Cayden Glaze

Festus running back Cayden Glaze scores a touchdown against De Soto on Sept. 18. Injuries have taken a toll on the Tigers’ backfield, but Glaze and other running backs have provided depth to keep them undefeated.

The Tigers beat Pacific 40-24 on Friday to improve to 7-0 this season. The last time Festus had this strong a start was in 2006 when it won its first six games.

If the Tigers are to complete their regular season 9-0 before the start of the Class 4 District 1 playoffs, they’ll have to pass two tough road tests at Farmington (6-1) and St. Charles West (3-3). The Knights were bumped up from Class 4 to Class 5 this year and will be in a surly mood after being humbled 56-14 by rough-and-tumble Jackson (7-0) last week. Farmington and the Indians are both in District 1.

“They are one of the top programs in Class 5,” Festus head coach A.J. Ofodile said about the Indians. “Losing to Jackson isn’t an indicator to any shortcomings you might have. Playing in Farmington is a huge challenge for us. What they do offensively presents a challenge. The have variations in coverage that make you think about your play calling.”

Calling the right plays hasn’t been a problem for the Tigers, who average 41 points per game. Festus won the Mississippi Area Football Conference Red Division.

Even without top running backs Austin Anderson and Landen Bradshaw, who’ve both suffered injuries, the Tigers keep piling up the points. Anderson has missed the last two games after hurting his hamstring on the first play from scrimmage against Hillsboro. He’s had 673 yards rushing so far. Dalten Yates, Kaian Roberts-Day, Cole Wagner and Cayden Glaze give Festus plenty of depth and talent in the backfield.

“The running back position is usually going to be your deepest position in high school,” Ofodile said. “(Anderson) was playing well for us and is doing everything you could ask from a leadership standpoint.”

Roberts-Day had touchdown runs of 12 yards (first quarter) and 16 yards (fourth) while Wagner also scored two touchdowns and had 80 yards rushing. Yates led the Tigers with 89 yards on eight carries.

Festus quarterback Cole Rickermann completed 10 of 17 passes for 128 yards and senior wide receiver Luke Valleck caught six aerials for 90 yards. Rickermann connected with Isaac Stucke for a touchdown and the junior signal caller also scored on a 34-yard run to give Festus a 27-17 lead in the third quarter.

Jags get second milestone win in a row

A week after beating Parkway North for the first time in 12 tries, Seckman shut out Webster Groves 35-0 for its first win ever against the Statesmen. Webster Groves has won four state championships, most recently in 2009.

It was the Jaguars’ first shutout since they blanked Parkway West 35-0 in 2011. Suddenly, Seckman is 3-2.

“Fifteen years ago, if we’d beat those teams in back-to-back weeks everybody would have been talking about it,” Seckman head coach Nick Baer said. “These two wins were huge for us.”

For the third week in a row, sophomore quarterback Cole Ruble rushed for more than 200 yards (See Athlete of the Week). Ruble gained 201 yards on 22 carries and ran for two touchdowns, the second one going for 45 yards.

“It’s by design. We want athletes to do their thing,” Baer said about Ruble’s do-it-yourself mentality. “Every time he gets the ball something great can happen. He reads blocks, puts the foot in the ground and gets upfield. It is something I haven’t seen in a long time. He’s only a sophomore, but he has the attitude of a seasoned veteran.”

A line consisting of seniors Colton Critchlow, Brandon Granger, Kevin Burgess and Cole Campbell, junior Braxton Fowler and sophomore Jacob Weigel is opening the holes for Ruble and the other Jaguar backs this fall.

“This offensive line is good at firing low and hard and driving people into the ground,” Baer said. “We’re a single-wing offense and it’s all clicking.”

Baer said wingbacks Tanner Barker, Ty Kitchen and Grant Calhoun have the ability to catch and make plays in space, but they also do a lot of blocking.

“They get to that second level and put a hat on a hat and that makes those big runs pop,” Baer said.

After giving up 325 yards passing to Northwest QB Trey Davis in a 48-28 loss to the Lions on Sept. 25, Baer said he challenged his defense to play better. They’ve allowed 13 points over the last eight quarters.

