MARYVILLE, Mo. — Maryville’s postseason path looks to be pretty well set in stone thanks to MSHSAA’s points system and the very tough schedule that the Spoofhounds have played this year.
Maryville (4-4, 4-1 MEC) is one of five teams in Class 2, District 7 with a 4-4 record entering the final week of the regular season, but Palmyra, Macon, Trenton and Brookfield are all within five MSHSAA points of each other while Maryville is over 13 points ahead of second-place Palmyra.
So regardless of how Maryville performs in Friday night’s regular-season finale with Class 4 Lafayette (6-2, 4-1 MEC); Class 2, District 7 goes through Maryville.
“We are playing some really good football right now,” Maryville coach Matt Webb said.
A win would give Maryville a second-place finish in the MEC behind just St. Pius X, who will likely finish its undefeated MEC slate with a win over Savannah on Friday.
“This is a big game,” Webb said. “Our kids will get fired up and excited. Lafayette is scoring 38 points a game on offense, and they are high-flying. … It is going to be a fun night to finish the regular season.”
Despite Lafayette’s better record, they have had a much easier schedule than the Spoofhounds and Maryville has out-performed the Irish in every game against common opponents in the MEC.
While Maryville has had the better season, Webb realizes that Lafayette presents challenges for his team, particularly with their prolific passing game.
“You just have to play really balanced,” Webb said. “You can’t give up the home run. … You’ve got to get pressure on the quarterback and receivers, and be physical on them so it is not just basketball on grass.”
The leaders of that passing attack are quarterback Jaron Saunders and wideout Kingston Oliver. The duo made state-wide headlines in their opener against Atchison (Kan.) when Saunders threw for 698 yards and Oliver had 398 yards — both state records.
Saunders is a dual-threat for the Irish who the Spoofhounds have become familiar with over the years. He has been battling an injury in recent games and missed a portion of last week’s loss to St. Pius X.
“He can throw. He can run. You’ve seen film on him putting it in the air 50 yards,” Webb said. “… They are a very potent offensive attack and it certainly starts with Saunders.”
Oliver leads an explosive group of receivers for Lafayette which also includes Carlos Cortez.
While the passing game has led the Irish offense, it has been the running game where opponents have attacked the Irish defense.
“You can’t let (Oliver) take the top off the defense, you have to create an umbrella over him,” Webb said. “Any time you can get two over one, that is a big key. When you overplay him, then all of a sudden you got guys like Cortez. You put two on Oliver and that leaves single coverage for Cortez. At times in the Chillicothe game, they put two or three on him, so it opens up other spots.”
Last week, St. Pius X — a team with a prolific passing offense of its own — leaned on its running game for 310 yards and four touchdowns against Lafayette while throwing for less than 100 yards.
Maryville’s running game is coming off a dominant showing against Savannah with nearly 300 yards on the ground. The Hounds had four different rushers account for at least 59 yards with Tyler Siemer, Cooper Loe, Caden Stoecklein and Adrian McGee.
“We were able to be very efficient the other night,” Webb said. “… That means we are winning the line of scrimmage and our guys are blocking well.”
The game on Friday night in the Hound Pound will also debut a new special tribute for the Spoofhounds as it will be Law Enforcement Appreciation Night. The Spoofhounds have guest speakers coming in all week to speak to the team.
The team will wear special decals on its helmets to honor law enforcement and first responders.
“Each week throughout the season, one of the things we’ve done is we call it ‘Thankful Thursday’ and the kids write a thank you note whether that be to someone in our community or someone who supports us as a Spoofhound football program who maybe doesn’t get told thank you enough,” Webb said. “Whether that is cafeteria workers, custodians, our booster members, or people in our community who support us. This week we are making a special note to thank our law enforcement and first responders in our community.”