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 – 7-0)
Carthage’s offense was unstoppable in a 63-29 win over Republic on Friday. Quarterback Patrick Carlton ran for more than 250 yards in the game. Luke Gall added more than 150 yards on the ground. As a team, Carthage ran for 472 yards. Up this week is a huge game with Nixa. Carthage is safely a top two team in its district. The Tigers are about two points behind Webb City. Playing up a class against Nixa will help, but I am not sure Carthage will be able to make up enough ground to overtake a Webb City team that played an extra game they won against Class 6 Kickapoo. There are also big conference implications this week with Carthage still being unbeaten, but only playing seven games to eight so far for Nixa.
2. Webb City (C5 – 7-1)
Dupree Jackson continued his ascension as a key playmaker for Webb City in a 48-13 win over Ozark. Jackson carried the ball 14 times for 130 yards and two touchdowns in the win. Devrin Weathers turned in 10 carries for 87 yards and two touchdowns. Webb City hosts two-win Willard this week. The Cardinals appear to be fairly safe as the No. 1 seed in their district.
3. West Plains (C4 – 8-0)
West Plains continued its dominant run with a 56-20 win over Waynesville to clinch the outright Ozark Conference title. Titus Seley has been one of the top players in the area this year. He has rushed for 1,519 yards and 20 touchdowns on 150 carries through eight games. Defensively, he is second on the Zizzers with 72 total tackles. Up this week is a matchup with Class 4 No. 7 Bolivar. The Liberators ended West Plains’ season last year in the district semifinals, so even though West Plains has already locked up a conference title and a district No. 1 seed, the Zizzers have plenty of motivation
4. Lamar (C2 – 6-1)
Lamar returned from a week off, due to not one but two opponents canceling on the Tigers, with a 37-6 win over Seneca. The Tigers have been on a roll since losing by one point to McDonald County in Week 3. They close out the regular season with a home game against East Newton this week. Lamar has locked up the top seed in its district. In fact, Lamar is the only team currently over .500 in Class 2 District 4. The other teams are: Sarcoxie (4-4), East Newton (1-6), El Dorado Springs (2-5), Clever (1-5) and Stockton (0-8).
5. Thayer (C1 – 6-1)
Thayer picked up a game with St. Pius X (Festus) after losing a game with Willow Springs. The Bobcats rolled to a 34-13 win. The 13 points was the most Thayer had given up since Week 1 and was one fewer point than they had given up in the previous five games combined. The Bobcats will be doing some serious scoreboard watching this week. Right now, Thayer is the No. 2 seed and Hayti the No. 3 seed. If St. Vincent (currently No. 1) were to lose this week, Thayer would likely move to No. 1 with a win. That one seed is huge because Hayti, the team that beat Thayer in Week 1, looks like a lock at the No. 3 seed. If Thayer and Hayti are directly adjacent to each other in the final standings, Hayti would jump over Thayer in the standings on the basis of the head-to-head contest. Basically, Thayer is looking at the possibility of home field advantage throughout the district playoffs or home field advantage for just the first game.
6. Marionville (C1 – 8-0)
Marionville got a bit of a push from Ash Grove, but still won by 10 points in a 38-28 decision. Dakota Wilson was a star yet again with 27 carries for 280 yards and three touchdowns. Wilson is up to 1,256 yards and 23 touchdowns on 151 carries this season. Marionville faces one-win Miller this week. Marionville is locked in as the No. 1 seed in Class 1 District 4. The No. 2 seed is Lockwood, a team that Marionville already has a win over this year. Cabool is the three seed seven points back.
