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STATE FOOTBALL: Jeff City rallies late to end McDonald County’s historic season

ANDERSON, Mo. — McDonald County’s historic season came to an end on Saturday when the Mustangs came out on the wrong side of a 31-28 hard-fought loss to Jefferson City in the Class 4 state quarterfinals.

It was a tale of two quarters in the first half. The Mustangs jumped out in front with a pair of touchdowns in the first 12 minutes of play before the Jays answered with 21 unanswered points in the second quarter to take a 21-14 lead into the intermission. The second half was a shootout, with each team trading blows and the lead before the Jays took the advantage back with two minutes left in the game and never relinquished it.

The Mustangs, who won their first-ever district title last week, finish the season with an 8-5 record and graduate 13 seniors.

Jeff City won the toss and elected to receive the ball with eyes on taking the lead first but McDonald County’s defense allowed the Jays to pick up one first down before forcing a punt.

With the ball, the Mustangs used a big play on the ground from QB Destyn Dowd, who picked up 43 yards on a keeper up the middle before being brought down at the 2-yard line. After a false start pushed MCHS back, RB Sam Barton took the handoff and made a couple of cuts on the way to a 7-yard touchdown to give the Mustangs a 7-0 lead with 7:24 to play in the first quarter.

Jeff City put on a strong drive the second time with the ball, but McDonald County showed a bend-don’t-break mentality and stalling the drive for a turnover-on-down at the MCHS 31-yard line.

Dowd kept the ball to the left and ripped off a 20-yard game before keeping it up the middle a couple plays later for a 6-yard touchdown with 26 seconds left in the first quarter to give the Mustangs a 14-0 lead.

Jefferson City struck with a big play to get on the scoreboard when RB Bradarious Lewis ripped off a 78-yard touchdown on a rollout draw in a form of the Statue of Liberty play to cut the Mustangs’ lead to 14-7 early in the second period.

After forcing McDonald County to punt for the first time, the Jays took the ball down the field with a methodical drive on the ground that was capped by a 6-yard rushing touchdown from Lewis to tie the game at 14-14 with four minutes left in the first half.

The Jays went big through the air to take the lead for the first time in the game after QB Jacob Wilson went deep up the far sideline to find WR Kendrick Johnson for a 43-yard touchdown and a 21-14 advantage with a minute to play in the first half.

McDonald County put on a long drive to open the second half, chewing up more than seven minutes of game clock before RB Malosi Sosef punched it in for a short-yardage touchdown to tie the game at 21s.

Jeff City jumped back out in front when Wilson found RB Zach Barnes for a 42-yard gain to set up a 30-yard field goal from Johnson for a 24-21 lead.

Early in the fourth quarter, McDonald County found the end zone to take the lead back from Jeff City on a 2-yard touchdown from Dowd to close the ensuing drive to make the score 28-24 with 9:28 left in the fourth quarter.

Jeff City used a 23-yard completion from Wilson to Johnson to get the ball down to the 6-yard line with two minutes left. Barnes took the ball in on the next play for a 6-yard touchdown to give the Jays a 31-28 lead with 1:58 to play in the game. 

McDonald County’s ensuing drive to tie or take the lead ended short of the 50-yard line when a fourth-down pass fell incomplete for a turnover-on-downs.

STATE FOOTBALL: Lamar dominates second half, advances to semifinals for 4th straight season


LAMAR, Mo. — For the fourth straight year, the Lamar Tigers have advanced to the state semifinals.

Propelled by a dominant second half, Lamar defeated Lafayette County 41-7 in a Class 2 quarterfinal on Saturday afternoon at Thomas M. O’Sullivan Stadium.

The Tigers (11-1) will host Bowling Green (13-0) in next Saturday’s semifinals, with kickoff scheduled for 1 p.m. 

Up 13-7 at halftime, the Tigers outscored the Huskers 28-0 after intermission.

Lafayette County entered the game averaging 50 points per game and the Tigers held the Huskers to seven.

Lamar struck first, as junior Alex Wilkerson scored on a 21-yard QB keeper with 1:36 left in the first quarter. The score, which was set up by a 28-yard gain by Chase Querry, capped a 70-yard drive.

Finishing off a long, time-consuming drive, Lafayette County tied it up when Shakor George hauled in a 4-yard touchdown pass from Brock Page with 3:35 left in the second quarter. 

