Cape Central football travels to Hillsboro seeking 4th straight district title
After winning the last three Class 4 District 1 titles, Cape Central football feels like it owns the district crown.
Heading into the district final at 7 p.m. Friday at Hillsboro, the Tigers aren't ready to give up control of that championship.
Fifth-seeded Central will look to win its third district game on the road in as many weeks against the second-seeded Hawks, who are fresh off a 73-46 demolition of Sikeston.
"They feel like it's just not anybody's to grab," said Central coach Arlen Pixley, who's in his first year at the helm. "They feel like we have some ownership of that because we won the last three in a row and number four is out there. ... We've got to keep that image of holding up that district trophy in the back of our heads every single snap, or like I said, they can make it a long night for us."
The Tigers are led by 13 seniors who have never experienced defeat in a district tournament, including quarterback/cornerback Kway'Chon Chisom. In the Tigers' 35-14 win over Farmington last week, Chisom had 173 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries and is now at 1,289 yards rushing on the year. Junior running back Aaron Harris added 167 yards and three touchdowns on 17 carries to bring his season total to 1,251.
Central was also able to stymie Farmington's triple-option attack, and this week Pixley's team will once again face a run-heavy offense. Hillsboro junior Michael Keller had 443 yards rushing and seven touchdowns in a blowout victory over Sikeston last week. Keller missed the Hawks' district tournament opener but has rushed for 2,032 yards on the season.
"They're a team that's looking for three yards and a cloud of dust, and if you go to sleep or get tired of getting pounded on, they're going to pump long touchdowns in on you," Pixley said. "We've got to stay the course, and we've got to keep pounding. We're more worried about the man in the mirror than I am Hillsboro for the sole fact that we have to play extremely hard for a lot longer than Hillsboro does in order to have a chance to win."
This season Hillsboro is averaging 41.8 points per game. Unlike some high-powered offenses, many of the Hawks' big plays come on the ground instead of through the air, as they had less than 70 yards passing versus the Bulldogs. Against a ball-control offense, the Tigers would like to be up two touchdowns at halftime, Pixley said.
"The way you counteract that offense is you got to score and get them down by two or three scores, and hopefully every other possession after that you can get points," Pixley said. "They're going to score. We'd love to have a shutout, but we don't expect a shutout because they're too good.
"You've got to have some negative-yardage plays like we got against Farmington. There were some key, critical series against Farmington where we got them in second-and-long and third-and-long and forced them to do some things they're not accustomed to doing to get first down."
While the Knights were a triple-option rushing offense, the Hawks were much more direct against Sikeston, as they pounded the ball for 537 yards on the ground.
"They went into a three-back set, a power I, and run a lot more power and a lot more of what we call a lead play where it's just two backs leading up in the hole," Pixley said. "One running back behind them, and if you don't step up and you don't stick your nose in there where you think it doesn't belong, they're going to make it a long night for you."
Central has mainly relied on its rushing attack this season, and the offensive line may get a boost this week. Senior left tackle Hunter Limbach could potentially see more action after playing sporadically recently due to an injury, according to Pixley.
The passing game offers a change of pace as well. Chisom has 984 yards through the air and 11 touchdowns with just two interceptions. Senior Blake Harris (24 catches, 426 yards) and junior Austin Parker (22 catches, 428 yards) are his two favorite targets.
After finishing the regular season with a 4-5 record, Central has won two playoff games against a higher seed by a combined 46 points. Those two stellar performances have given the Tigers a chance to extend their district dominance despite an inconsistent first nine games.
"We like the fact that we've given ourselves this opportunity," Pixley said. "We like how we've been playing as of late."