By Jordan Burton (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
What were some of the biggest stories from Week 6 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. He also looks ahead at the big games of Week 7.
Making a STATEment
Lebanon deserves first-place votes in Class 5. The Jackets hosted an unbeaten, loaded and dominant West Plains group and for much of the second half, it wasn’t a game. With Mizzou head coach Eli Drinkwitz in attendance, Will Christian lined up and ran it right behind Tristan Wilson. Junior Cade Muscia finished with four touchdowns and some extremely physical runs. That was really the theme of the game; Lebanon out-toughed West Plains, at one point scoring 28 unanswered points. But, this was more about how good the Jackets are. They’re a legitimate threat in Class 5… For West Plains, don’t read too much into this. Do the Zizzers need to be better defensively? Yes. However, keep in mind they were on the road, playing up a class against a team they had dominated as of late. This was the first game all season West Plains even trailed in. This is the wake up call they needed. WP is still a state title contender at minimum in Class 4… Fair Grove trailed Strafford 14-12 at the end of the first quarter. The Eagles responded by scoring 30 unanswered points over the next two quarters. Fair Grove continues to fly under the radar because of how good Lamar has been and everyone’s expectation that the Tigers still own Class 2. However, Fair Grove has jumped every hurdle placed in front of them so far this season. Friday’s 58-20 win is yet another reminder that Grove may be narrowing that gap between No. 1 and 2.
Survival of the Fittest
Joplin and Carthage were placed in every coach’s least favorite situation with each having their own trap game. Before the two powers can square off with each other in Week 7, they needed to survive Week 6. Joplin did just that with a 45-14 win over Republic, scoring the game’s final 38 points. Carthage made quick work of Willard, jumping out to a 42-0 advantage. Senior Always Wright (4 TDs) and junior Luke Gall (3 TDs) both continued their cases for COC Player of the Year honors… before Nixa could take its first step towards getting back in the COC race, it needed to survive a showdown with rival Ozark in the Christian County Throwdown. It took a Jaden Aven to Kael Combs halfback pass to break the game open in the fourth quarter, but the Eagles prevailed for the third straight time in the rivalry… Webb City blanked Branson and the Cardinals have allowed just six points in their last eight quarters since the loss to Carthage. WC is still WC and will be a pivotal factor in the conference race… So now we get Joplin-Carthage and Nixa-Webb City in what is essentially the COC Final Four.
6 and Ohhhhhh
Joplin (6-0) – 4 straight games of at least 42 points
Week 7: vs. Carthage
Week 8: at Branson
Week 9: vs. Neosho
Carthage (6-0) – Haven’t allowed more than 14 points in a game this season.
Week 7: at Joplin
Week 8: vs. Republic
Week 9: at Nixa
Lebanon (6-0) – Best start since 2010.
Week 7: vs. Camdenton
Week 8: at Rolla
Week 9: vs. Parkview
Lamar (6-0) – Tigers have allowed just 52 points in six games.
Week 7: vs. Monett
Week 8: vs. Seneca
Week 9: vs. East Newton
Fair Grove (6-0) – Averaging 49 PPG this season
Week 7: at Buffalo
Week 8: vs. Clever
Week 9: vs. El Dorado Springs
Ava (6-0) – Third 6-0 start in the last five years.
Week 7: vs. Thayer
Week 8: vs. Cabool
Week 9: at Willow Springs
Warsaw (6-0) – Remaining opponents combined 14-4 record.
Week 7: vs. Butler
Week 8: at Skyline
Week 9: vs. Buffalo
Marionville (6-0) – Back-to-back 6-0 starts.
Week 7: at Sarcoxie
Week 8: vs. Ash Grove
Week 9: vs. Miller
Lockwood is in just its first season playing 8-man football and the Tigers have adjusted even better than expected with a perfect 5-0 start. They’re currently sitting as the 2-seed in C1-D1, but the crazy part is how rapidly they seem to be improving. In Friday’s 56-8 win over Liberal junior QB Eli Kerr totaled five touchdowns, including a 64-yard strike to senior Kane Cooper. The Tigers are averaging 59 PPG, but have allowed just 28 points over their last four games.
This and That
McDonald County is now 5-1 after Friday’s 34-13 win over East Newton. That matches the program’s highest win total in more than a decade… Salem coach Bryson Barnes picked up win No. 1 in the Tigers 30-12 win over Willow Springs… Carl Junction junior QB Nathan Planchon’s first two starts were against state-ranked Joplin and Webb City. On Friday night he settled in against Neosho, going 7-for-9 with 214 yards and four total touchdowns… Jasper junior Juan Rivera had just seven touches on Friday night, which he converted into 132 yards and five touchdowns. Jasper rushed for more than 300 yards as a team… Kickapoo picked up a 27-6 win over Rolla and junior standout Zaide Lowery continued what has been a monster season with 138 yards and a touchdown on just five receptions. He’s the No. 1 basketball player in Missouri and is quickly becoming one of the state’s top receivers as well…
Week 7 Games to Watch
Carthage (6-0) at Joplin (6-0)
The Story: Carthage has won two of the programs’ three meetings since Joplin joined the COC. The home team has won all three meetings.
What’s at Stake: This is THE game in the regular season to this point of the season. Joplin has one of the area’s top offenses and Carthage has one of the area’s top defenses. The winner of this game controls its destiny for the COC championship and the loser will need some help. The biggest difference is Joplin has already beaten Webb City and Nixa. Carthage has yet to play Nixa. A win for Joplin and it’s essentially over. A win for Carthage and we’re looking at Week 9 still.
