Beginning tonight, the first weekend of the new Missouri State High School Activities Association football playoff system kicks off having first round play of district tournaments, a single elimination format leading up to the 2012 state championships being held Nov. 23-24 at the Edwards Jones Dome in St. Louis.
The basics of the setup included a nine-game regular season, where schools, divided into districts in six classifications, accumulated points toward seeding within those districts.
The seeding then would determine first-round matchups beginning in Week 10, which in the past had been the final week of the regular season and also the last week of round-robin-style district play. MSHSAA had the objective of trying to assign 8 schools located within a close geographic area of one another into the same district.
However, due to the odd number of teams listed as Class 5 schools there are 14 teams having first-round byes. Those schools await the winners of this weekend’s games and will play in the district semifinal round set for Oct. 31.
The nature of the new playoff format sometimes will have schools playing one another twice during the season.
Such is the case Friday with Moberly hosting Class 4 District 6 foe Marshall, and Westran of Huntsville (8-1) entertains its Week 1 regular season opponent North Shelby of Shelbyville (0-9) in a Class 1 District 5 matchup of No. 1 vs. No. 8 teams tomorrow night.
Westran cruised to a 60-6 victory against the Raiders during the season opener for both schools on Aug. 24.
Moberly vs. Marshall
For the second time in a month, the fourth-seed Spartans (7-2) and fifth-seed Owls (5-4) of the North Central Missouri Conference will wage battle here Friday at Dr. Larry K. Noel Spartans Stadium.
However, unlike their Sept. 28 meeting during Moberly’s homecoming, the wages of this encounter are much higher.
It’s first round of the new MSHSAA state playoffs format when the Spartans host Marshall and it’s win or go home time.
“Our kids and coaching staff are focused and are preparing for this game more seriously because we understand this situation is totally different than when we last played. We are going about preparing for this one as if we hadn’t played Marshall yet this season,” said Moberly football coach Jason Ambroson. “Playing the same team twice in a season makes it easy to second guess as to how you want to prepare a game plan. You have to decide whether because we won is it best to basically stick to what you did last time but execute better, or do you change things because the other team already knows what you did last time and would be preparing for some of that, or do you put different plans in place and test what is working and not working during the game.”
“Since that particular game, both Marshall and ourselves have been doing some things differently during our football games, so it will be interesting to see what kind of adjustments each of us go through this Friday.”
Four weeks ago both teams entered the contest having identical 4-1 records. However, with that defeat, the Owls have lost three of its recent four games and Marshall has been outscored 124 to 32 during that stretch.
On Sept. 28, Moberly was the benefactor of five Marshall turnovers (3 INTs, 2 fumbles) and the Owls also had about 125 yards worth of penalties assessed against them during the Spartans 41-12 rout of Marshall.
“We will not be taking Marshall very lightly, and we do not want to overlook anything. They are a good football team, and if they were to get a little momentum going their way it can change the course of the game. We can’t let that happen and we must continue to be disciplined on the football field,” said Ambroson.
Spartans junior quarterback Justin Connaway threw for 112 yards against the Owls previously, completing 11-of-19 passes including one TD and an INT. Gregg Bain, Joe Galaske and Connaway all rushed for about 61 yards during that game.
Meanwhile, Alex Maupin and Marc Plummer hogged the football most of the time for Marshall. Maupin, the quarterback, rushed for 128 yards and two TDs and he threw for 78 yards completing 7 of 21 passes, while Plummer gained 93 rushing yards and caught five passes.
Of the 1,936 total rushing yards of team offense, Plummer is Marshall’s leading rusher with 929 yards on 180 carries this season, and Maupin has 641 yards.
Maupin has completed 41-of-93 passes for 664 yards this season, including 10 INTs and 7 TDs. His three primary receivers are Plummer (12 for 114 yds), Tyler Cott (10 for 161) and Brandon Johnson (10 for 156).
Winner of Friday’s game advances to the Oct. 31 district quarterfinal to play against the winner of the Hannibal vs. Mexico match up.