Anthony Crane

Anthony Crane

After 11 weeks of 8-man football in 2019, the tournament has given the state its final eight teams. The four district championship games will take place Friday night at 7 throughout the state.

Drexel (9-2) at Appleton City (10-0)

The Appleton City Bulldogs blew through their regular season schedule with ease. The one exception to that was in week two against the team they’ll face this Friday night when they host Drexel.

In their previous matchup, the Bulldogs jumped out to a 28-0 lead in the first quarter and dominated the game for the most part until a 34-point second half (28 in the fourth) cut the Appleton City lead to 10. The Bulldogs went on to win the game 50-40.

It is no secret what Drexel wants to do in this game. The Bobcats threw just 41 passes all season for 197 yards. On the other hand, Drexel may have the most impressive freshman in the state in Jacob Coffey. Coffey has carried the ball 176 times for 1,326 yards and 18 touchdowns in his first season.

It’s been no secret that the Appleton City Bulldogs hold a special place in my 8-man heart and if I’m being honest, I am a little surprised that the Bulldogs made it this far after losing their quarterback for the year.

Appleton City scored just 22 points two weeks ago against a Norborne team with just four wins on the season before facing a Rich Hill team that a certain broadcaster had picked as his dark horse. No offense to the young men at Rich Hill, but I was very wrong.

The Bulldogs ran all over Rich Hill on their way to a 60-38 win. The 38 points was the second most given up by coach Travis Basore’s defense this season, but it didn’t matter thanks for running back Tyler Stutesman.

Stutesman carried the ball 36 times for 364 yards and seven touchdowns in the victory. The defense forced four turnovers, including a pick-six from Michael Aversman.

The Bobcats are not Rich Hill, though, and it will be a test for Appleton City this week as they face their toughest opponent since losing their leader on offense. The winner of this game will then have to face the winner of East Atchison and Mound City.

Final Verdict:

#GoDawgs (No shame): Bulldogs 45, Bobcats 38

Mound City (9-2) at East Atchison (10-0)

I understand my job is to take words from the English language and put them in a certain calculated order that makes you want purchase a newspaper. This matchup has me struggling to find the right words.

The Panthers and Wolves played one of the best games of the season back in week six and people are still talking about it. Being as blessed as I am to be your go-to for 8-man knowledge, I will share with you two different statements that were sent my way regarding the first matchup.

“A flag was thrown, which ejected Mound City Quarterback Landon Poppa for the rest of the game… (I think it was a bad call) and then another 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct when the coaches argued. It gave East Atchison the ball game.”

“I will say for a game they should have won; they never had the lead.”

I appreciate the feedback from the Mound City fan. I am but one person and cannot be at every game and so I appreciate his point of view. I also love the confidence coming from the East Atchison side and respect a school that takes the field to the NWO theme song. Very strong, East Atchison.

Both teams won rather easily last week, and both come into the district championship as the most complete teams in the state. Friday night should not disappoint in a matchup with the two best team’s in the state.

Final Verdict:

Don’t turn your back on the wolfpack: Wolves 42, Panthers 30

North Shelby (9-2) at Southwest Livingston (9-1)

The most intriguing championship game this week may be North Shelby and Southwest. The Wildcats have won nine in a row coming into the district championship, including a win over Mound City. The Raiders come in off a 54-6 win over a 7-2 Orrick team.

The Raiders have been a little Jekyll and Hyde this season. North Shelby’s best win came in week eight with a victory over Pattonsburg 92-88. Coach Seth Bass’ team turned around the next week and lost to Orrick at home.

The Wildcats won’t have to worry much about the pass on Friday, but they will face one of if not the best one-two punches in the state. Seniors Dayton Mettes and Ethan Geisendorfer have combined for 2,390 rushing yards and 39 touchdowns this season.

Southwest Livingston has mostly been a one-man band this season. Of the team’s 2,671 rushing yards, senior quarterback Mack Anderson has 2,250 of them. The second most dangerous player on the offense is Chase Neptune who leads the team with 39 receptions for 690 yards and 13 touchdowns.

The fear with the Wildcats in this matchup is that they have played a Charmin Ultra Soft schedule over the last six weeks. The five teams they’ve played combined for 12 wins this season and their win over Mound City came with their two of their best players suspended.

Anderson is a fantastic player and Southwest has beaten the teams that they’re supposed to beat. North Shelby has had weeks where they look like one of the top teams in the state, and others where they just look like a good team.

Final Verdict:

At least they’re not from Oakland: Raiders 55, Wildcats 35

Worth County (8-3) at Pattonsburg (9-1)

I’ve been asked by outsiders who don’t watch 8-man football why teams don’t play defense. It’s a difficult question and one that the Panthers make difficult to answer on a weekly basis.

What makes it interesting is how Pattonsburg manages to do this on both sides of the ball. But the cure for any struggling defense is to have a great offense and for the Panthers, it starts with number three.

Steven Willhite, maybe you’ve heard of him, has 93 touchdowns this season. NINTY. THREE. The senior quarterback has thrown for 4,385 yards and 78 touchdowns. Willhite has rushed for another 600 yards and 15 touchdowns. Unreal.

Pattonsburg lost what some have said is the best receiver in the state to a knee injury before the season started. Stepping up admirably has been Patrick Cowley (116 receptions) and Dakota Eaton who has snagged 86 receptions this year.

The problem for the Panthers lies within their ability to stop the other team from scoring. In their last three games, the defense has allowed 176 points. My math skills, which aren’t great, tell me that is almost 60 points per game. They’re allowing 45 points per game this season.

On the other side are the Worth County Tigers. You may remember them as the team who has partaken in the last two state title games. The Tigers season has been very up-and-down and some of that has to do with their young roster.

Worth County’s top-two offensive players are only sophomores and the team has attempted to steady the ship after losing two-straight games to Pattonsburg and North Andrew in weeks six and seven.

Much like the Panthers, defense has not been the strength for the Tigers this season and it didn’t help matters when coach Chris Healy’s team lost junior Andrew Alarcon for the season in their first matchup with Pattonsburg.

Sophomore quarterback Aydan Gladstone has played well in his first season with 1,461 yards passing and 709 yards rushing. The Tigers leading rusher since losing Alarcon is Alex Rinehart. The sophomore running back has carried the ball 119 times for 882 yards and 23 touchdowns this season. Rinehart also leads the team with 31 receptions and six receiving touchdowns.

Last season Pattonsburg handled Worth County in their regular season matchup, 62-42. The Tigers got their revenge last season in the district championship game in Grant City. Thanks to the wind, snow and Caleb Parman; Worth County defeated the Panthers 56-0.

Healy is a great coach and the Tigers always find a way to get better as the season goes along. Worth County will also be the favorite to win the state title in 2020. But Pattonsburg and Willhite are just too offensively for a short-handed Worth County secondary to handle.

Final Verdict:

Panthers 56, Tigers 42

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