Seek first win of 2012 season
By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
That the youthful, inexperienced, and eventually injury-hampered Chillicothe High School football Hornets couldn't quite get down "the whole enchilada" in their 2012 season opener and the first-ever game on the new Bob Fairchild Field at the new Jerry Litton Memorial Stadium last week was not a surprise. All things considered, the performance and result could be viewed as reason for the Hornets, rather than despairing, to be hungry for more.
The disappointment of the 26-25 loss to Marshall probably is greatest from the historical perspective, with the chance to have posterity recall that the first-ever game at the spiffy new stadium went in the "wins" column gone forever. However, the game was exciting and the green Hornets did enough positive things to offer reasonable hope that, with growth, more-pleasing outcomes can be achieved.
Football coaches often view a young or inexperienced (or both) team's second game as a tell-tale outing for the season's potential. Can the players individually and collectively learn from shortcomings exposed or reinforced by the first game and perform with a much-sharper edge the second time out and beyond? If so, that capacity for growth can portend well for the team's season.
That will be one of the main things CHS head coach Phil Willard and his staff will be looking for tomorrow night.
"Hopefully we'll show some good improvement in week two on both the offensive side and defensive side," he says.
"We've got to become more consistent blocking - and I'm not just talking offensive line, I'm talking backs also. Defensively, we got to improve knowing our scheme and our tackling skills."
For the Hornets, their week two test will come at Kirksville tomorrow night against a Tigers team which shellacked one of Chillicothe's Class 3 District 6 mates, Southern Boone County (Ashland), 51-22.
"They look much more physical than they were last year, seem to be a lot more athletic in their line, and, (like Marshall), they have several seniors in their lineup," Willard reports on KHS.
As for Kirksville's offensive approach under new head coach Jeff Jacques in its opener last week, the Hornets coach relates, "They run it and throw it.
"They run the option some. They'll play-action pass out of the 'pistol' (formation) and also run some jet sweeps to the outside. Every once in a while, they'd pop one up the middle. They really kept Southern Boone guessing where they were going to go, especially in the second half."
Inability to defend the speed of Marshall quarterback Alex Maupin on the option keeper spelled much of CHS' doom last week.
"Obviously, we've got to do a better job of handling the option play," Willard affirmed. "I guarantee we're working on that every day to improve that and also improve our tackling. That's going to be a big key for us."
As for the Tigers' personnel, the biggest thorn in the Hornets' side in their 38-28 home win over Kirksville last year -- quick, little Harrison Dollens -- is gone, but other backfield starters are back.
Fullback Parker Osborn gained 58 yards on 11 carries and scored once here last year, while senior quarterback Mitch Kriegshauser was an ineffective four of 13 for 25 yards in the air. With a year's experience, Willard says Kriegshauser is noticeably improved.
"They have a quarterback that has speed and throws the ball real well. They have a big fullback that's about 6'2", 235, and their tailback (Scott Schwend) is their main runner, their speed back. They've got a good receiving corps."
In addition to their offensive productivity last week, the Tigers also scored at least one special teams touchdown, the Hornets coach noted.
The Hornets' biggest positive coming out of the opener was that the anticipated greater potency of the passing game materialized.
Junior quarterback Tyler Clampitt threw for over 215 yards with Mason Palmer and Zach Alperin both having big receiving games.
"We caught the ball more consistently" than had been shown in practice or the "jamboree" scrimmage the week before, Willard commented. "I felt like Tyler threw the ball very, very well, but we've still got some improving to do on things there."
The largest negative was injuries.
Junior starting running back and cornerback Walker Thomas will miss an estimated 6-8 weeks, according to the coach, with a broken collarbone.
First-string fullback D.J. Gannan, a would-be returning starter at safety, too, if not already batting an injury, is very doubtful for this game after that injury was aggravated.
Sophomore DeEll Midgyett is the top candidate to step in for Thomas at both of his spots. Hard-running junior Cole Nichols will take most of the snaps at fullback, but sophomore Luke Plummer will spell him at times to give Nichols, the Hornets' No. 1 linebacker, some rest.
The Hornets' prospects for being a factor in the postseason district playoffs didn't take any major statistical or psychological hit last week.
Under the state's new playoffs system, CHS received 10 district-seeding points for losing and another 10 for playing an opponent one classification larger. Losing by a point deducts only that one margin-of-difference tally, leaving it with a net of +19 points.
Comparatively, week one winners Centralia (+33), Macon (+22), and California (+31) did not garner significantly-larger totals for being victorious and fellow week one losers Boonville (-1), Southern Boone County (+7), Fulton (-3), and Mexico: Missouri Military Academy (-3) came away markedly worse off.