MARYVILLE, Mo. — Maryville came into Friday night's game without its starting quarterback and halfback. The Spoofhounds need somebody to step up.
They had plenty rise to the occasion, but nobody had the statistical day that sophomore running back Caden Stoecklein did in the 42-40 win over Harrisonville at the Hound Pound. There is a good chance nobody in the state did.
“I think I hugged him like 10 times that game,” Maryville senior Caleb Kreizinger said. “I kept telling him, 'You are the man, keep doing what you are doing.' He stepped up. We lost some guys, and he stepped up.”
Stoecklein, playing in his first game after sitting out last week's loss to Blair Oaks, exploded for 310 yards on 18 carries with two touchdowns. He also had two catches for 44 yards and made a couple tackles.
“It felt amazing to play,” Stoecklein said. “I was so upset that I couldn't help my team out last week and it was just so frustrating. To come out and get this win tonight felt amazing.”
Stoecklein and the Spoofhounds got off to a fast start with a long touchdown run on the game's first play from scrimmage. Connor Drake, in his first start at quarterback after Ben Walker suffered a season-ending knee injury, found Kade Wilmes for the two-point conversion.
“He is an awesome kid,” Maryville coach Matt Webb said of Drake. “He cares for his teammates. He knows he has has to execute the offense, and he is just going to do his 1/11th. He doesn't have to do anything more or anything less than his 1/11th on every snap.”
The Spoofhound defense got the ball right back to the offense with Marc Gustafson pressuring Harrisonville quarterback River Riley and Kreizinger making the interception.
Maryville went right back down the field, this time more methodically and Trey Houchin punched in a 1-yard touchdown Drake found Kreizinger for the 2-point conversion, and Maryville had a 16-0 lead.
After Kreizinger recovered a fumble the Hounds got right back to running the ball down the Wildcats' throats. Houchin scored his score touchdown of the night and Wilmes added a rushing conversion to his tally to give Maryville a 24-0 lead with a minute to go in the first quarter.
The game took a turn from there though with Jace Reynolds, a 2,000-yard back last season, scoring on a 34-yard run. Harrisonville converted on both an onside kick and fake punt to get deep into Maryville territory, but the Spoofhound defense held strong and took a 24-8 lead into halftime.
After an extended halftime due to a power outage, the Wildcats retained momentum. On a blown-up screen play, Harrisonville defensive lineman Ethan Murray intercepted Drake's pass and returned it for a touchdown.
As Drake came to the sideline, Webb instructed his young quarterback to keep his head up because there was a lot of game left. That may have been a dramatic understatement with the twists and turns remaining in this one.
“He grew up overnight,” Webb said of Drake.
Stoecklein busted loose for a 30-yard gain which set up a 28-yard touchdown by Brady Farnan. Harrisonville had the answer immediately with Reynolds returning the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown.
Maryville fumbled on the next possession, setting Harrisonville up seven yards from a touchdown, but the Hounds forced a fumble themselves to get the ball right back. Stoecklein then exploded for another huge run which would have had Maryville on the doorstep, but a personal foul followed by a false start derailed the drive.
After a punt, Reynolds went 80 yards for a touchdown and Harrison took its first lead at 32-30. After the Spoofhounds turned it over on downs, Harrisonville added another touchdown for a 40-30 lead with 7:39 left.
“Blair Oaks, at some point, we gave up,” Kreizinger said. “In the second quarter, we gave up. We got chewed for it in the second half. This game we proved that we aren't going to give up ever again. That was a one-time thing and we aren't going to do it ever again.”
Stoecklein had the answer though and needed just two plays to rush for 67 yards and a touchdown to draw the team within four points with 7:18 to play.
“I give all the credit to the line,” Stoecklein said. “I'm just the one who sees the holes and hits them. Without them, I wouldn't have done half of what I did today.”
Gustafson blew up the third-and-5 run for Reynolds on the next drive to force a Harrisonville punt with five minutes left.
Two more big Stoecklein runs got the Hounds down into the red zone. Stoecklein was visibly in pain as he was suffering from cramps much of the second half.
“I couldn't let my team down,” Stoecklein said.
Webb and offensive coordinator Matt Houchin turned to their first-time starting quarterback and asked him to make a play to win the game on third down. Drake rewarded his coaches' faith by rolling out and finding Wilmes open. Wilmes made a great catch and sprinted in for the 16-yard game-winning touchdown with 2:58 to go.
“I love Kade,” Drake said. “He works hard. Last week, I threw one and he kind of got hit pretty hard so I told him I paid him back with that touchdown.”
Drake threw for 100 yards on the night.
“We had couple slip-ups but he played a good game,” Kriezinger said of Drake. “I told him that it isn't the way you play, it is how you bounce back when you mess up.
“He bounced back very well. We kept our composure and he kept throwing dots. … He stepped up. He won us that ballgame.”
Harrisonville drove down into Spoofhound territory, but the lack of a passing game hurt them as Maryville was able to bat down a couple desperation throws late and escape with a 42-40 win.
“That was an exciting football game,” Webb said. “That is why you play. People may ask why you play football. Holy cow, this place is why you play football.”
The Hounds will be back home next week for Senior Night and their first MEC test against Chillicothe.
“Wednesday, we are going to get a lot of guys back,” Kriezinger said. “It is going to feel a lot more normal. Our sideline is going to get a lot bigger.”