The Tigers retook the lead with 35 seconds left in the first half on Cooper Haun’s 11-yard touchdown run. The PAT kick was no good, however, and Lamar led 13-7 at halftime.

The final touchdown of the first half was set up when Wilkerson completed a 19-yard pass to Logan Kish with his team facing fourth down and six. 

A wide open Querry hauled in a 28-yard touchdown reception at the 9:48 mark of the third quarter. Haun ran in for the 2-point conversion, giving Lamar a 21-7 advantage. 

After a defensive stop, Wilkerson connected with Haun on a 20-yard touchdown pass with 6:45 left in the third period for a 28-7 cushion.

A 42-yard touchdown sprint by Haun, along with the PAT kick by Jose Juarez, gave Lamar a comfortable 35-7 lead with 3:30 remaining in the third quarter.

The Tigers added a score with 6:18 left on a 24-yard reception by Ian Ngugi. 

Lamar rushed for 324 yards and passed for 91 for 415 yards of total offense.

The Huskers were limited to 141 yards of total offense (71 rushing and 70 passing). The Tigers limited the Huskers to eight rushing yards in the second half. 

The Tigers grabbed a pair of interceptions and also recovered a fumble. 

Lafayette County ends the season with a record of 12-1.

STATE FOOTBALL: Webb City rides strong finish, solid overall effort to quarterfinal victory  


WEBB CITY, Mo. — The final home game of the 2023 season was one to remember for the Webb City Cardinals. 

With an impressive overall effort, and riding a strong finish, Webb City upended Grain Valley 49-35 on Friday night in a Class 5 quarterfinal at a packed Cardinal Stadium.

“I’m so proud of our players,” Webb City coach Ryan McFarland said. “They played hard. We’ve talked all week about how this was going to be a game with adversity and a lot of swings. We knew they may get some big plays offensively. We told them the team that keeps fighting adversity and doesn’t give up will have a chance to win. I’m proud of the composure our kids showed on the field tonight.” 

A back and forth affair throughout, the first ever meeting between the schools was deadlocked at 21 in the third quarter before Webb City finished strong, outscoring the Eagles 28-14 the rest of the way.

And as a result, the Cardinals were the team celebrating the season-saving victory on John Roderique Field, where they completed an undefeated home slate. 

“Our seniors were keeping everyone together and the spirits up on the sideline and we never got uptight in the game,” McFarland said. “I think that’s a credit to our leaders.” 

Webb City recovered a fumble, fell on an on-side kick and didn’t commit a turnover in the contest.

“The difference was the mistakes,” Grain Valley coach David Allie said. “They didn’t make them and they got our ball a couple of times. That’s the difference. We had some missed opportunities with the fumble and the on-side kick. They didn’t make mistakes and that shows they’re well-coached.”

“It was a pretty clean game for us,” McFarland said. “That goes back to the senior leadership and the kids playing for each other. We challenged them to do their jobs and play hard. If we can have 11 guys playing hard and not taking a play off, good things can happen. Tonight, that happened for us.”

Also key to the win was the fact the Cardinals were able to record a number of third-down conversions, often through the air. 

“We spent all summer and all season throwing the ball,” McFarland said. “People asked why are we throwing the ball so much. You have to be able to throw the ball when you need to. We feel confident throwing the ball.” 

Webb City (10-2) will travel to conference foe Republic (11-2) next Saturday in the semifinal round of the state tournament. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.

Webb City is back in the semifinals after a one-year absence. 

“I’m happy for the kids to experience this,” McFarland said as a large group of students and parents celebrated with the team on the field. “Webb City Football…this is why you play. You want a chance to win a state championship. They’re keeping that chance alive.” 



Facing a second down and 21 deep on the 10, Webb City sophomore quarterback Gabe Johnson sprinted past the defense for a scintillating 90-yard touchdown run on the game’s opening drive, electrifying the home crowd and giving the Cardinals an early lead.

But Grain Valley needed just five plays to tie it up, as standout senior running back Ty Williams ran for a 46-yard touchdown run with 8:55 remaining in the first quarter.

The Eagles took a 14-7 lead with 4:21 left in the opening frame on senior quarterback Sal Caldarella’s 17-yard touchdown pass to classmate Noah Olah.

