DISTRICT SECOND-ROUND FOOTBALL PREVIEWS: Cape Central faces Farmington in rematch
Halloween is fast approaching, but it's not the reason Cape Central football coach Arlen Pixley has been watching the same horror film over and over.
The cause is tonight's Class 4 District 1 semifinal for which his fifth-seeded Tigers will travel to Farmington, Missouri, to face the top-seeded Knights.
The 7 p.m. contest is a rematch of a Week 3 matchup, one in which the Tigers fumbled everything but a win, earning a somewhat gruesome 28-27 victory in overtime.
Pixley watched the film the day after the Sept. 2 contest, watched it with coaches, went over it with players as part of the weekly routine, then viewed it numerous times over the following weeks in anticipation that today's game would materialize.
"Probably the more you look at it, it gets worse every time," Pixley said.
Each time, the Tigers recover all six of their own fumbles, miss numerous tackles along with two PATs and drop a couple of passes in the end zone that could have won the game in regulation.
"What's funny is you go in there and you win a ball game by one, and you come home -- of course you have to speak to people after the game and everybody is excited and everything, and myself included -- but you come home and look at it and you just feel like you just got whipped because you just played so fundamentally poor," Pixley said.
Three of Farmington's touchdowns came on missed tackles by the Tigers.
"It was just one of those nights where you just scratch your head," Pixley said. "We had a kid on defense that led us in tackles that night with 14, but he missed nine."
In retrospect, that can now be interpreted as good news for an improved Tigers team that enacted a running clock as it upended fourth-seeded North County 54-29 on the road last week. It was the second straight game the offense for Central (5-5), led by senior quarterback Kway'Chon Chisom, surpassed 50 points.
Chisom rushed for 248 yards against the Raiders and scored five TDs, as the Tigers churned out 476 yards of offense. Chisom, who was an all-state cornerback last year, was one of two Tigers to go over 1,000 yards rushing for the season during the game, joining junior RB/LB Aaron Harris.
Chisom has a team-high 1,116 yards (7.3 yards per carry), while Harris has 1,084 (6.6 ypc).
"We're running the ball more effectively," Pixley said. "We had some offensive line issues in that ball game [against Farmington], and after that game, we made some changes. And we had some injuries at that time."
Chisom also has 939 yards passing, having thrown 11 touchdowns to just two interceptions. Senior Blake Harris leads the team with 23 catches for 419 yards, while junior Austin Parker isn't far behind with 21 catches for 390 yards and a team-high six TD receptions.
"We're sprinkling in enough passing where people have to play you honest," Pixley said. "If they don't, Kway'Chon is going to burn you, or Aaron is going to burn you, or Blake is going to burn you, or Austin is going to burn you, or [Iemeon] Giles is going to burn you."
While the Tigers have upgraded their game since the Week 3 encounter, so has Farmington (7-3). The Knights lost the two following weeks to Class 5 schools Poplar Bluff and Jackson but have since assembled a five-game winning streak and moved to the top of the district standings.
The Knights run a flex-bone offense that is directed by quarterback Cody Friedmeyer, one of numerous seniors at the skill positions. The group includes hard-running Gavin Duncan at fullback and Tappan Westbrook and Brett Miller at running back/wide receiver.
"They run a limited number of plays, and in their system, in the two months that we've seen them, they've had the opportunity to just rep those plays over and over and over," Pixley said.
Friedmeyer limped off the field in a 21-14 win over Parkway West in Week 9 and didn't play last week. His replacement, sophomore Nathaniel Link, rushed for three TDs in a 44-8 win over No. 8 Perryville, but Pixley expects to see Friedmeyer back on the field this week.
"The whole thing on that offense is you have to win on first down," Pixley said. "You have to force them into second-and-long because that's stuff they're not accustomed to. You have to get them in those passing situations because it's something they don't practice a whole lot. Their philosophy is, 'We're just going to do what we're going to do.'"
The Farmington defense also is experienced, led by all-state senior wrestler Alex Greco in the secondary and senior defensive end Ian Bernard up front.
In the first encounter, the Tigers attacked the Knights on the perimeter with success in the second half to overcome a 14-point deficit.
The Tigers will have freshman kicker Hunter Hiett back in the lineup after he missed time with a broken foot, which he injured while playing with the varsity soccer team. Hiett, who was cleared to play earlier this week, missed the earlier encounter with Farmington due to a scheduling conflict between the two sports.