A quartet of sophomore linebackers –  Will Becker, Brandon Barowski, Michael Stivers and Dom Medioros – are learning on the job this season, with senior Kaleb Niebuhr the veteran of the unit.

“The first couple of games you could tell they were learning the difference between freshman football and varsity football,” Baer said of his young linebacking corps.

Against Webster Groves, running back Sebastian Feliciano had his best game since opening night against

De Soto with 76 yards and two touchdowns. Feliciano has five TDs this season.

“We ask him to do a lot of blocking and he’s a tough, physical player,” Baer said. “He’s only 5-5 and he packs a punch and plays with serious heart.”

On Friday, Seckman takes its winning streak into dangerous territory at Park Hills Central (7-0), which already owns a 35-14 victory over Northwest this season. Running back Dayshawn Welch leads the Rebels with 1,530 yards.

“They’re a good football team,” Baer said. “They’ve got a great coaching staff that’s been there awhile. We’re looking forward to competing with them. Their spread offense looks a lot like ours.”

Blue Jays blank I-55 rival Grandview

Since returning from a two-week quarantine because of COVID-19 concerns, Jefferson has split two games, losing to I-55 Conference perennial champion and Class 1 state champion Valle Catholic but rebounding to throttle Grandview 42-0 on Friday to improve to 1-1 in the conference and 3-2 overall.

Despite no Jefferson player testing positive for the coronavirus after a win over Herculaneum on Sept. 11, R-7 officials had to sideline the team because several Blackcats tested positive. Jefferson head coach Alex Rouggly said his team is as mentally and physically fit as any Blue Jay squad has ever been going into the eighth week of the season.

“We’re practicing (like) we’re taking nothing for granted,” Rouggly said.

Grandview was 4-1 going into the game with the Blue Jays, but Jefferson’s offense was too much for the Eagles to contain. Rouggly said under head coach Dave Dallas, Grandview has made a remarkable turnaround for a program that played a JV-only schedule in 2017 before going 0-10 in 2018 back at the varsity level.

“They’ve always played tough, but they were more physical and playing at a faster speed and that’s a testament to Coach Dallas,” Rouggly said. “I am very impressed with where he’s brought that program since I got to Jefferson. He’s making them believe and put together a schedule where they can have success and know what it means to win.”

Usually Jefferson defers if they win the coin toss, but not on Friday. Rouggly told his players he wanted to set the tone of the game on the opening kickoff. Dylan Schnitzler did just that, racing 90 yards for a touchdown.

“We take pride in our special teams and they’ve always been a huge asset for us,” Rouggly said. “They kicked it right to Dylan and our return team did a good job of blocking and the back wall did a good job of setting that. His speed took over and he was gone.”

Will Schnitzler gave the Blue Jays a 14-0 lead when he scored on a run from 11 yards out with 7:59 left in the first quarter.

“Based on what they were giving us defensively, we felt we could take advantage on the edge,” Rouggly said. “Will used his vision and speed.”

Colby Ott scored on a 20-yard run in the second quarter, then caught a 16-yard TD pass from QB Drew Breeze in the third. Dylan Schnitzler scored on a 1-yard run in the last minute of the first half for the Blue Jays.

“We were running the option successfully and it was a play-action off our option game,” Rouggly said about Ott’s touchdown catch. “Their safety bit on play-action and Colby made a good adjustment on the football and made a good catch.”

Jefferson senior linebacker Dawson Jakoubek broke his own school record for tackles in a game with 21; the previous mark was 15 set last year. He also recovered a fumble.

“We set up Dawson based on what we saw on film,” Rouggly said. “We saw (Grandview) ran to the weak side a lot. I said, ‘Bud, if this plays out the way we think, you might get 20 tackles tonight’ and he got 21.”

Kicker Will Breeze converted all six extra-point tries for Jefferson.

Jefferson is battling East Prairie for the No. 1 seed in the upcoming Class 2 District 1 playoffs. After a road game at Chaffee, the Blue Jays are in Perryville to play I-55 rival St. Vincent, which is 4-1 after dispatching St. Pius X 28-21 last week.

