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Impressive Openers Set Up Week 2 Brookfield, Marceline ‘Bell’ Clash

Paul Sturm
psturm@chillicothenews.com
Chillicothe News

Linn County rivals the Brookfield Bulldogs and Marceline Tigers did what they could in last Friday’s 2020 high school football season openers to stoke fan fever for this Friday’s annual “Bell Game” between them.

Brookfield, looking to regain its standing as a top-quality program after several lean years – including a 2-8 2019 campaign, shredded host Trenton 50-0 in BHS head coach Scott Stevens’ return to his alma mater.

Marceline, seeking to reload after graduating some top-drawer talent from last year’s Class 1 state semifinalists, impressively met the immediate challenge of a squad their coach estimated could be the biggest threat to their Lewis and Clark Conference crown, dispatching the visiting Scotland County Tigers 26-14.

As a result, both Marceline and Brookfield will take significant early, positive momentum into this week’s legendary rivalry game, to be played this year at MHS’ Chester Ray Stadium (see related week two preview story in this edition).

The first week of Missouri’s long-in-doubt 2020 gridiron season extended all the way through Sunday, when Southwest Livingston’s co-op Wildcats traveled to Fairfax to face Highway 275 Conference foe East Atchison. The game was delayed from Friday until then to allow Southwest, which co-ops with Tina-Avalon and Hale schools, to get in its required number of preseason practices. The Wildcats were held back at the start of the preseason practices period by some brief quarantining, due to a positive novel coronavirus test result.

When the teams got around to playing, the 2019 state-runnerup visitors took command in the second period and won 54-30, capping the opening weekend with the C-T-area’s 10 squads posting a composite 4-6 mark, as good as any week they had as a group a year ago.

Brookfield 50, Trenton 0

TRENTON — While, in the end, it probably didn’t need all the help, Brookfield’s tremendous start – it led 28-0 after one quarter – in the battle of area Bulldogs was assisted by several Trenton giveaways.

On BHS’ second offensive play, senior quarterback Derek Liebhart optioned to the left side, kept the ball, and got outside the cornerback and down the south sideline of C.F. Russell Stadium field for a 54-yards scoring scamper.

After fullback Trace Alexander scored on three opening-stanza runs, the first following Trenton’s first of four lost fumbles in the game, the 5’11”, 170-pounder added TD runs on a busted play another THS fumble at its own 27 in the second quarter and a 63-yards right-side option keep in which he again was allowed to get to the sideline. That made it 44-0 at the half.

Liebhart completed his big night, which ultimately included 189 rushing yards on a mere seven carries, with a 22-yards third-quarter scoring run on which he was hit twice in the backfield after faking a right-side handoff to the fullback, yet kept his feet and escaped virtually unnoticed out the left side of the formation.

“These guys have been working hard all offseason and it was great to see them start fast,” Stevens said of his batch of blue-and-white Bulldogs.

Alexander also reached the century mark in rushing yardage in the game, gaining 109 on 11 totes, Stevens reported. Brookfield unofficially out-gained Trenton 351-123 on the ground in the teams’ first meeting in Trenton since Stevens was a THS player. Each side passed for a mere 18 yards.

Marceline 26, Scotland County 14

MARCELINE — The hosts had the most after the first quarter, erasing an 8-6 deficit after one segment with three unanswered touchdowns.

Unleashing an impressive array of junior class talent that should give conference foes fits this year and next, MHS third-year head coach Mark Ross saw his squad amass 183 of its 320 total yards through the air as 11th grader Jacob Stallo made a highly-impressive debut as the starting quarterback.

Having played the position more than a little in a backup role last year, Stallo connected on 12 of 23 passes for those 18 yards. He split the hookups evenly among four receivers, three of whom found paydirt on theirs. Wyatt Molloy had a team-most 88 receiving yards and one score, Sam Gillman 38 yards and a TD, Jace Bixenman 38 yards, and Will Heller 19 yards and a touchdown.

Hunter Nelson led the Marceline ground game with 54 yards on 14 carries.

Defensively, linebacker Brendon Catron had a big night with a team-high eight tackles – all unassisted – that included four sacks. Braydon King was in on seven stops and four others on six, including Nathan Cupp’s all being solos and including a sack.

