N. Scheer; K. Pickens; A. Ruder; M. Simpson; B. Marshall.
Looking at those names, wow, this could be the deepest team the Bears have had since the mid-2000s. I think McCullough is the wild card. Paul Lusk has had to go with smaller lineups almost by necessity, so I’m eager to see what he’ll do with a true “big.”
Ruder’s the best pure shooter on the team, I think his playing time fluctuates throughout the season depending on how the Bears’ perimeter shooting goes.
4. Cautiously encouraged by the Chiefs in Week 1. If the offense hinges on Alex Smith, then the defense probably hinges on Dontari Poe’s performance. And boy, did Poe look awesome against Jacksonville. The Jaguars could be (i.e. probably are) the worst team in the league, but I haven’t seen a Chiefs’ defensive tackle dominate like that since Neil Smith.
5. Nice comeback win for the Rams. I learned three things: Robert Quinn is really good, Arizona’s Levi Brown should not be playing left tackle under any circumstance, and judging by Twitter, Rams fans hate Brian Schottenheimer.
The Reeds Spring v Marshfield will be a good one. Reeds Spring's triple-option versus Marshfield's heavy pass attack. Two of the best quarterbacks in the area playing as well.
Lamar vs. Cassville! The ultimate showdown early in the season.
I like Lamar's focus and with their offensive power and much more favorable weather conditions and team health, this should be the year to knock off Cassville. The Big 8 conference isloaded this year. This could well be two state champions playing a great game!
Be there or be square!
Cassville vs. Lamar
Playoff enviornment @ Thomas M. O'Sullivan Stadium this Friday. Two great programs with the smaller (class size) foe out to prove their worth in the Big 8. Can't wait for kickoff!
Reeds Spring Marshfield
When Marshfield's QB, Armstrong, connected on that last second TD at Reeds Spring last year, you know the Wolves have been itching to play them again. The COC small is packed with talented QBs and this game will feature two of them in Easton Flaughand Blayne Armstrong. This game has emotion and revenge written all over it.