The last time the Maryville football team started a season with two straight losses, George W. Bush was starting his second term as President, YouTube went online and “Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith” was released in theaters.
On Sept. 4, the Spoofhounds (0-1) will look to avoid having zero wins entering Week 3 when they host Harrisonville (1-0) at the ’Hound Pound for another non-conference matchup.
Maryville coach Matt Webb and his players have no sense of pressure when it comes to avoiding the 0-2 start.
“In 2005, half of these kids weren’t even born,” Webb said. “There’s no pressure in them from something that happened in 2005. All we’re going to worry about are things that we can control.”
Maryville was given a fair dose of adversity in a Week 1 matchup against Blair Oaks. Starting senior quarterback Ben Walker left the game with an apparent left knee injury sustained right before halftime. Along with that, the program left behind nine players due to COVID-19-related issues.
Those circumstances, mixed with an explosive Blair Oaks offense, resulted in a 51-8 loss for the Spoofhounds.
Senior Spoofhound running back Trey Houchin has already erased the memory of the Blair Oaks matchup.
“I felt a lot of mixed feelings from last week,” Houchin said. “I am ready to move on, however, and focus on Harrisonville.”
This matchup against the Wildcats is a rematch of last year’s Week 2 meeting between the schools, in which Maryville made itself comfortable in the endzone, winning 56-20.
Walker was under center in last year's matchup. A year later, the Spoofhounds will have an unfamiliar face leading the offense against the Wildcats as the availability of Walker for the rest of the season is hanging in the balance.
The senior's injury pertains to the knee area, and while the severity and diagnosis aren't confirmed yet, it appears Walker will miss the entire season, according to social media posts.
With Walker expected to be unavailable against Harrisonville, the signs are pointing towards junior quarterback Connor Drake to get the starting position. Drake replaced the injured Walker and led the Spoofhound offense for three possessions, including one that was capped off with a 29-yard passing touchdown.
Webb is confident in his team’s depth and has full trust in whoever he puts in the quarterback position.
“It’s the next man up,” Webb said. “I’m 100% confident that whoever is at quarterback will be able to execute our offense, go down the field and put points on the board.”
Another blow to the Spoofhounds was the COVID-19-related issues.
Webb, or anybody else, can't provide specifics on individuals out due to contact tracing. However, junior lineman Blake Casteel was one of the nine who didn't attend the game against Blair Oaks, according to a comment his dad made on Facebook.
The situation revolving around this group is COVID-19 contact tracing. Students are assigned seats in classrooms, making it easier to trace who was around an individual that could’ve possibly been exposed to the virus. This makes the tracing process very individualized. Depending on the outcome of a test, it will create a specific time frame of how long an athlete is out.
If Casteel remains unavailable, it could spell out trouble for Maryville. The running game starts upfront, and the Spoofhounds are known for their run-based offensive attack. In their matchup with Blair Oaks, the ’Hounds failed to get any momentum going in their run game.
“Our line of scrimmage play is not where it needs to be,” Webb said. “For our backs to be able to get a crease and get some yardage in the run game, we need to be able to play better upfront and execute our run plays better.”
The ability to solidify a running game early will keep the Wildcats on their toes.
“The running game needs to be way better than last week,” Houchin said. “It’s very critical to get it going early as it’ll open up other options during the game.”
A huge emphasis coming into the Week 2 matchup is Maryville’s defensive ability to stop the Wildcats’ junior running back Jace Reynolds. Allowing four rushing touchdowns in their game against Blair Oaks, the Spoofhounds will try and limit the Wildcats’ run game.
Reynolds comes into the 2020 season after tallying 17 touchdowns with an average of 6.6 yards a carry in his 2019 campaign.
“To be able to contain a player of that caliber you have to play great team defense,” Webb said. “We have to make sure we win the line of scrimmage battle. We have to play with great technique upfront, and when we get the opportunity to tackle him, we have to tackle a lot better this week than we did against Blair Oaks.”
The spread offense Harrisonville will bring into the game is led by the experienced senior quarterback River Riley. Riley brings in 14 touchdowns on an average throw of 14.7 yards. In last year’s matchup, Riley had 198 passing yards accompanied by two touchdowns.
Webb understands the time between Week 1 and Week 2 is a great learning experience for both players and coaches, and it can set the tone for the rest of the season.
“You have a real great opportunity between Week 1 and Week 2 to make a lot of improvements,” Webb said. “You have an opportunity to see yourself perform as a player against a really good team. You look at film, and you see what you did right and what you did wrong, and you focus on those improvements.”
Houchin believes the time spent reviewing film will ultimately lead to improvement across the board.
“We are going to fix ourselves before looking towards anything else,” Houchin said. “All of us are getting better as the day goes, and that’s all we can focus on.”
This will mark the first time Maryville will get to play at the ’Hound Pound this season. With a mere three home games this season, Webb is excited for this moment.
“It’s awesome. It’ll be a sense of comfort and our kids are excited,” Webb said. “We got a lot of proud tradition of playing good teams and playing well on our own field.”
In addition, it’ll mark the first time since 2011 that the Spoofhounds have to restart a home game winning streak. The previous one, which stood at 67 games, was snapped with the 29-28 loss to Lathrop last season in the Class 2 District 8 championship.
“I’m very excited to be playing in Maryville; it’s very special,” Houchin said. “This is my last year here, and I really want to embrace every game until my last one.”