Missouri prep football notebook: Liberty North fends off Lee’s Summit North in potential state championship preview

By Chris Geinosky and Jon Walker

The top two teams in Kansas City put on a show for high school football fans last week. Perhaps we will have the chance to see a rematch between Liberty North and Lee’s Summit North, but it will only happen if both teams reach the Class 6 state championship game in November.

Despite the fact that only 25 miles separate Liberty North (5-1 record) and Lee’s Summit North (6-1), the two highly regarded programs have been placed in different districts this year. And with the way the MSHSAA playoff bracket will shake out, the two teams would only see one another if they both reach the final game of the 2021 season.

Kansas City’s game of the year lived up to all the hype as the Eagles held on for a 38-35 victory that featured an impressive display of offensive fire power on both sides. Liberty North, ranked No. 3 in the SBLive Missouri Top 25, had to overcome some adversity after losing a 10-point, first-half lead.

“I’m just so proud of the kids,” Liberty North head coach Greg Jones told SBLive while soaking in the moment on the field after last week’s big win. “That’s the first time we’ve come from behind to win a game. They showed me resilience tonight.”

Liberty North led by 10 points on three separate occasions in the first half: 10-0, 17-7 and 24-14. However, No. 4 Lee’s Summit North closed the gap to 24-21 at the half and then took a brief 28-24 lead in the middle of the third quarter.

That’s when the Eagles started to take over. Faced with the challenge of locking up with one of the biggest defensive lines in the state, Liberty North won the game with its clock-controlling ground game. Running back Cayden Arzola led the attack with 112 yards and a single-game, career-high four touchdowns.

“The offensive line was absolutely amazing tonight,” Arzola said. “They have some big boys over they, but we weren’t intimidated by that. We just kept after them, and they started to get tired as the game went along.”

Lee’s Summit North running back Tanner Howes countered with 152 rushing yards, highlighted by a 76-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. Quarterback Tre Baker threw for 152 yards and three touchdowns, but his two mistakes were the game’s most glaring – a fumble on a sack and a tipped interception hauled in by Melvin Laster, both of which led to touchdowns for the Eagles.

Chris Geinosky

Rockwood Summit reaches 7-0 for first time in program history

When the Rockwood Summit Falcons took the field for their Week 7 matchup with McCluer North, they were striving to do something no other team in the program’s history had done: start a season with seven consecutive wins. 

They did exactly that, though, beating McCluer 63-0. 

“We’re starting to build the culture we wanted when I took over,” Summit coach Eric Stewart told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “You’re seeing a rebirth of football in this area. We’ve seen the community buy in, and the kids want to be Summit football players.”

The Falcons have been propelled throughout the program’s historic season by perhaps the best defense in the state of Missouri. 

Summit has only allowed a total of 24 points throughout the first seven weeks of the season, and two of those were recorded when the ball was snapped over the offense’s heads and through the back of the end zone for a safety. 

The Falcons haven’t let anyone score on their first-team defense.

They’ll be hoping to continue to stump opposing offenses, and the next opportunity will present itself when Summit hosts Pattonville (3-4) Oct. 15. 

“We had a lot of returning starters from last year and a couple young sophomores stepping up, too,” Summit senior defensive end Matt Mehrhoff told the Post-Dispatch. “We knew we’d be a real good defense around the summertime.”

– Jon Walker

Carthage smacks Joplin in highly anticipated showdown of undefeated teams

This battle of unbeatens had been tabbed as southwest Missouri’s game of the year. Carthage had other ideas.

Although both teams entered last week’s contest ranked in the Top 10 of the SBLive Top 25, only the Tigers looked the part. Carthage, which came into the contest ranked No. 9 in the state, opened a 27-point lead and eventually settled for a convincing 34-22 victory against No. 8 Joplin that was never as close as the final score would indicate.

Carthage scored the first 21 points of the game, led 27-7 at the half, and 34-7 in the fourth quarter. The Tigers piled up a whopping 363 rushing yards and outgained Joplin 478-343 for the game, and the only reason it was that close was because of the Eagles’ two late scoring drives.

Carthage standout Luke Gall was the game’s biggest star as he rushed 24 times for 211 yards and two touchdowns, which included a 58-yard touchdown on the second play of the game, and also caught a 65-yard touchdown to close out the scoring in the first half.

Tiger quarterback Caden Kabance passed for 115 yards and rushed for 83 more to go along with two scores. Cale Patrick took a reverse 69 yards for a house call as well.

“We talked about having to grind out some plays, some three- and four- and five-yard plays, but we also talked about being able to hit a big play,” Carthage head coach Jon Guidie to OzarksSportsZone.com. “That happened a little sooner than we thought. What a special kid (Gall) is. He had a great night offensively and defensively.”

Despite all the offensive fireworks, the defense deserves more credit for the Carthage victory. Joplin had been averaging better than 42 points per game for the game but had only seven with 10 minutes left in the contest.

Carthage (7-0) moves all the way up to No. 6 in the newest Power Poll and takes on Republic this week. Joplin (6-1) falls to No. 13 and will try to get back on track at Branson.

– Chris Geinosky

Maryville, Savannah aim to get back on track with Highway 71 trophy on the line

For nine-straight years, Maryville football has owned the rights to the Highway 71 trophy over rival Savannah.

Maryville has won each of the past nine matchups by at least two scores, including when the two programs met in the 2018 Class 3 state playoffs, but not once in those nine years did both the Spoofhounds and the Savages come into the game with the same record on the season.

It’ll happen this time around, though, and both programs will enter the game 3-4 and vying for a much-needed win prior to districts in two weeks. 

“When you have a rivalry game like this, you can throw the records out the book,” Maryville coach Matt Webb said.

The Spoofhounds enter Week 8 on the heels of a 26-25 loss to Lincoln College Prep (7-0) on a game-winning field goal as time expired. 

The Savages are preparing to reclaim the Highway 71 title following a 19-13 loss to Midland Empire Conference rival Chillicothe. 

“I think we need to come out, play like we can play and make a statement,” Maryville senior running back Tyler Siemer said.

– Jon Walker

Nixa defeats Webb City for first time in program history

The Nixa high school football program has been moving in the right direction in recent years, but this one victory proves how far the club has come.

One year ago, Nixa suffered a 28-0 loss against Webb City. But last week the Eagles pulled off a defining 41-27 win against the Cardinals – the first head-to-head victory for Eagles in program history.

Nixa (6-1) moved up to No. 11 in the new SBLive Top 25 in the process. The Eagles held Webb City at arms distance all night and led the game from start to finish.

Quarterback Connor Knatcal had a big night, completing 10-of-15 passing for 191 and three touchdowns. Kael Combs hauled in two of the receiving touchdowns and Jordyn Turner had the other. Spencer Ward rushed for 158 yards, while Jaden Aven added 95 rushing yards and three touchdowns on seven rushes – all in the second half.

Nixa will take Carthage in a huge Central Ozark Conference showdown in the regular season finale next week. Webb City suffered its third loss of the season, the first time that has happened to the Cardinals in more than 20 years.

– Chris Geinosky

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