What to Know: This game will be decided in the trenches. Yes, Joplin can score with the best of them. However, if they can’t stop Carthage’s power run game and the Tigers keep Always Wright and company on the sideline for an extended amount of time, Joplin might struggle to find a groove offensively. Basically like this year’s Chiefs-Ravens game. Also, keep in mind the Wright brothers grew up going to Carthage. There’s still no love lost between Carthage and Joplin and that only fans the flames. This one has the potential to be physical and chippy.
Fair Grove (6-0) at Buffalo (4-2)
The Story: Buffalo has won two of the last three meetings. Fair Grove won the previous eight, none of which were close.
What’s at Stake: This game is purely for bragging rights as these two don’t share a conference or class. But it’s also a unique barometer game. Buffalo’s two losses have come to currently unbeaten teams and on the road in extremely competitive games. This is yet another opportunity for the Bison to prove they’re among the elite in a wide open Class 3 scene locally.
What to Know: Fair Grove is one of the area’s top scoring teams, scoring at least 56 points in three straight games. The Eagles can turn it on in a hurry. Buffalo has been competitive with high-level teams, but struggled to get key stops. If they can limit big plays and get off the field on third down this game can be an upset alert special. If not, it could get ugly in a hurry.
Webb City (4-2) at Nixa (5-1)
The Story: Webb City has won 13 straight vs. Nixa, including back-to-back shutouts.
What’s at Stake: A win for Nixa and the Eagles will play Carthage for a share of the COC championship in Week 9, assuming Carthage beats Joplin. Also, Lee’s Summit North is currently the 1-seed in C6-D3, the district that houses both Joplin and Nixa. Nixa can’t jump Joplin, but both teams could jump LSN, who still has Liberty North, Park Hill and Lee’s Summit West on the schedule. A loss for Nixa and they’re all but eliminated from the conference race. Webb City is looking to play the role of spoiler. The Cards own the head-to-head over Republic so there’s nearly no chance they’ll get jumped for the 2-seed in C5-D6. They also can’t jump Carthage for that same reason.
What to Know: The lack of physicality shown by Webb City against Carthage has been remedied in wins over Carl Junction and Branson. I don’t see Webb getting bullied like that again. However, they don’t have a matchup for Kael Combs, who has been a nightmare all season on the outside. If he can pull a safety from the box and keep the WC secondary away from the line of scrimmage, Nixa will be able to keep Webb guessing. Coach Rod is also the same guy that held DGB in check, so this will be another fun one to watch.
Thayer (6-0) at Ava (6-0)
The Story: Thayer drilled Ava last year (43-6) but the Bears won the previous four and seven of the last 11 overall.
What’s at Stake: The winner walks away with the SCA crown, the loser is relegated to trying to “settle” for just a state championship. Thayer won it in 2020, Ava 2019, 2018 and 2017.
What to Know: Webber and Swofford are SCA royalty and the longest-tenured coaches in the league. Few coaches in the Ozarks are as familiar with each other as these two. It’ll be interesting to see who is able to throw some wrinkles in, especially Thayer offensively. Aside from last year, the Bobcats have averaged just 15 PPG against Ava since 2010.
Butler (6-0) at Warsaw (6-0)
The Story: They’ve split four meetings since 2012. All have been decided by 28 points or more.
What’s at Stake: These two share a conference and a district and the loser of this makes both exceedingly more difficult. Butler already knocked off Buffalo so a win here and things are basically over in the Ozark Highlands. Butler also has a three point lead in the district standings for homefield throughout, which is made even more important due to Lafayette County (5-1) being in the district. Currently ranked No. 6 in Class 2, whoever loses this game will likely have to travel to see LC in the district semifinals. Warsaw has a brutal stretch of games left with Butler, Skyline and Buffalo all waiting. The positive is Warsaw gets Buffalo and Butler at home.
What to Know: Butler has won 14 straight regular season games and most of those have been blowouts. The toughest part is their defense, where rarely do they allow more than two scores. Warsaw has been explosive offensively, but they haven’t seen anything like Butler. How Warsaw’s Brady Slavens handles the Bears defense will be huge, especially since the Wildcats will have their hands full stopping Brendin Patrick.
Camdenton (5-1) at Lebanon (6-0)
The Story: Their last 14 meetings have been split down the middle with each program winning seven. Seven of those have been decided by single digits.
What’s at Stake: A win for Lebanon and the Ozark Conference race is over by virtue of head-to-head wins over Glendale, West Plains and Camdenton in consecutive weeks, which might be the most impressive stretch of wins in the Ozarks. A Camdenton win and the OC is split three ways with WP, Lebanon and Camdenton all having one loss. It would also bring Glendale back into the picture, setting up a Week 8 elimination game between Camdenton and Glendale with the winner claiming a share of the OC crown. Also, these two are both in C5-D5 along with Glendale. A Camdenton win over Lebanon put the Lakers in position to have homefield throughout.
What to Know: Tristan Wilson is an absolute man and he, along with the Lebanon offensive line, dominated the West Plains game and were the difference against Glendale as well. Camdenton doesn’t have anyone with that size and ability, but they return several experienced players on the defensive side of the ball, with Wiley Powers and Jaden Parkman being two of the better run stoppers in the league. Along with Landon Thomas, they’ll have to be ready to answer Lebanon’s relentless attack.