In addition to his catch of a J. Stallo pass for a score, Gillman twice picked off SCHS Tigers tosses, one of which he ran back for a second touchdown as MHS built up a 26-8 lead by the third quarter.

“Incredibly proud of the way the boys played versus a very talented Scotland County team,” Ross reviewed. “A lot of guys played a lot of reps in the high temperatures and handled it well.

“We learned a lot about ourselves in week one and look to improve on some details that you see in week one of every season.”

Each of the Marceline players cited above is only a junior.

While MHS now has dispatched the team its coach initially had fingered as the biggest threat to his Tigers in the L&C race in ’20, runaway opening-week wins by Harrisburg and, perhaps most impressively, Fayette over Carrollton mean Marceline won’t be able to coast to another league crown. Its game at Fayette will be in week four, while Harrisburg will visit in the regular-season finale.

Southwest Livingston 54, East Atchison 30

FAIRFAX — Having scored the game’s and season’s first points on a 65-yards catch-and-run, Southwest Livingston senior running back Chase Neptune broke a 6-6 tie with a 25-yards scoring run with 4:15 left in the first period and the Wildcats never were caught thereafter.

Patrick Warren’s 35-yards run and a 2-points conversion made it 22-12 2:43 before intermission and senior quarterback Wesley Hughes, whose family moved back to the Southwest district this year after living in Illinois for about four years, found Parker Keeney for a 25-yards scoring strike with 1:09 remaining in the first half for a 28-12 mid-game margin.

When Ethan Hoerr of Hale gathered in W. Hughes’ third TD strike of the day in the middle of the third frame, the Wildcats led 34-12 and were not seriously challenged thereafter.

A fourth W. Hughes’ scoring pass – this time reportedly to an uncovered Neptune late in the third – answered East Atchison’s third TD of the game and Southwest Livingston iced the victory with an early fourth-quarter score that inflated its lead to 48-18.

Higginsville 51, Hamilton: Penney 14

HIGGINSVILLE — Friday’s visit to Lafayette County didn’t go much better for PHS’ football Hornets than did their last one in the 2012 Class 2 state playoffs.

Waxed 42-0 by the 2012 Huskers, the Hamilton team tumbled into a 28-0 hole after a disastrous second period Friday before holding its own better in the final half. Higginsville scored twice on runs, then twice on lengthy passes to burst things open.

The game was scoreless after the opening stanza, but “after a few turnovers, things snowballed on us a little,” Hamilton head coach Caleb Obert observed.

“I was proud of the kids coming out of halftime and putting together a very nice drive that ended in a touchdown. We continued to battle in the second half, but some costly mistakes and excellent play by our opponent kept us from really getting back in the game.”

Junior quarterback Tucker Ross, the team’s new starter under center, threw a 9-yards pass to Jared Potts for the first Hornets TD and ran 88 yards for the second later in the third stanza.

Statistically, thanks largely to his long-distance scoring jaunt, Ross finished with 141 rushing yards on 11 carries. Two-time All-State running back Sawyer Morrow, heavily keyed by the Lafayette County team, nevertheless managed 95 yards on 17 attempts. Andrew Rich caught three of Ross’ four pass completions for 57 yards.

On defense, Ethan Trosper and Ross each participated in a team-high six tackles, while two of Losson Park’s four were for losses. Morrow had a pass theft.

Although the Huskers only out-gained the Hornets 404-332, according to initial Hamilton stats, the visitors’ five giveaways and only one takeaway helped tip the scales against them.

Fayette 42, Carrollton 8

CARROLLTON — Probably THE surprise of week one of the area prep football scene, veteran Carrollton was squashed on its home field by a Fayette Falcons club it had defeated twice – once on the road and once at home – a season ago.

The Trojans held FHS to a single touchdown in each of their 2019 clashes, but the Falcons came to Stan Kee Field with all the right answers for flipping the outcome to start the new season. No details on the game, aside from the final score, were reported prior to Monday’s press deadline for this article.

While the opener was a non-conference game, it likely damages Carrollton’s lofty ambitions for its eventual regular-season district seeding. Although, given the many complications for the season related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Missouri State High School Activities Association will not announce the classification and district assignments it has formulated for the 2020 season until the middle of this month, it seems likely Carrollton both will stay in the Class 1 ranks for a second year and be assigned to the same district as Fayette.