“Those are two huge games,” Rouggly said. “Chaffee is physical and St. Vincent is dynamic. Every year we play (the Indians) it comes down to the wire. We need to focus on ourselves and get better at what we do.”

Blackcats finally get to ring victory bell

After being quarantined for two weeks in September because of positive COVID tests among its players, Herculaneum lost a heartbreaker to Grandview 14-12 on Oct. 2 but recovered to win its first game of the season on Friday, 38-20 at Crystal City.

Hornet quarterback Cyle Schaumburg tossed three touchdown passes covering 144 yards to start and finish the nonconference game, but the Blackcats scored all the points in between to improve to 1-4. Mikey Moloney had touchdown runs of 10 and 23 yards and Cole Myers scored twice from 21 and 2 yards to pace the Herculaneum rushing attack. Tristan Watson led the Blackcats with 106 yards rushing.

“Moloney and Myers block hard for each other,” Herculaneum head coach Cody Hunter said. “They need a seam and they’re going to break tackles. We’re not trying to be fancy on offense. We’d get four or five yards a carry, then Mikey and Cole would break some long ones.”

For the first time this season, the Blackcats got to ring the victory bell.

“Anytime we get to do that is great,” Hunter said. “Our motto since I got here is, we’ve got to get back to winning. Ringing the bell is the kind of thing that builds a program and not every school has that. The kids needed it; the coaching staff needed it. The two hard losses (Herculaneum lost 16-12 to Windsor to open the season) are more difficult to deal with than the blowouts. We know where we are as a program and we’re getting back to the grind this week.”

Hunter said sophomore QB Jackson Dearing is starting to scramble better and find his receivers.

“We’re growing week-to-week and improving as a program and that’s all I can ask for,” Hunter said.

The Blackcats have two tough road assignments coming up, at Ste. Genevieve against Valle Catholic (7-0) on Friday and at Perryville (2-4) before taking part in the Class 3 District 3 tournament.

Hawk offense continues to sizzle with 54 points in win

Hillsboro has scored 118 points in the last two weeks in MAFC Red wins over Windsor and De Soto.

The Hawks trailed the Dragons 26-14 at halftime Friday before outscoring them 40-8 in the final two quarters of a 54-34 victory. Despite missing ground-pounder Austin Romaine with an injury, the Hawks amassed 532 rushing yards against De Soto, which held its homecoming after being under COVID quarantine for two weeks.

Sophomore running back Jaxin Patterson gained 272 yards on 23 carries to lead Hillsboro. It’s the second time this year Patterson has rushed for more than 200 yards and he’s got 1,034 for the season, his second time topping the 1,000-yard mark.

“The line opened up some big holes and Jaxin ran pretty hard,” Hillsboro head coach Bill Sucharski said. “We didn’t (pass) the ball for any yards because they covered us well, but (Hillsboro QB Griffin Ray) did a good job in the option game.

“Last year (Patterson) had a couple 200-yard games and we had to give it to him 40 times. This time he had half the carries. That’s a lot of wear and tear on a kid’s body.”

The Dragons’ layoff allowed senior running back Dominic Punjani to recover from a neck injury he sustained against Festus on Sept. 18. Punjani rushed 26 times for 133 yards and Dragon quarterback Ethan Reissing had his best game of the season, rushing for 180 yards and three touchdowns, the last covering 85 yards.

Sucharski said he challenged his defense at halftime to contain the

De Soto runners. He said sophomore safety Harrison Voyles was one of the team’s defensive leaders.

“We’d have two plays in the first half that were good and then we’d give up a long scramble,” Sucharski said. “We told the defense it had a choice to step up and take control of this game.”

Patterson had three touchdown runs in the second half. His last one spanned 79 yards with 4:17 left in the game to give the Hawks a 46-34 lead. Along with Romaine being out, Hillsboro lost running back Tyler Watson with a groin injury against the Dragons.

Hillsboro (4-3) hosts St. Francis Borgia (3-3) on Friday and Poplar Bluff (4-2) on Oct. 23 before beginning the Class 4 District 1 playoffs. The district includes MAFC Red rivals De Soto, Festus and North County along with Cape Girardeau Central, Perryville and Sikeston.