7. Nixa (C6 – 7-1)
Nixa rebounded from a loss to Webb City with an emphatic 49-0 win over Carl Junction. Few teams have more to play for in Week 9 than Nixa when they travel to face Class 5 No. 1 Carthage, which comes in with a 16-game winning streak. The first thing Nixa is trying to do is secure a share of the COC title. Right now Carthage is 7-0 and Webb City is 6-1. I honestly don’t know what they will decide to do with the conference title this year since Webb City and Carthage did not play. If Nixa were to win, the Eagles would be 8-1 in conference and have the best conference winning percentage ahead of two 7-1 teams. The other thing Nixa has to play for is district seeding. Any hope Nixa has of moving to No. 1 in Class 6 District 3 rides on beating Carthage, and the Eagles will likely need to beat the Tigers handily to get the bonus. Ray-Pec is currently two points ahead of Nixa in the district standings and plays a 3-5 Park Hill team this week. A district championship home game is obviously vastly preferable to a road trip to Ray-Pec.
8. Skyline (C1 – 7-1)
Skyline spoiled Warsaw’s lone home game of 2020 by handing the Wildcats their first loss of the season in a 52-8 decision. The Tigers will look to polish off an unbeaten run through the Mid-Lakes with a home game against Strafford this week. The Tigers have a five-point cushion as the No. 1 seed in Class 1 District 3. That seed would offer a bye week for the Tigers. The No. 2 seed is Class 1 No. 4 unbeaten Windsor.
9. Cassville (C3 – 6-2)
Cassville won its third game in a row with a 42-0 decision over East Newton. Cassville has outscored its past three opponents by a total of 134-21. The Wildcats have a HUGE game against McDonald County this week. I will get more into the district implications below, but there are conference implications also this week. I am not sure how they will decide the champion in the Big 8 West, but right now Cassville (4-1), Lamar (3-1) and McDonald County (2-1) all have one loss. A Cassville win would give the Wildcats a 5-1 record against a full conference slate with the best winning percentage. Lamar, barring upset, will move to 4-1, but hold a head-to-head win over the Wildcats with a worse winning percentage due to playing one less conference game. A McDonald County win would flip the script and put them in a tie with Lamar in the loss column and a head-to-head victory over the Tigers, but a worse overall winning percentage. Again, I am not sure what they will do with this designation “conference champion” but a big piece of it will be decided this Friday in Cassville.
10. Bolivar (C4 – 6-2)
Bolivar took care of business in a 34-14 win over Kickapoo last week. The Liberators hit the road to face the unbeaten Ozark Conference champion West Plains Zizzers. Bolivar ended the season for West Plains last year in the district semifinals. This will be Bolivar’s first chance to face another state-ranked team. The Liberators look to be fairly settled in as the No. 2 seed behind Class 4 No. 1 Helias Catholic in Class 4 District 6.
OTHERS TO WATCH (alphabetical): Aurora (C3 – 6-2), Buffalo (C3 – 6-2), Liberty (C2 – 6-2) Lockwood (C1 – 6-1), Rogersville (C4 – 6-2)
Five Other Things (District Edition)
I am going to dedicate the five other things portion of this column to district standings this week. Below are some of the districts I am most interested in going into the final week. But first, a few notes.
1. If teams played head-to-head in the regular season, that result will be used to determine district seeds only if they finish next to each other in the standings. If Team A loses to Team B in the regular season and Team A has the No. 1 seed in district while Team B is No. 2, then Team B would vault over Team A for the No. 1 seed.
2. Teams can only move up or down one spot/seed from the final district standings. So, if the first place team has lost head-to-head to both the second and third place team, they can fall no further than No. 2.
3. You start from the top and work down when assessing head-to-head matchups in the district standings. If the second place team has a win over the No. 1 team and the third place team has wins over both No. 1 and No. 2, then No. 3 is out of luck. No. 2 will jump over No. 1. The former No. 1 can’t go any lower than No. 2.
4. There are a lot more byes available this year. Under the new MSHSAA classification rules, only Class 6 (all four districts) and Class 1 (four of eight districts) have eight teams. That means there is at least one bye available in all of the Class 2-5 districts. It used to be only Class 5 had byes available. Byes are obviously HUGE this year with COVID quarantines causing issues. Two area teams in other sports had their seasons ended dues to COVID quarantines. A bye and an extra week to get everybody back on the field could easily be the difference for teams this year.
