By Jordan Burton (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
What were some of the biggest stories from Week 4 of the football season? Jordan Burton takes a look back at last night’s action with the things that stood out the most to him.
Making a STATEment
No one made a bigger statement on Friday night than Carthage. The Tigers had lost four straight to Webb City and 13 of their last 15 in the series. It wasn’t just the fact that Carthage won, but how they went about the 42-14 dub, jumping out to a 21-0 first quarter lead, turning Webb City over twice in the first 12 minutes and dominating the battle in the trenches. Junior Luke Gall is making a legitimate case for both COC Offensive & Defensive Player of the Year awards. He rushed 233 yards and four touchdowns on 23 carries, but the Cardinals couldn’t block him on the other side of the ball. Micah Lindsey was fantastic in the trenches and Caden Kabance (209 rushing yards, 2 TDs) continues to provide a veteran presence at quarterback despite having minimal experience playing the position. Every year Carthage is one of the favorites to make a Final Four run. On Friday, the Tigers proved they may be THE favorite to bring home a state championship in Class 5… West Plains and Camdenton have provided us with some memorable football games over the last several years, but Friday wasn’t one of them. That’s not a knock on Camdenton, who very well could run the table the rest of the way. It’s just a testament to how good West Plains is. They’re good in every phase, but beyond that, they’re insanely physical and athletic with massive amounts of star-power. Kenslow and Lair get a lot of love and deservedly so, but this offensive line is an elite unit for the Zizzers, led by senior Jaylon James. They were the common denominator in WP rushing for 410 yards and seven touchdowns on Friday, averaging nearly 10 yards per carry. Like Carthage, the Zizzers should start commanding an even larger share of votes in the state poll… What happened on Friday is something we’ve seen so much from Lamar that we shrug it off, but it’s crazy to think about. The Tigers hammered Nevada 48-22 to claim the Silver Tiger yet again, but again it’s the how. Jumping up two classes, Lamar out-physicaled a really good and athletic Nevada group. In the past we’ve seen Lamar do this to undefeated and state-ranked teams like Carl Junction, Cassville, Seneca, etc. Nevada may not lose another game this regular season. The performance Lamar put together is nothing less than impressive… I’m going to preface this by saying ignore their record; Liberty is still a high-level team and they’ll likely win out to finish the regular season. What Ava did in the 59-24 win says more about the Bears. Keep in mind, Liberty hung with state-ranked and undefeated Fair Grove and Thayer. Ava rushed for more than 400 yards and finished the game by scoring 31 of the game’s final 37 points. We’ve talked about Lamar and Fair Grove all year, the Bears are quickly proving they aren’t too far behind in Class 2.
4 and a Donut
Joplin, Carthage, West Plains, Lamar, Fair Grove and Marionville are undefeated. No one is surprised at this point. Glendale, Lebanon, Ava and Warsaw are a little more surprising. Glendale avoiding West Plains allowed both teams to remain on this list. Lebanon reloads every single year and the Jackets are yet again right in the thick of the Class 5 race. Ava is finally healthy and we’re seeing what happens when Dan Swofford has a full roster. Warsaw was sub. 500 last year thanks to a pair of COVID breaks. Healthy and whole, they should enter Week 7 undefeated. Thanks to scheduling, at most seven of these teams can finish the regular season unbeaten.
Conference Championship Races
- The COC is officially a three-horse race between Joplin, Carthage and Nixa. Joplin’s win over Nixa puts them in the driver’s seat right now. Nixa has yet to play Carthage or Webb City. Carthage still has Nixa and Joplin and Joplin is just waiting on the Week 7 visit from Carthage to all but end the race.
- The Ozark Conference is a hot mess, with Lebanon, West Plains and Glendale all undefeated and Camdenton lurking at 3-1. The Zizzers clearly have the upper hand following their rout of Camdenton, but the next few weeks will make things interesting. Lebanon will visit Glendale next week, eliminating someone. West Plains visits Lebanon the following week, giving someone else a loss. The elephant in the room is the cancellation of the Glendale-West Plains game, which could end up leaving the OC with two unbeaten teams come October.
- Big 8 East is about as open as it gets with three teams (Aurora, Reeds Spring and Hollister) all sitting at 3-1. Marshfield is one game back at 2-2. None of the top three have played each other, which will change over the next month. Reeds Spring gets both games at home. Marshfield is a sleeper in the race despite the loss to Hollister because of their remaining games with Reeds Spring and Aurora. The Dawgs have quietly won three straight since a season-opening loss to a really good McDonald County group.
- The Big 8 West = Lamar.
- In the SCA it seems like we’re headed for an Ava-Thayer championship in Week 7. They’re the only two unbeaten teams in the league and both have already seen Liberty. Ava will host Thayer, where the Bobcats haven’t won a game since 2015.
- Mid-Lakes Conference will come down to Fair Grove hosting Strafford in Week 6. If the Eagles win, it’s over. If the Indians win, it’ll come down to a Week 9 showdown with Skyline, which could force a three-way tie for the crown. For what it’s worth, Fair Grove has lost to one MLC opponent (Skyline) since 2018.
- The Southwest Conference is still in its infancy but the race is already a runaway with everyone chasing Marionville. The Comets are among the favorites in Class 1 and have pitched three straight shutouts. Technically Diamond and Sarcoxie are still unbeaten in the league, but there’s a sizable gap between the Comets and everyone else.
- Ozark Highlands – It’s a three-team race between Butler, Buffalo and Warsaw and in three weeks we’ll know how this story ends. Butler will host Buffalo on Oct.1 and visit Warsaw the following Friday. If they win both, it’s over. Should Butler drop one, it’ll come down to a Week 9 matchup with Warsaw hosting Buffalo. Butler hasn’t lost a regular-season game since 2019, when the program went just 1-9. They’re 14-1 since the start of 2020.
