For only the second time in school history, Odessa punched its ticket to the Missouri Class 3 state football championship game with a 14-7 win over Aurora on Saturday.
The Bulldogs used a mix of tough defense and hard-nosed running from senior Kobe Hardin to hold off a pesky Houn’ Dawg squad.
“Our defense is what our team is about,” Odessa coach Mark Thomas said. “We are just a bunch of guys that aren’t that talented, but we play hard, and we play as a team.”
The Bulldogs face John Burroughs for the state title at 11 a.m. Nov. 28 at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.
Aurora drove inside the Odessa 10-yard line twice, only to be turned away by an interception and a turnover on downs.
The game was not salted away until Hardin’s 18-yard gain on third and 11 with 1:57 left in the contest.
Hardin, who finished the game with 33 carries for 111 yards and two touchdowns, ran behind the right side of his offensive line and broke four tackles to pick up the needed yardage for a first down.
“I can’t remember what Coach said to us in the timeout before the play,” Hardin said. “All I knew was there was a stick in front of me, and I wasn’t going to be stopped before I got that first down.”
Thomas said the run was the best Hardin made all season.
The Bulldogs scored on their initial drive, covering 55 yards in six plays. Hardin capped the drive with a 1-yard push up the middle. He found pay dirt again with a 4-yard plunge with 5:05 remaining in the second half.
Aurora’s Payton Evans scored on a 7-yard quarterback keeper on the Houn’ Dawgs first drive of the third quarter.