Anthony Crane

Anthony Crane

The high school football season schedule begins in August, but the season truly begins next with district play. It appeared before the season that the state title would come down to two teams: the defending champions in the Mound City Panthers and the high-flying offense of the Pattonsburg Panthers.

After nine weeks, though, it is the East Atchison Wolves who have finished the season with an undefeated record. The Panthers finished with one loss but are brining a defense into the playoffs that has been less than good. Mound City has been strong as of late, but with two losses, they have shown the ability to lose to good teams.

10. Worth County (6-3) State Rank: 9

The Tigers came into the season once again having to replace valuable starters from a season ago that led them to the state title game. After a 5-1 start to the season with their lone loss coming to one of the better team’s in southern Iowa, Worth County has struggled in the last three weeks. The Tigers are 1-2 over their last three and the defense is giving up 65 points per game.

The loss of leading rusher Andrew Alarcon has been problematic for Worth County on offense but even more so on defense. Alarcon was averaging 93 yards per game on the ground before the knee injury and had three interceptions in seven games. The Tigers pulled off some magic last year in the playoffs and will need even more if they want to make it to their third-straight title game. Worth County will start district play with North-West Nodaway.

9. South Holt/Nodaway-Holt (5-4) State Rank: NR

The Spartans are a team led by one of the state’s best and most underrated quarterbacks. Josh Petersen’s team have lost the games they should probably lose, and they have won the games they were supposed to win. Since starting 0-3, the Spartans have gone 5-1 with the lone loss coming to Mound City.

Petersen’s defense has improved since he took over play calling on that side of the ball, aside from a 46-point effort by Mound City. In their five wins, South Holt/Nodaway-Holt has allowed just 20 points per game. The Spartans will begin district play with a DeKalb team who they beat by 30 points on Sept. 27.

8. North Shelby (7-2) State Rank: 7

The Raiders have been an interesting team to follow this season. North Shelby began the season with a loss to Waco (Ia.) who finished the regular season with a 3-5 record. From there, the Raiders went on to win seven-straight—including a 10-point win over North Andrew.

A few games that make me questions the Raiders include a six-point win over a Stanberry team that has won just two games this season and then a home loss to Orrick last week. The Raiders begin district play against a Braymer team that has averaged just nine points per game this season. After that, North Shelby will get a chance for revenge against Orrick in the second round.

“Their offensive and defensive lines are the key to their success, they’re big and athletic. Their skill players are very good but they have the ability to dominate up front on both sides of the ball and control the line of scrimmage.” –North Andrew Head Coach Dwayne Williams

7. Orrick (7-2) State Rank: 8

Orrick seems to be clicking on all cylinders at the right time. The Bearcats recently got their starting quarterback back from injury just in time for a win over state-ranked North Shelby last week. Orrick’s two losses also came against teams ranked in the top-10. The Bearcats made the long trip to Northwest Missouri State to face Worth County in a rainstorm in a game that was a few calls away from being closer than the 28-6 final.

The Bearcats’ defense has proven to be its strength in a time where defense can be hard to find amongst the state’s best 8-man teams. The team goes into their bye week allowing just 24 points per game. As mentioned just a few paragraphs ago, the Bearcats will more than likely face Orrick in the second round before facing the district’s one seed in Southwest Livingston.

6. Appleton City (9-0) State rank: 6

I so rarely with this job get to be subjective because I believe being objective is what makes for good reporting. This is one of those times where I will share with you that the Bulldogs were a team that I was rooting for amongst the schools from the south. I often voted them in the top-three of the Missouri 8-Man Poll. So why are they at six? After rolling through every team they played in the first eight weeks, Appleton City lost their starting quarterback to a broken collarbone.

The Bulldogs have averaged 62 points per game this season while allowing just 28 points per game on defense. Appleton City defeated Norborne last week at home 22-12 with their lowest offensive output of the season. The Bulldogs will get a bye before facing the winner of Osceola and Rich Hill.

Go Dawgs! (Don’t judge)

“Appleton City is a good football team and their record reflects that. They have the trifecta of traits that has led to their success: They have a stout offensive line that is highly disciplined, their skill positions are explosive and a threat to score anytime they are in the open field, and their coach, Travis Basore, has his team well coached.” –Drexel Head Coach Philip Dean

5. North Andrew (7-2) State Rank: 5

The Cardinals have been fantastic this season, minus one game. North Andrew took Pattonsburg to the wire in week 3 before ultimately losing 68-62. There is no shame in losing to the Panthers by six and the loss actually helped them in the polls that week. The loss to North Shelby two weeks later did not help the Cardinals.

