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.