"If we get two extra points in regulation, it's over," Pixley said about the overtime win.
While Pixley is trying to make sure his squad doesn't make a sequel to the Week 3 horror film, Farmington coach Erik Kruppe also wants to see improved play from his team.
The Knights committed all four of the game's turnovers and were unable to stop Harris on a conversion run on the game's final play.
It was the sixth consecutive win for the Tigers over the Knights, which includes a 35-15 victory in last year's district title game and a first-round district win in 2013.
"Their coach made it clear, he said it on the radio and in the press, where they've got to take care of some unfinished business," Pixley said.
Tonight's winner will advance to the district final, where it will face the winner of tonight's other semifinal between No. 2 Hillsboro (8-2) and No. 3 Sikeston (7-3).
Class 5 District 1
Rockwood Summit (4-6) at Jackson (8-2)
Last week: Rockwood Summit 19, Oakville 10; Jackson bye
Last meeting: Rockwood Summit 38, Jackson 14 (2012, district championship)
Outlook: The Indians have had nearly two weeks to ponder just their second loss of the season, which came at the hands of Class 6 SLUH. The game was a classic case of two halves, with the Indians leading 28-17 at the break before ultimately wilting against a bigger and stronger Junior Bills team that won the second half 36-0, and the game 53-28.
Jackson coach Brent Eckley said his 10th-ranked Indians played one of their worst halves of the season on offense but came away from the morning-after film session satisfied with the way his team battled against the physically-imposing Junior Bills.
"It was good for us," Eckley said about facing a challenging team right before the onset of district play. "They were really good. It was positive for us. You hate to lose, hate to lose on Senior Night and hate to lose the last regular-season game. We went back and looked at it, and we looked at the reasons why we didn't win that game and the fact that we were playing against a pretty high-caliber Class 6 team and that we were in the game. There's a lot we can take away from it that was positive."
The Indians, who will have home-field advantage throughout district play, will be rested and have had some time to mend against a Rockwood Summit team that broke a four-game losing streak with last week's first-round victory over No. 5 seed Oakville.
Eckley attended the game and watched Summit junior RB Jimmy Walker rush for a season-high 231 yards on 30 carries, while the defense held a 2-8 Oakville team to 26 yards rushing on 27 attempts.
"I think sometimes they're hot and cold, and I don't mean that demeaning at all. But it seemed like they would get an explosive play and then kind of shoot themselves in the foot, and Oakville kind of did the same thing," Eckley said.
The 5-foot-4, 155-pound Walker has 676 yards rushing (4.5 ypc) on the season, according to stltoday.com.
"He runs really tough and doesn't lay down," Eckley said about Walker. "He's probably a better inside runner than an outside runner from what I've seen. He bangs it into the hole and then explodes through."
Senior RB Anthony Wilson is second with 329 yards (4.1) on the season but stood on the sideline throughout the Oakville game. Eckley said he expects Wilson to play tonight.
Senior QB Connor Ballance returned to the Falcon lineup after being injured during a loss to Hazelwood East, the second loss in the team's four-game slide. He then missed losses to Kirkwood, ranked No. 2 in Class 6, and Webster Groves, as sophomore Tanner Nara took over. While the Falcons lost 56-19 to Kirkwood, losses to Hazelwood East and Webster Groves were by less than six points.
The QBs have combined for more than 1,200 yards passing and have similar ratings. Ballance has thrown for 912 yards with six TDs and five interceptions.
Senior WR Jake Burlison (5-10, 170) is the team's top target by a wide margin with 41 catches for 617 yards and five TDs.
"We've just got to keep an eye on where he's at," said Eckley, who described Burlison as having deceptive speed. "They've got some other kids that can catch the ball, but they've found him a bunch."
Junior Makayo Young (5-9, 240) leads the defense, which has been stout against the run, with 90 tackles, while senior defensive end Bryce Edwards has 82 tackles and a team-high six sacks.
"Their box play seems to be pretty good," Eckley said. "The nice thing is they're a little more similar to us in size. Like when we played against a team like SLUH, it was men and boys. Our kids played really hard, but they had some big dudes. Summit is not quite as freaky looking as SLUH looked."
Jackson averages 43.2 points per game with an offense directed by junior QB Cooper Callis, who went over 2,000 yards passing for the season against SLUH. He threw four first-half TDs in the game, running his season total to 24.
