Class 5 District 1 championship
Seckman (9-2) at Jackson (10-0)
The Indians are the defending Class 5 state champions and have won 37 of their last 38 games. Their only loss was to Carthage in overtime of the Class 5 championship in 2019. Jackson averages 48.5 points per game, its high-water mark 80 points against Roosevelt in the season opener. Hillsboro is 9-1 this season and the Hawks’ only loss was a 42-0 drubbing at home to the Indians. Despite the loss of quarterback Cael Welker and a supporting cast of all-state players to graduation, Jackson continues to dominate because of its commitment to the program as a whole. Visiting teams in “The Pit”, the Indians affectionate name for their home field, get claustrophobic because of the close proximity of the fans to the gridiron. Fox played there for a district title in 2018-2019 and wasn’t blown out but the Warriors also never threatened to challenge for the win. Seckman is having its best season ever. The Jaguars won their pool in the Suburban Conference, have a record nine wins and have won the first district games in program history, including last week’s 35-34 thriller against Poplar Bluff in the district semifinals. That makes head coach Nick Baer 2-0 in playoff games in Imperial. Jaguar QB Cole Ruble should receive plenty of support to make the all-state team. Fox had superb, veteran players when it went to “The Pit” but the Warriors didn’t have anyone quite as dynamic as Ruble, who breaks off 80-yard touchdown runs with uncanny consistency. He had 80- and 53-yard TD runs and 248 yards on 38 carries against the stubborn Mules, who scored two touchdowns in the final 5:00, only to lose when their attempt to run in the two-point conversion failed. Ruble is the only player in the St. Louis area with more than 2,000 yards rushing with 2,386 and is second with 30 TDs. Jackson has a way of taking away what a team does best. Ty Kitchen scored two TDs for the Jaguars against Poplar Bluff, including the game-winner in the fourth. Kitchen needs to be able to help Ruble keep the Indians honest on defense if Seckman has a chance to unseat the unquestioned best team in any class the last few years.
Class 4 District 1 championship
North County (10-1) at Hillsboro (9-1)
A rematch of the Hawks’ 42-7 win against the Raiders in September which helped Hillsboro win the Mississippi Area Football Conference Red Division. It’s the only loss of the year for North County, which thumped De Soto 55-14 and Farmington 56-20 in the first two rounds of the district playoffs. The axis of Hillsboro’s offense revolves around two 1,000-yard running backs Jaxin Patterson (1,442 yards, 17 touchdowns) and Austin Romaine (1,047, 11), but the Raiders can counter with Jobe Smith (1,580, 23 TDs). While North County has scored 50 or more points four times this year, the Hawks have won five shutouts, and the defense has six because Festus scored a defensive touchdown in last week’s 13-7 Hillsboro win. The Hawk defense bottled up and harassed Tiger QB Cole Rickermann, holding him to 38 yards passing. Rickermann threw for 378 yards and 3 TDs against the Hawks in the MAFC Red game. Romaine sacked Rickermann four times last week. This season, Hillsboro’s defense has fed its offense with 19 takeaways. Opposing running games have barely averaged 50 yards per game. Wrestling practice started almost two weeks ago. Hillsboro QB Griffin Ray is a two-time state medalist, finishing in third-place finish at 152 pounds in Class 3 last March and helping the Hawks finish third overall. If Ray has to further postpone his pursuit of his first state wrestling title, the Hawks will be district champions on the gridiron for the first time since 2017. That Hillsboro team was loaded with offensive talent and a stout offensive line. The Hawks lost 34-20 at home to Ladue in the quarterfinals that year, and the Rams lost to Webb City in the state championship game.