Big Man on Campus
Hunter Adams needs parental permission to watch the majority of Disney movies, but that didn’t stop the freshman back from racking up 244 yards and three touchdowns on Friday. Should we really be surprised? Adams shattered Ava track records throughout junior high and already has a varsity frame. He’ll give the SCA fits for the next 3.5 years. Also, shoutout to Spencer Skyles who continues to feast when healthy. He rushed for 154 yards and three touchdowns. Him being healthy is a large reason why Ava is back to being Ava… We already mentioned Luke Gall, but keep this in mind. He’s been a varsity starter at linebacker since his freshman year. He’s the heart of a defense that is allowing just 10 points per game… Connor Lair and Dagen Kenslow continue to make things look really easy. Kenslow (21-193-2) and Lair (13-177-4) both balled out on a big stage against rival Camdenton. Their offensive line is incredible, but these two are game-changers with the ball in their hands… Speaking of great Ozark Conference backs, Nathan Bartel has picked up exactly where he finished his sophomore year with big plays. On Friday he went for 199 yards and three touchdowns on just 12 carries. Last year he averaged nearly 12 yards a carry so that’s really just par for the course… . Branson senior David Hadaller entered Friday with three career rushing downs. Two quarters later he matched that output in one half, finishing with four touchdowns in Branson’s win over Neosho… Brady Slavens continues to put up numbers for Warsaw. On Friday he completed seven of his eight attempts for 106 yards and two TDs. He added 97 yards and another touchdown on just six carries. He didn’t play after halftime… McDonald County is off to a 3-1 starter for the second consecutive season under Kellen Hoover and senior quarterback Cole Martin is again a major reason why. On Friday he had a hat trick on the ground, tossed another touchdown and added an interception defensively to help Coach Hoover knock off his former employer for the third time in five years…
Week 5 Games of the Week
Lebanon (4-0) at Glendale (3-0)
The Story: Lebanon has won five straight and 12 of the last 15. None of those games has been decided by fewer than double digits.
What’s at Stake: A win for Glendale and they’re likely marching to at least a share of the Ozark Conference title. A win for Lebanon and they’re one win over West Plains away from an outright league title. These two teams share Class 5 – District 5 so homefield advantage is also at stake.
Match-Up to Watch: The Trenches – Glendale’s Achilles heel has always been its ability to stop the run and Lebanon is one of the best programs in Missouri at pounding the rock. Last year the Jackets rushed for 773 yards in two wins against Glendale. If the Falcon front can put Lebanon in obvious passing situations and leave them behind the chains, Glendale’s offense is still explosive enough to get it done. If not, Glendale’s offense will watch Lebanon’s roll up 75+ snaps and milk the clock.
Webb City (2-2) at Carl Junction (2-2)
The Story: Webb City has won 14 straight.
What’s at Stake: Braggin’ rights. Both teams are essentially eliminated from the COC race due to losses vs. Joplin and Carthage. They’re both jockeying for district seeding right now but are likely looking at trips to Carthage and West Plains respectively (to win district titles).
What to Know: The last time Webb City got beat by four touchdowns was in 2009. The Cardinals responded with five consecutive state championships and a 46-game winning streak. Few teams bounce back from losses better than Webb.
McDonald County (3-1) at Seneca (3-1)
The Story: Seneca has won eight straight. Four of those games have been decided by a single possession.
What’s at Stake: Lamar is going to win the league, but both squads have a legitimate shot at deep postseason runs, which will largely be predicated on seedings. Seneca is currently the 3-seed in C3-D6 where fellow Big 8 brethren Hollister and Aurora are ahead of them. Seneca has a chance to stack some wins. With trips to Nevada and Lamar still ahead, this is one the Indians will desperately need come October. For McDonald County, the Stangs can’t catch West Plains or CJ on strength of schedule, so it has to be done by sheer win volume. Should Mac win out, which is possible, an 8-1 record could get them the 2-seed. That would mean they’d have to go to Nevada and get a win on Oct. 15. That may be a tall task, but beating Seneca on Friday makes it a little easier to drop one game down the stretch.
Match-Up to Watch: Cole Martin vs. Seneca Secondary – The Indians have struggled a little defensively, allowing some big numbers to Hollister and Marshfield. Mac is pretty balanced offensively, which keeps defenses honest. Martin is good enough to loosen the box, which allows the Mustangs to establish the run. Seneca has to force Mac into becoming one dimensional.
Hollister (3-1) at Reeds Spring (3-1)
The Story: Reeds Spring has won 13 straight vs. Hollister and six of those have been turbo clocks.
What’s at Stake: The winner takes the driver seat in the Big 8 East race, needing just a win over Aurora to solidify things. Also, these two teams share C3-D6 where Hollister is currently the top seed and Reeds is sitting at No. 4. The district is loaded with five of the seven teams sitting at 3-1. Getting the 1-seed and a first round bye is more important in this district than any other because of how strong the bottom is; 6- Mountain Grove and 7-Cassville are capable of beating anyone. This game will be massive in conference and district races.
What to Know: Who can get a stop? Reeds Spring comes in averaging 41.5 PPG. Hollister is sitting at 37.3 PPG. But, for as much as both teams score, they have both been suspect defensively, allowing 25.5 and 33.8 respectively. So, the average score of their games has been nearly 70 points meaning this game has all the potential to be an absolute shootout. They’re probably not going to stop each other consistently, but getting off the field on third down and/or forcing a turnover or two will make all the difference in a game that should come down to the wire.