Webb City senior running back Omari Jackson broke free for a 60-yard touchdown run with 1:29 left in the first period, and Alex Dunne’s PAT kick tied the score at 14-all.

It looked like the Eagles were about to re-take the lead with just under five minutes left in the first half, but the visitors lost a fumble near the end zone, with Webb City’s Conner Gayman knocking the ball loose and Jordan Howard recovering for a touchback.

The Cardinals took a 21-14 lead with 2:07 remaining in the second quarter when junior Joseph Graffenreid hauled in a 23-yard touchdown pass from Johnson on fourth and 19. The go-ahead score finished off a 10-play, 80-yard drive.

Grain Valley’s Aaron Barr caught a 43-yard touchdown pass from Caldarella at the 9:39 mark of the third period, tying the game at 21-21.

But Webb City responded with a pair of crucial touchdowns to take a two-score lead, as sophomore Slade Hurd scored on an 8-yard run and Johnson ripped off an electric 78-yard touchdown sprint.

“The long run by Gabe was a quarterback misdirection play,” McFarland said. “We were waiting for them to over-pursue and we thought that was a good time to call it. It worked out well for us.”

Grain Valley pulled within seven at 35-28 with a touchdown at the end of the third quarter.

Webb City recovered an on-side kick to start the final frame and then took a 42-28 advantage after Jackson’s 1-yard touchdown plunge with 9:58 remaining. 

The Eagles answered with a 71-yard scoring drive, once again pulling within a single TD with just under seven minutes left.

But the Cardinals wouldn’t be denied. 

Webb City picked up a huge first down with a third down conversion, once again through the air. This time, Johnson completed a 32-yard pass to senior receiver Payton Marshall, extending the time-consuming drive.

“We didn’t get off the field on third down,” Allie said. “That kills you.”

A few plays later, Webb City put the game away when Hurd charged into the end zone from a yard out, making it 49-35 with just 57 seconds left.

“We have played well in the fourth quarter all year,” McFarland noted. “We’ve had a lot of close games where we’ve been able to pull away in the fourth quarter. The credit goes to the mentality of our kids.” 

Grain Valley threatened to score in the final seconds, but Webb City’s defense forced a turnover on downs for the final exclamation point on the victory. 

“Our kids fought hard the whole time and we never felt like we were out of it,” Allie noted. “We ran out of time.” 



Simply put, the Eagles struggled to slow down Webb City’s split-back veer rushing attack.

Webb City compiled 567 yards on 62 plays, with 447 rushing yards and 120 passing yards.  

The speedy Johnson ran for 255 yards on 16 carries, while Jackson added 121 rushing yards on 13 carries. Hurd contributed 54 yards on the ground. Johnson, Jackson and Hurd scored two touchdowns apiece.

“Their offense can control the ball and keep it out of our hands,” Allie said. “Their quarterback is shifty and they run the ball hard.”

Brody Eggleston was credited with 12 tackles and Gayman had seven.

Grain Valley recorded 476 yards on 51 plays, with 282 passing and 194 rushing.

Williams ran for 163 yards on 21 carries with one touchdown. He finished the season with 33 touchdowns and more than 2,400 rushing yards. 

Caldarella completed 15 of 25 passes for 282 yards.

Grain Valley ends the season at 10-2. The Eagles, who had won eight straight games ahead of Friday’s clash, lost in the quarterfinals for the fifth straight season.  



Webb City went 7-0 at home this season. 

Webb City last advanced to the semifinals in 2021. Of course, the Cardinals captured a state championship that year, their first in Class 5.

Webb City was in the quarterfinals for the 31st time in school history. 




Grain Valley     14      0     14      7   — 35

Webb City         14     7     14     14  — 49


WC: Gabe Johnson 90 run (Alex Dunne kick)

GV:  Ty Williams 46 run (Ben Drinkwater kick)

GV: Noah Olah 17 pass from Sal Caldarella (Drinkwater kick)

WC: Omari Jackson 60 run (Dunne kick)

WC: Joseph DeGraffenreid 23 pass from Johnson (Dunne kick)

GV: Aaron Barr 43 pass from Caldarella (Drinkwater kick)

WC: Slade Hurd 8 run (Dunne kick)

WC: Johnson 78 run (Dunne kick)

GV: Peyton Woodrome 18 pass from Cardarella (Drinkwater kick)

WC: Omari Jackson 1 run (Dunne kick)

GV: Woodrome 24 pass from Cardarella (Drinkwater kick)

WC: Hurd 1 run (Dunne kick)


FULL STATS: Webb City HS (

STATE FOOTBALL: Seneca back in the state semifinals after dominating win over Ava

AVA, Mo. — Seneca is making a second straight trip to the state semifinals for the first time since the 1994-95 seasons after dominating Ava 56-8 on Friday in the Class 3 quarterfinals.

