Five games to watch in the second round of the Missouri high school football district playoffs:
1. Liberty North (7-3) at Staley (8-2)
The new Missouri high school football playoff system — enacted three years ago in an effort to make the regular season more meaningful — has produced an intriguing side effect.
There's a good one set for Staley on Friday.
Liberty North held a 17-0 lead late in the third quarter against Staley in Week 4, but the Falcons roared back — behind three 1-yard touchdown runs from Beau Baker — to win 28-17. It's only fitting the teams would meet again with much more at stake.
Except Liberty North isn't the same team it was in September. Three-year starting quarterback Brian Sharp broke his foot two weeks ago, and Mitchell Miller took over under center. As a result, the Eagles are relying more on a running game led by Richard Richardson.
It should be a defensive battle. Staley has allowed only 13 points in the last four games. Liberty North has allowed 9.2 points per game for the season.
2. Smithville (8-2) at Platte County (9-1)
The two teams played to an instant classic in the 2013 playoffs, with Smithville holding on for a 40-32 first-round victory.
One year later, the rematch could be just as thrilling.
Smithville and Platte County are two of the most improved teams in the Northland. Platte County won only four games last season, but it's already won nine this fall — in surprisingly easy fashion, too. Its average margin of victory is 24 points.
Both teams can move the ball, but they do it in entirely different methods. Platte County uses the spread offense, quarterbacked by Justin Mitchell, to keep a defense on its toes. Smithville prefers to overpower a defense with its running game. Charlie Nihart has run for 1,678 yards and 16 touchdowns this season.
3. Truman (6-4) at Winnetonka (7-2)
The matchup spotlights a pair of teams who have built their success on running the football.
But in the search for which team will have the edge Friday, here's a reason why it could belong to Winnetonka: The Griffins have added a formidable aerial attack to their ground game. Julious Sabastiano threw five touchdowns in the regular season finale against Belton. That's made the Griffins all the more dangerous, given their high-powered rushing attack that features Marquise Doherty and Chase Williams.
Truman, on the other hand, is unlikely to deviate from its run-heavy offense. Jordan Salima has accounted for 16 rushing touchdowns this season, while Tre'Von Sorrells has emerged as a weapon in the backfield, too.
Truman defeated North Kansas City 42-12 in the first round of the Class 5 playoffs last week. Winnetonka earned a bye.
4. Lincoln Prep (7-2) at St. Pius X (6-4)
An opening-round playoff victory has Lincoln Prep back where it ended the 2013 season — on the St. Pius X football field. The Warriors defeated Lincoln Prep 28-16 in the Class 3 district playoffs last season.
But Lincoln Prep believes it has a more versatile offense this season, and the combined success of running backs Colandus Rucker, Jabari Hopson and Kaylyn Davis lends credibility to that thought. All three backs have run for at least eight touchdowns.
Lincoln Prep senior Joshua Van Dunk has tallied 90 tackles this season, and he will be charged with trying to slow down a Warriors offense led by senior quarterback Marshall Mason, who has thrown 14 touchdowns this fall.
5. Liberty (3-7) at Park Hill (9-0)
After struggling to find its footing in the first month of the season, Liberty has gradually shaped a formidable offense. The Blue Jays have averaged 32 points per game over the last six games.
By no coincidence, Devon Bryant has enjoyed his best games, running for at least two touchdowns in four straight weeks.
Nevertheless, that offensive prosperity will still have a difficult time keeping up with the unbeaten Trojans, who have won all nine games by double digits this season.
Park Hill has scored at least 35 points every week. They’ve allowed more than 14 just twice. A combination for success.