The Missouri State High School Activities Association released its fall sports classifications on Monday, Sept. 21, giving teams a better grasp of where they stand nearly a month into their seasons. Since many football teams are nearly half way through their slate of regular season games, I want to give a recap of what we’ve seen so far and how teams in the Northland stack up.
First, we have Liberty and Liberty North dropping into Class 6 District 4 along with Troy Buchanan, Rock Bridge, Blue Springs, Columbia Hickman, Park Hill and Blue Springs South. The Blue Jays have made the most noise to kick off the season as the team remains undefeated on the strength of 38.5 points per game.
Liberty (4-0, 4-0 Suburban Gold) has been explosive in all three facets of the game, but it’s their offense that has been impossible to stop for a full four quarters.
Senior quarterback Luke Smith often pushes the ball deep as he targets junior wide receiver Caden Dennis, who blows the lid off of opposing defenses with his sub-12 second 100-meter dash time that holds up from track to turf.
Trying to account for the deep threat makes it nearly impossible to slow down junior running back Wentric Williams III, who averages 7.2 yards per carry. By the fourth quarter, Williams can be found running at full speed in the open field as defenders want no part of tackling him even if they could catch up to him.
The team’s defense and special teams have made big plays as well by forcing 11 turnovers and scoring on three nonoffensive touchdowns to go along with senior kicker Alek Rottjakob’s five field goals, which includes a 48-yard game winner against Lee’s Summit North in Week 3.
Anything can happen in football, but the Blue Jays should have an easy time on the road against a winless Blue Springs South team before clashing with undefeated district foe Rock Bridge on Friday, Oct. 2, on the road.
Liberty North (2-2, 0-2 SG), who lost to the Blue Jays in the Eagles first game, missed a couple opportunities to knock off a still undefeated Raymore-Peculiar squad in Week 3 before getting its season back on track with a 41-13 win over Staley on Friday, Sept. 18. If the Eagles are truly better than their record as I think they are, the team should be able to win its next game against a Blue Springs that didn’t fair nearly as well in its matchups with LHS and Ray-Pec.
Smithville hot on tail
Let’s now look at Smithville and Kearney playing in Class 4 District 8 this season with Winnetonka, St. Joseph Lafayette, Excelsior Springs and Savannah. Smithville (3-1, 2-0 Suburban Blue) trails only an undefeated Winnetonka team in its district and its conference division.
The Warriors have been impressive on both sides of the ball, winning three straight games with an average score of 39.7 to 3.3.
Sophomore quarterback Andrew Hedgecorth has quickly found his rhythm with his trio of capable wide receivers in Rhett Foster, Sam Calvert and Keltin Nitsche. Foster has led the group with 384 yards and six touchdowns.
Sophomore Caleb Donnell had to hold down the running back duties for the first two games before junior Hayden Sigg was able to return to action for the first time since having surgery in the offseason. Sigg is averaging 7.8 yards per carry and Donnell is at 5.5 while the duo has combined for 433 yards and nine touchdowns.
The defense has played lights out since Week 2. The defense line, spearheaded by the strong play of senior Micah Palmer and junior Zeke Waisner, has helped disrupt their opponents by stopping 18 plays behind the line of scrimmage.
Junior defensive back Cody Simoncic has flown around for a team-high 32 tackles as the team has only allowed a 21% third-down conversion rate through four games.
Never count out the Bulldogs
Kearney, which fell to Smithville 28-10 in Week 3, looked as if it might not have the offensive firepower to compete with top teams as the Bulldogs nearly started the year 0-3 if not for two clutch scores in the fourth quarter of Week 1 against Ft. Osage.
But just as you start to count them out, Kearney (2-2, 1-2 SB) had a 33-point third quarter against Ruskin to win 70-20 on Friday, Sept. 18.Sports Writer Mac Moore can be reached at 389-6643 or firstname.lastname@example.org.