For the third straight year, the Kearney Bulldogs’ football season remains alive heading into the Missouri state-semifinal weekend. It’s a notable accomplishment, but the Bulldogs haven’t been able to eclipse it since 2010.
Yet another chance awaits.
After losing in the state semifinals each of the past two seasons, Kearney has a third straight opportunity to clinch a trip to the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis. It will travel to face Westminster Christian Academy at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, with a spot in the Missouri Class 4 championship game on the line.
“It’s kind of like chopping down that tree — if you keep on swinging, eventually that thing’s got to come down,” Kearney coach Greg Jones said.
As was the case the past two seasons, the task is predictably difficult. While competing in Class 5 two years ago, Kearney lost to eventual state-champion Lee’s Summit West. After dropping to Class 4 last season, it lost to eventual state-champion Webb City in the semifinals.
On Saturday, the Bulldogs, 12-1, face an undefeated team in Westminster Christian Academy that has motored through its playoff bracket, outscoring four postseason opponents 210-36.
“This game has been a dagger to the heart the last couple of years,” Jones said. “I think our kids have felt the pain, and that can be a motivating thing.”
The offense has been on a roll during a 10-game winning streak. The Bulldogs have rushed for 250 yards per game this season.
Senior tailback Marcus Harris has 26 rushing touchdowns. He forms a powerful one-two punch with senior quarterback Logan Hinck, who has run for 12 more. Hinck has also passed for 19 touchdowns.
“You better be able to stop the run and better be able to run the football,” Jones said. “Thats what it takes to win this time of year.”
The defense has certainly done its half of the job, too. Kearney has allowed only 5.6 points per game over the last nine games. Only one opponent has reached double digits during that stretch.
Senior linebacker Cale Garrett leads the team with 130 tackles, including 19 for loss. Zac Courtoise has a team-best seven sacks. Tyler Yount has paced the defensive backfield with four interceptions.
“Our defensive line is playing really, really well, and our linebackers will fly around and hit you,” Jones said. “When the kids step up and do what you ask them to do, usually good things happen.”