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 – 3-0)
What makes Carthage such a dangerous team is how they can beat you in so many different ways. In Week 1, the Tigers had 366 yards rushing and 124 passing with no touchdowns through the air against Ozark. In Week 2, Carthage had 203 yards rushing and 114 passing in a narrow win over Carl Junction. On Friday, it was the aerial attack leading the way with Patrick Carlton throwing for 201 yards in a 42-7 win over Neosho. On the ground, Carthage had 140 yards rushing. Carlton also did a lot with his legs adding four rushing touchdowns. Up this week is a key COC road trip to Webb City. Carthage has lost three straight to Webb City with the last win over the Cardinals coming on Aug. 26, 2016. The Tigers now have the No. 1 scoring defense in the COC through three games with 41 total points allowed.
2. Webb City (C4 – 2-1)
Webb City hit the road to face a Republic defense that had yielded eight total points through two weeks. The Cardinal offense was able to find plenty of success in a 49-28 win over the Tigers. The aerial attack was on display for Webb City this week with Cole Gayman throwing for 121 yards and two touchdowns on six-for-eight passing. Through two weeks, Webb City had just 86 total passing yards. The ground attack was not absent by any means. Weathers had eight carries for 118 yards and three touchdowns. For the season, Weathers is up to 474 yards and nine touchdowns. This week is a huge showdown with Carthage coming to town. It is a battle of defending state champions. This game also has huge significance in the COC race. If Webb City loses, they will be two games back of Carthage in the standings. A Webb City win would leave Nixa as the only potentially unbeaten team pending the Eagles’ game against Republic.
3. Mt. Vernon (C3 – 3-0)
There is one remaining unbeaten team in the Big 8 and that is the Mt. Vernon Mountaineers. Mt. Vernon’s defense clamped down on Reeds Spring in a 28-10 win on Friday. The Mountaineers boast the No. 1 scoring defense in the entire Big 8 with 51 total points. Offensively, the connection of Mason Ballay to Rafe Darter has proven lethal. Through three games, Ballay has thrown for 524 yards and eight touchdowns. He has completed 76.6% of his passing attempts while also rushing for three touchdowns. Darter has been on the receiving end of many of those passes with 35 receptions for 301 yards and five touchdowns. This week, Mt. Vernon hits the road to face Aurora in the Bell Bowl.
4. Bolivar (C4 – 3-0)
Say hello to the No. 1 scoring defense in the Ozarks regardless of class. The Liberators have allowed 22 total points through three weeks. The No. 2 scoring defense in the Ozark and Central Ozark Conferences is Carthage, which has allowed 41 total points. This week, Bolivar met up with Lebanon in a game that featured two teams who wanted to do one thing: control the ball. The first 11 minutes of the game featured exactly one possession for each team as they tried to establish ground attacks. Bolivar led 7-0 at the half, but wore Lebanon down in the second half on the way to a 20-7 win over the Yellowjackets. This week, Bolivar gets its first chance to see Glendale, and its No. 2 ranked scoring offense, as a member of the Ozark Conference.
5. West Plains (C4 – 3-0)
Speaking of defense, West Plains welcomed in a Rolla team that had 247 yards of total offense (105 passing, 142 rushing) in Week 1 against Bolivar, and racked up 363 rushing yards (388 total) against Glendale in Week 2. Rolla found things much more difficult against West Plains. The Zizzers held Rolla to just 168 total yards of offense in a 43-7 win. Rolla didn’t break 100 yards passing or rushing. Offensively, Titus Seley carried the ball 21 times for 132 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Zizzers.
6. Nixa (C5 – 3-0)
Nixa continued its impressive start with a 42-6 win over Willard. The Eagles now have scored the second most points (119) in the COC while yielding the second fewest points (46). That is a recipe for success at any level. The Eagles return home this week to face a Republic team that started 2-0 before falling to defending Class 4 state champion Webb City in Week 3.
7. Kickapoo (C6 – 3-0)
The Kickapoo offense has improved game-after-game so far this year going from 28 points in Week 1 to 30 points in Week 2 up to 38 points in a 38-18 Week 3 win over Waynesville. The offensive line set the tone for Kickapoo on Friday with the team rushing for more than 300 yards despite no single player cracking the 100-yard mark. The Chiefs will face winless Parkview this week before a showdown with West Plains in Week 5.
