CHILLICOTHE, Mo. — Maryville offensive coordinator Matt Houchin issued a challenge for the Spoofhounds this week. Find your identity.
The Hounds may have done just that during Friday night’s 36-25 victory in Chillicothe.
“At the beginning of the week, Coach Houchin told us to find our identity, our Spoofhound identity, and play with passion,” Maryville junior Caden Stoecklein said. “I feel like we didn’t do that the first two weeks, but now I felt like we sort of found our identity and played with lots of passion.”
Facing it’s third long road trip in a row to begin the year, Maryville (1-2, 1-0 MEC) knew it needed to capture momentum quickly against Chillicothe (2-1, 0-1 MEC), who were 2-0 and playing in front of its home crowd.
Stoecklein delivered that early momentum.
After the defense stopped the Hornets on fourth down, Stoecklein took the Hounds’ first offensive play 72 yards for a touchdown.
“We just ran ‘power,’ one of our bread and butters, and it was blocked well, then I made a move and got wide, and just out-ran everyone,” Stoecklein said.
Chillicothe attempted to answer on the next drive, but Brayden Buck blew up a fourth-and-1 run for another turnover on downs.
“That is the start you want,” Maryville coach Matt Webb said.
After a punt by Maryville, Chillicothe finally finished off a drive with Cayden Potter bursting through the line on fourth-and-inches for a 13-yard touchdown. Chillicothe missed the extra point which left the Hounds in front 7-6 with 6:09 left in the half.
The kicking game was an area Maryville enjoyed an advantage all night with freshman Noah Bellamy winning the kicking job in practice this week and making all four of his extra points.
Chillicothe took the lead on the next drive after a Connor Drake interception as Hornet quarterback Gage Leamer found Max Wagers for a 75-yard touchdown. The play gave Chillicothe a 12-7 lead.
Drake bounced right back with a 76-yard drive where he went 5-for-6. The last one was a 20-yard pass to Stoecklein, who made a diving catch, for a touchdown with 16 seconds left in the half. Stoecklein ran in the 2-point play for a 15-12 halftime edge.
“The first two weeks, we couldn’t really pass the ball very well, and tonight, we turned that around and completed a lot of passes,” Stoecklein said.
Last week, the Hounds led at halftime as well, but couldn’t finish in the second half in Harrisonville. Some of those past mistakes appeared to haunt the Spoofhounds again early in the third quarter.
With the ball in the red zone, Drew Burns and Drake fumbled the exchange on an end around and Chillicothe got the ball back. A 50-yard touchdown pass to Griff Bonderer put the Hornets back in front 19-15.
“We need to do a better job of not getting beat deep,” Webb said. ”We know what is coming up in our conference and we are going to have to play better to not get beat deep.”
This time it was Burns’ turn for a big-time redemption play. The junior weaved his way down the field for a big kick-off return. A personal foul on Chillicothe — one of many that the Hornets were whistled for — meant Maryville started on the Hornet 17-yard line.
“Last week, we did great (in the) first quarter and came out (in the) second half and just folded,” Maryville senior captain Drew Spire said. “This week, we came out strong (in the) first quarter, slowed down a little bit, but we picked it right back up.”
Spire was limping around the field for most of the second half, but knew his backup at middle linebacker, Macen Shurvington, was out already, so Spire knew he needed to find a way to stay on the field.
“I messed up my ankle and couldn’t really walk, so I let Coop (Loe) have the fullback job,” Spire said. “But my backup actually got quarantined, so I had no choice but to play, and even if I did have a choice, I probably would have played.”
His toughness was rewarded as he capped off a drive with a 2-yard touchdown run for a 22-19 lead with 2:49 left in the third quarter.
The roller-coaster game continued as the fourth quarter started. Stoecklein had a long return on a punt, but the ball was ripped out at the end of the play. It was ruled a fumble and Chillicothe’s ball.
That momentum flipped right back on the next play as junior linebacker Cooper Loe used his mind and baited Leamer into a mistake. Loe jumped a route and took an interception into the end zone for a pick-six and that elusive 2-score lead at 29-19.
“Going throughout the game, you could get a better idea of when they were going to pass with their alignment,” Loe said. “I kind of saw the wing, he was out a little wider so I had a pretty good hint that he was going to pass, so I kind of played a little wider and played it. I really wanted to give the illusion that I was not covering him and staying behind him. So whenever Tyler Siemer did a great job of getting pressure on him, he tried to lob the ball up and I just cut the receiver off.”
Stoecklein was grateful for the big play to swing back momentum.
“I had the fumble on the punt return and then Cooper saved my butt with that interception,” Stoecklein said. “I went up and hugged him and just said thank you.”
Without an offensive possession needed, Maryville was able to keep Stoecklein fresh and playing deep safety. Leamer attempted to go back to the well again with the deep ball, but Stoecklein was there and intercepted the pass.
Stoecklein finished the game with 79 rushing yards, 74 receiving yards, two touchdowns and an interception on defense.
“This week, it felt like I really broke out like I was hoping to all season,” Stoecklein said. “Hopefully I can just continue to do that and play for my teammates.”
Yet another Hornet late hit gave Maryville the ball on the Chillicothe 12 and Drake needed just one play to find sophomore Delton Davis for Davis’ second touchdown in as many weeks. The score put Maryville up 36-19 with six minutes left.
Drake finished 9-of-12 for 119 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
“That is a great example of Connor just taking what is there and executing the way Coach Houchin calls things. … When you execute, good things happen,” Webb said.
Chillicothe punched in a touchdown with no time left on the clock to help the final margin at 36-25.
Maryville continues MEC play next week with its first chance to play at the Hound Pound this season. The opponent is last year’s MEC champion St. Pius X who is 3-0 this season and 1-0 in the MEC.
“The Hound Pound is special,” Webb said. “The last time we played there was Cassville in the semifinals and it was magical. We have no restrictions next week. That place should be packed.”