PATTONSBURG, Mo. – Pattsonburg and Worth County. No.1 versus No. 3. Two of the premiere teams in 8-man football will face-off this Friday night in Pattonsburg. The Panthers come into the matchup undefeated and averaging 74 points per game. Worth County has been to two-straight state championship games—winning one of them.
Pattonsburg’s 74 points per game doesn’t tell the whole story. What the Panthers do offensively cannot be replicated by any other 8-man program. There are plenty of teams that can score points. Appleton City scored 90 points last week in a win. But the Panthers just do it differently.
The Pattonsburg offense is led by the best player in the state in quarterback Steven Willhite. The senior quarterback has thrown for 2,237 yards and 38 touchdowns so far this season. Willhite and the offense are averaging 420 yards through the air and completing 69 percent of his passes.
In addition to being the best passer in the state, Willhite is also the team’s leading rusher—averaging 72.5 yards per game with 11 touchdowns. As a team, the Panthers average 117 yards per game on the ground.
“They’re an explosive offense that can score from anywhere,” North Andrew coach Dwayne Williams said. “A new key to their success this year is that they’ve added a running game to their offense.”
Pattonsburg has experience all over the offensive side of the ball and that includes senior wide receivers Patrick Cowley and Dakota Eaton. Eaton leads the team with 50 receptions for 846 yards and 10 touchdowns. Cowley trails Eaton by just 53 yards but has him beat in touchdown receptions with 15.
The defensive side of the ball has shown the ability to give up points. The Panther defense has allowed 38 points per game, including games where they allowed 52 and 62. Much like Worth County, the defense makes its bone by forcing turnovers. Pattonsburg has 17 fumble recoveries and five interceptions this season.
The Panthers have outscored their opponents by 214 points this season. The North Andrew Cardinals are the only team to have lost to Pattonsburg by less than three scores. The Panthers left Rosendale with a 68-62 win in week three.
The Worth County Tigers are coming off of a hard-fought win in the rain over the number 10 team in the state, Orrick. Worth County was held to a season-low 28 points in the win. Though the offense was held to its lowest total of the season, the defense has allowed just 12 points over the last two weeks.
The Tiger offense was led by sophomore running back Alex Rinehart in its win last week. Leading rusher Andrew Alarcon missed most of the second half with a shoulder injury and it was Rinehart who stepped up in his absence, scoring three touchdowns in the victory.
Aydan Gladstone continues to improve in his first year as a starter. The sophomore quarterback now has 834 yards passing and another 230 yards rushing. Gladstone leads the team with 19 total touchdowns.
Alarcon leads the team in rushing with 653 yards and 16 touchdowns. The state of his injury is unknown but it could have major ramifications on both sides of the ball if he is unable to play in Friday’s game.
Orrick had its hands full Friday night trying to keep the Worth County defense off its quarterback Friday night. Jaxon Anderson and his six sacks this season has played a major role in the improvement on the defense over the last few weeks.
The defense added to its takeaway total last week and is now up to 17 on the season. Justin Dye now leads the team with 46 tackles through six games.
The two teams split in their two matchups last season. Pattonsburg defeated the Tigers 62-42 in their first trip to Grant City last year. Worth County was helped by a snowstorm and the legs of Caleb Parman in their second meeting in which they won 56-0 in two quarters. With both teams again being in District 3, Friday night will most likely just be round one of two between two of the state’s best.