Since their loss to the Raiders, North Andrew has been on a tear. The Cardinals’ offense has averaged 68 points per game over the last month. The team’s most impressive win may have come against Worth County in Grant City where they defeated the Tigers 86-46.

The Cardinals will face Bishop LeBlond in the opening round of districts before entering the gauntlet that is District 4. North Andrew’s district includes: East Atchison, Mound City, South Holt/Nodaway-Holt and Rock Port.

“North Andrew is a physical team, a well-coached team who does what they do very well. They have a great quarterback and good mixture of physicality and speed in their backfield to make a lethal combination to try and stop. Their style of football and the way they play will give them a chance to make a deep run into the playoffs come November.” –Pattonsburg Head Coach Scott Cavin

4. Southwest Livingston (8-1) State Rank: 4

The Wildcats opened their season with a 68-22 loss to East Atchison and won a thriller in Oregon against the South Holt/Nodaway-Holt Spartans, 66-62. Since week two, Southwest has outscored their opponents 416-94.

The biggest win for the Wildcats this season came in their week four trip to Mound City. Southwest handed Mound City their first loss of the season 58-34. The Wildcats have a bye this week before facing the winner of the Stewartsville and Norborne game.

Southwest should win their second round game and advance to the district finals where they will face the winner of the North Shelby and Orrick game.

3. Pattonsburg (8-1) State Rank: 2

The Panthers have the best offense in the state and it’s not even close. Quarterback Steven Willhite and his duo of receivers have scored on everyone they’ve played this season with their lowest point total coming in week five where they scored 58. Pattonsburg has averaged 78 points per game this season…but.

The defense has recently become a real problem for the coach Cavin. The Panthers are allowing 48 points per game and 156 over the last two weeks. The team’s 92-88 loss to North Shelby set a state record for points in a game. Coach Cavin’s defense has allowed 45 points or more in six of their nine games; the games they didn’t allow more than 45 came against LeBlond, Braymer and Stanberry. Those three teams have a combined three wins this season and Braymer hasn’t scored more than 14 in any other game (38 against Pattonsburg).

Even with all of that, the Panthers still have enough talent to outscore any team they face in the playoffs. Pattonsburg also has the easiest road to Columbia amongst the top-four teams in the state. Most likely the Panthers will once again face Worth County in the district finals where they lost 56-0 last season.

“Explosive offense that can score from anywhere. If you commit to stopping the pass game then you are shorthanded defending the run. They’re big, fast and a well-coached team.” –North Andrew Head Coach Dwayne Williams

2. Mound City (7-2) State Rank: 3

The Panthers once again rollout one of the most talented teams in the state. The only time teams have been able to take down head coach Taylor Standerford’s team is when the players get in their own way with off-the-field issues. Mound City was minus two of its star players in their loss to Southwest. Their second loss of the season came on the road in a back-and-forth battle with East Atchison in which they lost 58-50.

Aside from those two games, the Panthers have been dominant and for the second year in a row—it’s been led by their defense. In their seven wins, Mound City has allowed a combined 40 points. The Panthers will face Rock Port on Friday before a tough matchup against North Andrew in the second round.

1. East Atchison (9-0) State Rank: 1

Congratulations and thank you if you were so kind as to read all 1,500 words that came before revealing that the Wolves came in at one. I apologize if you wanted more because so did I (Email my bosses and share with them your rage).

Back to being subjective. If you follow me on Twitter and by my latest follower count you probably don’t (@crane_anthony) you will have noticed that I am a big fan of what they’re doing in Tarkio/Fairfax. The Spartans have faced the toughest schedule in 8-man, but East Atchison isn’t far behind.

The Wolves defeated Southwest in week one by 46, South Holt/Nodaway-Holt by 35 and then defeated the defending state champions. East Atchison has averaged 58 points per game on offense while holding opponents to just 15 points per game.

The Wolves are a veteran group, led by Briacin Bywater and Jake McEnaney. The quarterback and running back combined for over 1,600 rushing yards and 26 touchdowns this season. East Atchison runs one of the more balanced offenses in 8-man, averaging 168 passing yards and 213 rushing yards per game.

The defense is led by sophomore Josh Smith who had 5.5 sacks through eight games and junior Ian Hedland and his 4.5 sacks. The defense came into week nine with 17 sacks and had forced 21 turnovers.

The Wolves will get a bye this week before facing the winner of DeKalb and South Holt/Nodaway-Holt. The road to Columbia won’t be easy with East Atchison having to go through District 4.

*Wolves are number two on my list of favorite animals

Follow Forum Sports: @sportsMDF.