CHILLICOTHE, Mo. — The four meetings prior to Friday evening's between Maryville and Chillicothe were nothing like the latest edition of the matchup.
Maryville (1-2) had blown out the Hornets (2-1) four consecutive times, never winning by less than 31 points. By looking at the box score, it could be believed there was a mistake somewhere.
There wasn't, though, as the Spoofhounds captured a 36-25 win over the Hornets, marking their smallest margin of victory since Maryville beat Chillicothe by 8 points in 2017.
The difference between Weeks 1 and 2 compared to Week 3, Maryville coach Matt Webb said, was the response the players gave throughout the night. He said for the first two weeks, they were repeating lines from a script, meaning they would get behind and then weren’t able to come back.
“We talked a long time about ‘E plus R equals O’ this week,” Webb said. “Which means you have events that happen to you and how you respond to it is what determines the outcome.”
Before the game, Webb used September 11, 2001, as an example of how the players should respond. He cited it as a time when people had to be strong and respond well to a difficult situation.
“So, I think the difference in Week 1 and Week 2 and Week 3 is the fact that we responded better, and we didn’t lose our cool, and we didn’t lose our composure,” Webb said.
The win marked the most points Maryville has scored in a game this season. The ’Hounds scored 10 more points in tonight’s game than they had in the first two games combined (26).
One of the biggest contributors to this season-high total was junior running back Caden Stoecklein, who scored two rushing touchdowns. After failing to reach the end zone in the first two games, Stoecklein put on a performance in Week 3 that assured the streak wouldn’t extend
“I think we played better as a team,” Stoecklein said. “We fought harder together.”
Stoecklein said the coaches stressed to the team all week that they need to find their identities as players and as a team. He said they met that challenge in this game and played with more passion than they previously had.
Stoecklein didn’t waste much time to put himself on the board, either. After the Spoofhounds stopped the Hornets’ first drive of the game, Chillicothe was able to do nothing but the complete opposite. It took one snap of the ball — on a power run call, which is one of Maryville’s staples on offense — and Stoecklein was gone with 72 yards behind him and a touchdown on the scoreboard.
“I made a move, got wide and just outran everyone because I’m so fast,” Stoecklein said.
“I really give credit to our offensive staff,” Webb said. “That means they identified how, through practice in the week, when everything is drawn up the way you think and you scout them good, and it’s blocked right, things work.”
The game did not end there, and that score set off a chain reaction that led to a combined 61 points from the two teams on the night. The two squads tallied six touchdowns, collectively, before either team managed to score two unanswered.
In a game where the offenses had control for most of the time, it was Maryville’s defense that sealed the victory.
The scene was set for the Hornets — they were down 22-19, slightly less than 11 minutes left in the game and had just been stopped on offense. With no other choice on fourth-and-long, they punted the ball.
However, after a collision during the punt return by Maryville, Chillicothe recovered a fumble, setting up the offense at the Hornets 32. Just when the Spoofhounds thought they could put the game out of reach, they gave Chillicothe a chance to stay in it. Up to this point, the Spoofhounds had given up two long touchdown passes during the game, one being a 75-yarder, the other a 50-yard bomb.
Two plays after, the Spoofhounds’ secondary flipped the script.
Hornets senior quarterback Gage Leamer dropped back to pass again, but this time it didn’t end up in one of his receiver’s hands. Where the ball did end up was Maryville junior defensive back Cooper Loe’s hands, and he didn’t stop there. He returned it for a touchdown to give the ‘Hounds a two-score lead.
“Throughout the game, you can get a better idea of when they’re going to pass with their alignment,” Loe said. “I saw the wing, and he was out a little wider, so I had a pretty good hint he was going to pass. I really wanted to give the illusion I wasn’t covering him and staying behind him.”
Loe’s plan worked, and he was able to cut in front of the intended receiver like he had planned.
Chillicothe’s next drive ended in similar fashion, except this time the ball ended up in Stoecklein’s hands and was not returned for a touchdown. After returning the ball to the Hornets’ 12-yard line, the Spoofhounds made quick word of the drive. They scored on the next play with a 12-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Connor Drake to sophomore receiver Delton Davis with six minutes left in the game, putting the game too far out of reach for the Hornets.
Stoecklein said getting the interception made him feel like he made up for his fumble on the punt return. He said it was great to get a play back after making such a negative play for the team before that.
Even though the ‘Hounds gave up big passing plays earlier in the game, they were able to seal it at the end. Loe said the team was caught off guard because Chillicothe would continuously call run plays then pass it over the top.
“During halftime that was a big emphasis,” Loe said. “We really went over our coverage and how to not give up any deep balls.”
Webb said they can’t afford to give up deep balls like they were, and teams coming up in conference play will take advantage of that if they do.
Next on the schedule is one of those conference rivals: 2020 MEC champion, St. Pius X. The matchup against the Warriors will mark Maryville’s first home game of the season, their official return to the ’Hound Pound since their semifinal win against Cassville in November.
“Everybody — including their dog, their neighbor, their cousin — bring somebody, because we’re going to need to pack that place out,” Webb said. “That’s what makes a place special, and it’s going to be really fun to play at home.”