COLUMBIA, Mo. – There was a time this season when the Mound City Panthers struggled to stay in the top five. Saturday, they proved themselves as the best team in the state in a game that was never close. The Panthers scored a season-high 82 points in their 82-46 win over the Southwest Livingston Wildcats Saturday afternoon in Columbia, giving the Panthers their second-straight state title.
“We came out ready to go played one heck of a football game,” Panthers coach Taylor Standerford said. “It’s great that these guys put in that work to get to this point, it means a lot to the community and these guys have a ton of community support in Mound City and we couldn’t do it without them.”
The Panthers took the opening kickoff and marched down the field on an 11-play, 44-yard drive that ended in a six-yard touchdown run from junior quarterback Landon Poppa. The Mound City defense responded by forcing a turnover on downs on the Wildcats’ opening drive.
Mound City took over at its own 37-yard line and went right back to the running game. But the Southwest defense ended the threat by forcing a Dylan George fumble that was recovered by the Wildcats.
The country’s leading rusher then capitalized on the Panther mistake. Quarterback Mack Anderson carried the ball twice for nine yards including a five-yard touchdown to cut the lead to two.
The Wildcats had no answer for the Panthers’ rushing attack and that was no different on Mound City’s third drive. T.J. Hopkins and George began the drive with three carries for 24 yards. George found his way to the end zone for the first of his four touchdowns.
The Mound City senior continued to make plays and redeeming himself for the early fumble with an interception of Anderson on Southwest Livingston’s first play of the ensuing drive.
“Going out there, I wasn’t fully there and I made a mistake and needed to play harder and harder for my team,” George said.
The Wildcats had multiple opportunities to make stops on the defensive side of the ball and that started on the Panthers’ next drive. Mound City began the drive with a holding penalty, pushing them back. But George made up those yards and then some with a 70-yard touchdown run.
Anderson then rushed twice for 10 yards to open the drive. The senior quarterback then went to the air, connecting with Patrick Warren for 12 yards and then Warren again for a 19-yard touchdown. Southwest Livingston struggled to convert their two-point conversions and missing their first two put them down two scores instead on one.
The next two drives showcased the talent at quarterback in the game. Poppa rushed for a 39-yard touchdown to give the Panthers a 28-12 lead. Anderson answered his counterpart with a 64-yard touchdown on the Wildcats’ first play.
“He’s extremely difficult (to tackle), he’s big up there and we had to get on the legs,” Standerford said. “We did that a few times, he broke a few tackles and you get a great quarterback like that, he’s going to break a few tackles.”
Mound City’s next drive went seven plays and for the second-straight possession—ended with a touchdown run from Poppa. In a game that saw a lot of haymakers thrown, Southwest went with the body blows on their next drive.
The Wildcats longest scoring drive of the game took 15 plays and covered 50 yards. Anderson carried the ball on eight of those plays including a one-yard touchdown with 03:29 left in the half to cut the lead to 10 at 36-26.
Five-straight drives in the second quarter ended with one of the two quarterbacks scoring a touchdown. Poppa scored his third touchdown of the quarter to push the extend the lead to 16. Anderson then turned the ball over for the second time in the half as he was stripped by the Panthers’ Blake Hayes.
George made sure the turnover didn’t go to waste, rushing 34 yards down the sideline to give Mound City 50 first half points. The Panthers carried the ball 34 times for 315 yards in the first half.
Anderson and the Wildcats began the second half with a six-play drive that covered 44 yards. The Panthers forced a fourth and six from their own nine, but Anderson’s scramble down the right sideline ended in a touchdown.
The Anderson touchdown cut the Panthers’ lead to 18—but that’s as close as the Wildcats would get. George answered with an 18-yard touchdown on the Mound City drive to make the score 58-32.
The second half belong to Hopkins as he gashed the Wildcat defense. Hopkins scored on runs of 31, 20 and 32 yards in the second half.
“I’m sad that my career has to be done at Mound City but what I planned and what happened worked out because I set my goal and we achieved it,” Hopkins said. “I couldn’t ask for more—it was a great way to end it.”
The state title gives Mound City eight total, surpassing Worth County for the most in state history.
“For these guys to get that point is incredible,” Standerford said. “This is Mound City’s 10th trip to the state championship in 20 years and that’s all just the community I talked about earlier and these guys working for it.”
For the Wildcats, the loss ends an 11-game winning streak and puts them at 0-2 in their two trips to the state title game. Southwest coach Oren Magruder credits his seniors for getting them to the championship game.
“At the beginning of the year, I told them that they were going to take us wherever they want us to go,” Magruder said. “Their leadership was necessary for us to get here. It might feel good someday, but none of us are feeling good right now.”
For Mack Anderson, the senior finishes the season with 3,146 rushing yards and 66 touchdowns. But for Anderson, it won’t be the stats that he remembers moving forward.
“Best thing I’ll take out of this is being able to see my buddies after school and Friday nights,” Anderson said.
The three-headed Monster for Mound City rushed for 450 yards in the win. Poppa finished the season with 1,262 yards, George with 1,278 and Hopkins 1,048. Hopkins had a message for George and the other seniors as the clock started to wind down in the second half.
“We only have so many minutes left out there, take every opportunity and breathe it in because some of us will never play this game again,” Hopkins said.