The end came for Maryville high school on an oddly warm day in late November in a suburb of St. Louis called Dutchtown. For Northwest, it came within the confines of Top Taggart Field in Big Rapids, Michigan, on the same day.
For each football team that plays its home games in Maryville, the end came Nov. 24 at the hands of high-powered offenses in the postseason.
For four quarters last Saturday, Maryville football was dominated by Trinity Catholic High School, resulting in a 36-14 loss for the Spoofhounds. And similarly, Northwest’s comeback bid against Ferris State fell short, as the Bearcats season ended via a crushing 27-21 loss to the Bulldogs.
With the loss to Trinity, Maryville’s bid for a second consecutive MSHSAA Class 3 State Title fell short, and with the loss to Ferris State, the Bearcats failed to advance to the NCAA Division II National Championship game for the second consecutive year.
Some might think the facts listed above are the appropriate pretense for mourning or riot, but the opposite is true. Now is a time to reflect and to recognize the unlikely greatness that has taken place in Maryville over the last half-decade, a period of football dominance that history says will return.
This will be the first season since 2014 that neither the Spoofhounds nor Bearcats advance to their respective championship games, and that’s OK. It’s not an indication that the sky is falling or that culture doesn’t win or that tradition does indeed graduate, rather, it’s the odds catching up to the residents of “Title Town.”
Last year, a Maryville team that graduated 22 starters the previous spring won the Class 3 State Championship. The year before, in 2016, the Spoofhounds fought all the way to the title game before falling short.
In that same year, Northwest won its second straight national title, coupling with 2015 for an extremely rare back-to-back title run. One has to go all the way back to 2014 to find the last time neither team in town made an appearance in a title game.
In Maryville, both teams competing for a championship is the norm. Elsewhere, it’s unheard of. Northwest has often been dubbed “the Alabama of Division II,” but where Alabama fails, Maryville succeeds. No high school team in Tuscaloosa County has won a state championship in the last decade.
The same is true at the Division III level. While the University of Mount Union in Alliance, Ohio, and the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater have dominated the Division III football slate for most of the last decade, no high school for either team’s hometown has appeared in a state championship since 2010, and before that, the 1980s.
My point is that what the Bearcats and Spoofhounds have continued to do for more than a decade is completely unprecedented. This season didn’t go as planned for either team, but that shouldn’t be cause for disappointment, but instead, a moment of reflection.
They call this place “Title Town” for a reason, and that’s because what’s done here on a consistent basis is done nowhere else in the country.
Neither Maryville nor Northwest will get the opportunity to hoist a championship trophy this year, but stick around. The odds say that one--or both--of Title Town’s teams will be back in the title game next year, and that’s not the case anywhere but here.