The Indians (12-0) and Bears (11-1) traded touchdowns to open the game, with Ava leading 8-6 at one point. Seneca then scored 50 unanswered points using a stout defensive effort and methodical drives before taking the top off the defense and putting the game out of reach with big plays through the air.

The Indians take on the winner of Odessa (9-2) and St. Pius X (10-2), with that game being played at 1 p.m. on Saturday in Kansas City.

Seneca put on a methodical opening drive that lasted 10 plays and went for 71 yards and ended with an Indians’ touchdown when RB Jackson Marrs, who rushed 11 times for 98 yards in the win, spun out of a tackle at the 4-yard line before crossing the goal line from 5 yards out with 7:27 on the clock for a 6-0 lead.

Ava answered back with its first possession, getting a short field on the kickoff before needing seven plays to go 51 yards. The Bears used a 20-yard run on a keeper to the edge by QB Aiden Lane to get into the end zone before RB Rylin Dickson took a pitch right and broke a tackle to convert the 2-point try for an 8-6 lead with less than five minutes to play in the opening quarter.

Seneca drove down deep inside Ava territory on its ensuing drive before facing a fourth-down-and-1 from the 3-yard line before Marrs found a hole to the right for a touchdown to regain the lead, 13-8, with 9:57 left in the first half.

The Indians forced the Bears into the first punt of the game after stalling Ava’s ensuing drive near midfield. 

Seneca struck quickly. Marrs took the drive’s opening handoff and absorbed a hit near the line of scrimmage before bouncing off and ripping off a 53 yard run to flip the field. On the next play, QB Gavyn Hoover kept the ball for a 22-yard touchdown to give the Indians a 19-8 lead over the Bears with five minutes left in the first half.

Seneca’s defense, which held Ava to 155 yards of total offense in the win, followed up by forcing Ava to punt for the second straight drive, and the Seneca offense, which gained 487 yards against the Beats, rewarded the stop with another score just before the intermission.

Getting the ball at the 14 with 90 seconds to play in the first half, Seneca was facing third-down-and-long before Hoover, who completed 7-of-10 passes for 239 yards, connected with WR Blake Hurn for a 30-yard gain up the far sideline. On the next play, the Indians faked a screen before Hoover chucked it down field to WR Ethan Altic, who hauled in the pass and sprinted up the near sideline before being knocked out at the 2-yard line. 

Seneca looked to score on a third-down carry by Marrs before holding was called. The Indians responded with Hoover finding Altic on a corner route, with Altic jumping over his defender to make the catch for the touchdown with 27 seconds left in the first half. Hoover threw back across the field to TE Hagen Ginger on the 2-point conversion to make the score 27-8.

Ava faced a fourth-and-long on the first drive of the second half before Seneca stopped the play well short before forcing a fumble with Marrs falling on it.

On the next play, Hoover threw a deep ball to Altic down the middle of the field for a 38-yard touchdown to put the Indians on top 33-8 with less than nine minutes to play in the third quarter. 

Seneca forced a turnover-on-downs on the next defensive possession and again on the first play of the ensuing SHS drive on offense the Indians went deep. Hoover faked a jet sweep before finding WR Blake Skelton on a 37-yard touchdown on a post route for another quick-score through the air to push the lead to 40-8.

After forcing another turnover-on-downs on the defensive end, Seneca’s offense faced a second-down-and-23 before Hoover found Altic in the flat, with Altic weaving his way through would-be tacklers for a 46-yard touchdown. Altic ended the night with four catches for 151 yards and three touchdowns. Hurn took the 2-point handoff around the edge to convert and make the score 48-8, starting the running clock late in the third quarter. 

Seneca found the end zone one more time with the second unit when RB Hunter Hanes scored from a yard out with three minutes left before he took the handoff and converted the 2-point try to push the lead to 56-8 with 3:07 left in the game.