8. Lamar (C2 – 2-1)
Lamar suffered a 42-41 loss on the road at Class 4 McDonald County. The win was huge for the McDonald County program. Lamar had a chance to win it with a 25-yard field goal as time expired, but were unable to convert. I only knock Lamar down to No. 8 this week because a one-point road loss to a 2-1 Class 4 school isn’t a bad loss for a Class 2 school especially considering Lamar’s first two wins of the season. The Tigers have a critical stretch of games coming with a home game against rival Nevada followed by back-to-back road games at Cassville and Mt. Vernon.
9. Thayer (C1 – 2-1)
Thayer now has back-to-back shutouts after beating Liberty 27-0 on Friday. They are two weeks removed from a 30-28 loss to Hayti in the opening week. Since then, Hayti has won games 58-0 and 62-0. This Bobcat defense is legit even without Jayce Haven. If they get Haven back this season, I love their chances to win a state title.
10. Buffalo (C3 – 3-0)
Buffalo is now 3-0 on the year after beating El Dorado Springs 33-16 in Week 3. The Bison look like they are poised to remain unbeaten for a while this season. Jamen Smith continues to be one of the hardest players for opposing coaches to game plan against.
OTHERS TO WATCH (alphabetical): Ava (C2 – 2-1), Cabool (C1 – 3-0), Cassville (C3 – 2-1), Marionville (C1 – 3-0), Ozark (C5 – 2-1)
Five Other Things
Kanengieter puts Marshfield on his back
After scoring 27 combined first-half points, Marshfield and Catholic turned things up in the second half with a combined 61 points that ended with Marshfield coming away with a 49-39 win. How did Marshfield win? Daylon Kanengieter. The senior running back took 31 carries for 303 yards and six (6!) touchdowns in the win. Kanengieter is a PUNISHING runner. Catch the highlights below, but pay special attention to the 47-yard touchdown run at the 1:27 mark.
McDonald County picks up huge win
The McDonald County Mustangs picked up the biggest win of the Kellen Hoover era with a 42-41 win over Lamar on Friday. The Mustangs had lost eight straight games to the Tigers by a combined score of 478-70 dating back to 2012. The Mustang offense is legit too. They have scored 113 points through three weeks, which is No. 2 in the entire Big 8 behind Lamar. The Big 8 West is wide open and McDonald County has proven it could be right in the thick of the battle for the title.
Marionville picks up key conference win
Our game of the week last Friday was Lockwood at Marionville. It was a game that will go a long way in deciding the Southwest Conference champion. The Comets came away with the 35-20 win to remain unbeaten on the year and move to 2-0 in the conference. They got it done on the ground with Dakota Wilson rushing for 208 yards and three touchdowns on 24 carries. Quarterback Wil Carlton added 14 carries for 103 yards and two more touchdowns to account for all of Marionville’s scoring. Carlton was efficient through the air with 136 yards on 11-for-12 passing. Wilson has rushed for 408 yards through three games.
Skyline puts it all together against Fair Grove
The Skyline Tigers started off the season with a 48-0 loss to Valle Catholic. Since then, the Tigers have been unstoppable on offense. In Week 2, Skyline won an 84-62 shootout against Stockton. Quarterback Lawson Beem threw for 330 yards and five touchdowns in that game. Zach Williams caught eight of those passes for 240 yards and all five touchdowns. Trey Swearingen (12 carries, 122 yards, 4 touchdowns) and Rick Woodhouse (8 carries, 108 yards, and 1 touchdown) made for an effective ground attack. The defense obviously needed to improve to win consistently. In Week 3, it all came together. The Tigers had lost four consecutive games to Fair Grove coming into Friday, but it was all Skyline rolling to a 47-12 win. Beem was 12-for-18 passing with 233 yards and three touchdowns while adding another rushing touchdown. Swearingen had 17 carries for 143 yards and two touchdowns. He also caught two passes for 41 yards and a touchdown. The Tigers step out of conference play hosting Slater this week.
Ford carries Pierce City pat Sarcoxie
Pierce City has bounced back nicely from an opening week loss to Lockwood with a 47-0 win over Diamond in Week 2 and a 43-24 win over Sarcoxie on Friday. Chanse Ford was the star for Pierce City in the win over Sarcoxie with 22 carries, 307 yards and three touchdowns on the ground for the Eagles. After everything that Pierce City lost to graduation, Ford’s presence as a senior leader and producer is key for success at Pierce City. You can see his full highlight reel from Friday’s game below.