Hughesville: Northwest 66, Braymer 14

HUGHESVILLE — While – not unexpectedly – the visiting Bobcats were not able to present Zach Douglas with a victory in his debut as a head coach, they at least were able to post their highest points total since the third game of 2019.

At the Northwest field named for alumnus Tim Barnes, who went on from the 8-man ranks to start and stand out for the University of Missouri-Columbia and then play briefly in the National Football League, Braymer scored a touchdown in each half. The hosts held a 44-8 advantage at intermission.

No details on the game, aside from the halftime and final scores, were available or reported prior to Monday’s press deadline for this article.

Plattsburg 7, Polo 0

POLO — Rarely is a timed-sport’s contest decided in the first minute or two, but that indeed happened as the host Panthers clashed with Plattsburg’s Tigers in their opener.

Polo accepted the opening kickoff, but fumbled the ball and the visitors recovered it deep in Panthers territory. As a result, only 52 seconds into the contest, the Tigers got the ball into the end zone and kicked the conversion for a 7-0 lead.

Neither club found paydirt again over the last 47:08, leaving Polo with a frustrating loss and still in search of its first pigskin triumph since 2017.

Schuyler County 70, Keytesville/Mendon: Northwestern 22

KEYTESVILLE — The brand-new Thunder team involving the two Chariton County-located schools played its first-ever game, but, unsurprisingly, could not match up with the foe which was playing 8-man-style ball for the first time after downshifting from 11-man following last year.

Schuyler County scored the contest’s first four touchdowns, but the Thunder then clapped for the first points in its history late in the opening half.

Quarterback Hunter Stockwell, a Northwestern student, scored a 13-yards keeper, just getting inside the pylon at the sidelines in the front corner of the end zone at KHS’ Cal Hubbard Field, a long-time baseball/softball facility now fittingly converted to also be the Thunder’s home, too. The field’s namesake is the only person enshrined in both pro baseball’s and football’s halls of fame – as a player in football and umpire in baseball.

Schuyler County eventually ran its lead up to 52-6 in the third quarter before the Thunder – its 21-players roster primarily comprised of Northwestern students – scored back to back to improve the scoreboard to 52-22.

“Very interesting,” Thunder head coach Kevin Gundy, veteran of many years of coaching 11-man ball on the high school and college levels, said to a radio station of his first 8-man experience.

Of his team’s showing, he observed, “The biggest thing is we’ve got to get mentally tougher and get the mentality to fight back when things are going hard and change the momentum. There were some drives in there that were good and some players that showed that they were going to (mentally) stay in until the end.  Probably the biggest thing is that we’ve got to learn how to play through some of the down times.”

Norborne/Hardin-Central 70, KCK: East Christian Academy 28

NORBORNE — The youthful Aggies, representing Hardin-Central and Norborne schools, answered three ECA touchdowns in a row with 56 consecutive points to claim their opener.

“KC East was a little bit out of gas by the end of the second quarter and we took over from there,” long-time N/H-C head coach Kirk Thacker assessed.

The host Aggies – who last week added five members to their initial 15-man roster as five boys decided to do double duty and play football in addition to running cross country this fall, the grateful coach related – actually jumped out to a 14-0 lead before the Kansas team responded and surged in front.

Statistically and individually, the N/H-C club had a pair of rushers surpass the 100-yards mark, Thacker reports. Junior quarterback Brayden Schick went for 174 yards and four touchdowns, while sophomore Kelton Gordon picked up 143 with two scores. Junior Mason Freece provided another two TDs and 74 yards as the Aggies never put the ball in the air.

“We are a smash-mouth, run-the-football team and it worked out well for us this week,” noted Thacker.

Schick also contributed a special-teams score, returning a kickoff for six points.

On defense, sophomore lineman J.W. Doyle sacked the ECA quarterback twice among his four total tackles, the coach reported.

“It was a good victory,” commented Thacker, whose son Dalton had been expected to be the 2020 team’s quarterback before dying this summer.

“He was there with the guys, I believe, and the guys felt it,” the coach said.