Five games to watch in the second round of the Missouri high school football district playoffs:
1. Class 5: 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 tonight.
Liberty North held a 17-0 second-half lead against Staley in week four, but the Falcons roared back — behind three touchdown runs from Beau Baker — to win 28-17. It’s only fitting the teams would meet again with much more at stake.
But Liberty North isn’t the same team it was in September. Three-year starting quarterback Brian Sharp broke his foot two weeks ago. As a result, the Eagles are relying more on a running game led by Richard Richardson.
Even with talented offensive rosters, the game may turn into a defensive battle. Staley has held its last four opponents to a combined 13 points, and Liberty North has allowed only 9.2 points per game this fall.
2. Class 6: Blue Springs (7-3) at Raymore-Peculiar (8-2)
Raymore-Peculiar dominated Blue Springs 31-13 earlier this month, but the Panthers learned last week that it’s not easy to beat a quality team twice in a season. They had
to erase a 17-0 halftime deficit to take out Lee’s Summit West for the second time in two weeks.
Ben Harris had perhaps the biggest play of that game last Friday when he intercepted a screen pass and returned it for a fourth-quarter touchdown. Dallas Hille kicked a game-winning field goal.
It could be a similarly tightly-contested game tonight.
Blue Springs opened the defense of its back-to-back Class 6 titles with an impressive 48-23 win against Lee’s Summit last week. The Wildcats have turned to their running game — led by Cobi Bissell, who has 17 touchdowns this season — and it’s resulted in three straight victories.
3. Class 5: Truman (6-4) at Winnetonka (7-2)
In a matchup between two teams who have built their success on running the football, Winnetonka may have the upper hand. Here’s why: The Griffins have added a formidable aerial attack.
Julious Sabastiano threw five touchdowns in the regular season finale against Belton. That’s made the Griffins all the more dangerous, given that their high-powered rushing attack 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.
4. Class 3: Lincoln Prep (7-3) 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’s more versatile this season, and the successes of running backs Colandus Rucker, Jabari Hopson and Kaylyn Davis lend credibility to that thought. All three have run for at least eight touchdowns.
Lincoln Prep senior Joshua Van Dunk has 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.
5. Class 6: Kickapoo (7-3) at Rockhurst (9-1)
It’s a difficult path through the Class 6, District 4 playoffs. Kickapoo, the fourth seed in the district, has lost three games, but those have come by only 12 combined points.
Rockhurst will look to extend an eight-game winning streak behind an exceptionally efficient offense. Senior quarterback T.J. Green hasn’t thrown more than four incompletions in a game since September. He has a particularly deep pool of wide receivers to choose from in the passing game, including Will Bazzle, Lance Boehm, Nick Bosma and A.J. Taylor.