Class 3 District 6
This is always an interesting district because it is full of Big 8 teams that have played each other. Right now the district standings are: 1. Cassville, 2. Aurora, 3. Mt. Vernon, 4. Hollister, 5. Reeds Spring and 6. Seneca.
Let’s go through the head-to-head results: Cassville has a head-to-head win over Seneca and a loss to Mt. Vernon. Aurora has wins over Hollister and Reeds Spring and a loss to Mt. Vernon. Mt. Vernon has wins over Aurora, Cassville and Reeds Spring with a loss to Hollister. Hollister has wins over Seneca and Mt. Vernon and losses to Reeds Spring and Aurora. Reeds Spring has beaten Hollister and lost to Mt. Vernon and Aurora. Seneca has no wins in district with losses to Cassville and Hollister
That is a lot to unpack. There is so much that can happen in this district. So, keeping in mind the standings above, if there was no Week 9 and the standings stayed the same then the seeds would be this: 1. Cassville 2. Mt. Vernon (jumps over Aurora thanks to head-to-head), 3. Aurora. 4. Reeds Spring (jumps over Hollister) 5. Hollister 6. Seneca.
I would say Cassville is a safe No. 1 seed, but the other five seeds are up for grabs. If Mt. Vernon wins, then they will assuredly go to No. 2 no matter what Aurora does. If Mt. Vernon, loses then they could drop as low as No. 4 falling behind Hollister. Hollister, if Mt. Vernon moves to No. 2 would then not be able to jump over Mt. Vernon and open it up for Reeds Spring to jump over them.
The top two seeds in this district get a bye in Week 10. There is a lot that will happen here on Friday night.
Class 5 District 5
Lebanon is solidly the No. 1 seed. They have wins over No. 2 Glendale and No. 3 Waynesville. What is at stake is that those two teams trailing Lebanon have a head-to-head game this week. Winner will get the No. 2 seed and a bye. Conversely, Waynesville has less than a point lead on No. 4 Willard. Willard has a matchup with Class 5 No. 2 Webb City this week. Even with a loss, Willard will get a bit of a point boost for strength of schedule. So, on the line is a bye and a district semifinal at home. There is also some very recent history here. Last year, Waynesville beat Glendale in the head-to-head regular season matchup to earn the No. 1 seed, which forced Glendale to hit the road to Waynesville for the district title game that Glendale eventually won.
Class 5 District 6
Webb City and Carthage are going to be Nos. 1-2 in some form in this district. Ozark will be No. 3 and Neosho No. 6. What is left to decide is the four and five seeds between Branson and Republic. Right now, Branson is the No. 4 seed and Republic is No. 5. The two teams face each other this week. Winner gets the right to host the rematch in the district quarterfinals next week.
Class 2 District 3
Catholic has thrown this district into chaos. Catholic did not play for three weeks after starting 0-3. The Irish were in sixth place in Class 2 District 3 after six weeks. The Irish have won two in a row and are now No. 1 in the district with a 2-3 record ahead of 6-2 Liberty.
Right now the standings in this district are: 1. Catholic (2-3 – 39.6 points), 2. Liberty (6-2 – 38.32), 3. Fair Grove (5-3 – 37.19), 4. Forsyth (5-3 – 35.67), 5. Houston (3-3 – 35.17). Since Catholic has only played five total games, their point total could vary pretty wildly depending on Friday’s result. The Irish will get a bump for playing up a class this week against Hollister. A win pretty much guarantees Catholic a No. 1 seed at 3-3.
Class 1 District 4
Right now Lockwood (6-1) sits at No. 2 behind Marionville with 44.97 points in Class 1 District 5. Cabool (5-3) is in third with 42.03 points. Lockwood faces two-win Diamond this week. Diamond also resides in Class 1 District 5. Things get interesting with Cabool playing up two classes against a 4-4 Salem squad. Cabool will get a huge boost from playing up two classes. The Bulldogs should also get a strength of schedule boost in comparison to Lockwood. Would a win over Salem be enough for Cabool to jump to the No. 2 seed and force Lockwood to make the two-hour drive to Cabool for a district semifinal matchup? Or will Lockwood hold onto the No. 2 seed?