Brothers Quentin and Jordan Kent have been Callis' top targets. Each pulled in two TD receptions against SLUH and combined for eight catches for 160 yards. Quentin, a senior, has a team-high 43 catches for 751 yards and 11 TDs, while Jordan, a sophomore, has 31 catches for 575 yards and nine TDs.
Senior Bryndan Reid leads the ground game with a team-high 756 yards rushing (6.0 ypc) and 10 TDs.
Ethan Laster, the team's second-leading rusher, will return to the lineup with a cast on his hand after missing the SLUH game with a broken finger. Eckley said Laster, who was becoming a dominant force at linebacker before the injury, is scheduled to have the cast removed the week after the district tournament.
"We've had pretty physical practices," Eckley said, "I've been very, very pleased. The kids seem to be charged up and looking forward to playing a good game."
Tonight's winner will advance to the district final, where it will face the winner of tonight's other semifinal between No. 2 Poplar Bluff (8-1) and No. 3 Vianney (4-5).
Class 1 District 1
Scott City (7-3) at Hayti (9-1)
Last week: Scott City 41, Chaffee 26; Hayti 68, Crystal City 0
Last meeting: Hayti 48, Scott City 28 (Week 7)
Outlook: Scott City saw its losing streak to the Indians extended to 11 games earlier this season after the Indians had ended the Rams' 2015 season in the first round of district play when both were members of Class 2 District 1.
The Indians' spell over the Rams commenced with the turn of the century, with Hayti having won 17 of 18 games since 2000. The lone exception was a 28-19 victory by the Rams in 2006. In stark contrast, Scott City won the previous 15 meetings before 2000.
Hayti enters ranked fifth in Class 1, with its lone loss a 28-26 setback to unbeaten Malden, ranked No. 5 in Class 2, in Week 6.
Hayti advanced with a pounding of Crystal City in the first round, where it led 52-0 at halftime. The Indians rolled up 445 yards of offense and allowed just 31 yards total offense. Crystal City managed just 29 yards rushing on 29 attempts.
Scott City hopes to do much better with a running attack that features senior Braden Cox, who has 2,226 rushing yards on the season. Cox, who has averaged 222.6 yards per game, needs 132 yards to break the school's single-season rushing record of 2,357 yards set by Britt Mirgaux in 1993.
Whether the Rams continue to play football this season will hinge greatly on whether Cox reaches the record. He had 158 yards on 44 carries in the Week 7 encounter.
"I think everybody would like to [see the record broken]," Scott City coach Jim May said. "That reflects on the whole team. He's done an absolute great job, but our five offensive linemen and tight ends have done just an unbelievable job blocking up front. It kind of reflects on all of us, but definitely whenever he's running the ball and grinding it out, that's our best defense. If we can do that, we'll have an opportunity."
Scott City is coming off a win over rival Chaffee, which it defeated for the second time this season, The Rams made the Red Devils pay for loading the box to stop Cox with four TD passes from senior QB Ty Wilthong to senior WR Jaden Kaiser. Wilthong, who was 7-of-12 passing for 188 yards, had thrown just five TD passes all season entering the game.
By any method, the Rams will try to keep the ball out of the hands of Hayti senior QB Allen Mills and an Indian offense that averages 50 points per game. Mills completed 24 of 35 passes for 268 yards and three TDs and rushed for two in the Indians' rout of Crystal City.
Most of the Indians' weapons on offense, like senior WR Dayon Moore and senior RB Devante Robinson, are also threats on defense, where the Indians yield just 12.3 points per game.
"They've got a guy who can go the distance on every play at most their offensive positions," May said. "It's really difficult to just hone in on the one, so you really have to play a well-rounded game."
Robinson had a pick-6 and Ivory Winters returned a fumble 78 yards for a TD against the Rams earlier this season.
"That was basically the difference in the football game," May said about the only two turnovers in the game. "We're going to have to go down there and play well and not make mistakes to have a chance to be in it."
In the earlier encounter, Scott City accumulated 291 yards of offense and yielded just 342. However, the Indians did average better than nine yards on its 20 rush attempts while Scott City averaged 3.2 ypc in the game.
"We felt like we did some good things the last time," May said. "We were able to run the football against them, and that's a key for us. Defensively, we did an all right job. We were not great. We're going to have to have a little better effort this time."
Tonight's winner will advance to the district final, where it will face the winner of tonight's other semifinal between No. 1 Valle Catholic (9-1) and No. 5 Portageville (5-5).