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Spoofhounds running back Trey Houchin runs with the ball during their game against the Cameron High School Dragons Nov. 6. The ’Hounds led with the first touchdown at the end of the first quarter and won with a score of 41-13.  

Maryville football competed in the Class 3 District 8 tournament, which began Oct. 30, looking to capture its eighth district championship in nine years.

The opponent standing in the Spoofhounds’ way was the No. 1-seeded Richmond Spartans (8-2) Nov. 13 in Richmond, Missouri. Maryville (9-3) found its running game early and kept Spartan quarterback Keyshaun Elliot at bay, eventually winning 46-14.

“We’re very excited to advance in the playoffs, get to the round of eight and get to the state quarterfinals,” coach Matt Webb said about the district championship win. “It’s a special time of year. Football is a lot of fun, and this is why you play all those games and practice all those practices. It’s very special for those guys to remember.”

The end of district play brings forth a new challenge for the Spoofhounds, and that challenge is the Class 3 state tournament. After the Odessa Bulldogs, the defending state champions, forfeited their Class 3 District 7 championship game due to COVID-19, the Summit Christian Academy Eagles (9-3) are set to battle the ’Hounds Nov. 21 in Lee's Summit.

“All chips are in, everybody is invested to make it as far as possible,” senior running back Connor Weiss said. “It’s exciting to get to have the opportunity to play on Saturdays because they’re extremely special.”

Coming out of Class 3 District 7 as the No. 3 seed, the Eagles bypassed the No. 6 seed, Pleasant Hill (2-8), by a score of 42-30 and the No. 2 seed, Oak Grove (6-2), 35-0.

The Eagles use a spread offense that uses a wide variety of play calls and athletes. The offense is led by senior quarterback Grayson Sprouse, who stands at 6 feet, 4 inches tall and weighs 215 pounds.

“He’s big, and he’s very experienced. You don’t rattle him, and he doesn’t ever look confused on coverage of alignments,” Webb said. “You can tell they’re very diverse from the spread offense attack.”

On the season, Sprouse has completed 148 of 259 passes for 2,130 yards passing and 21 touchdowns. On the ground, Sprouse has run the ball 148 times for 530 yards for 17 touchdowns.

“It’ll be very important for our defensive line to be disruptive,” Webb said. “Anytime you can get in the backfield and make plays, it’ll be very important.”

Since Week 1, the Eagles haven’t scored less than 28 points. On average, Summit Chirstian scores 34 points a game, and has scored more than 40 points in four games.

“We have to give everything we’ve got on every play and focus on stopping everything Sprouse brings to the table,” Weiss said. “We have to watch everything their skill guys bring as well. As long as we’re all doing our part every snap, we’re going to have a fun game.”

On the defensive side of the ball, the Eagles make it hard for opponents to find the end zone. Summit Christian allows an average of 14 points per game, and Maryville will look for its running game to be superb once again.

In the past two weeks, Maryville has had two running backs score three rushing touchdowns. Weiss tallied his hat trick against Cameron Nov. 6, and senior Trey Houchin scored his three against Richmond.

“We got a really good identity now, and our kids are playing with a lot of confidence, as they should,” Webb said. “We need to go out and execute.”

The running identity has grown as the season has progressed, and that’s the main focus in the Spoofhounds’ backfield.

“As long as we’re able to run the ball the way we have been able to these past weeks, we will be just fine,” Weiss said. “We’re not going to worry about them, only ourselves and what we can control, and that’s playing Spoofhound football.”

The state quarterfinal matchup will be the first meeting between the two teams. With a lot of unknowns heading into the game, Webb is focused on the preparation.

“It’s the playoffs, so you’re going to see teams you don’t see all year. The challenge is to have a good week of practice and continue to do what we’re doing,” Webb said. “It’s a special time to play on Saturdays; high school football kids don’t get to play on Saturdays until you reach the state quarterfinals in Missouri. Saturdays are for the big boys, so it doesn’t matter who you play, it’s show up and survive and advance.”

This will be the ninth game on the road for the Spoofhounds, where they have a record of 5-3. At home, the Eagles are 5-1.

“The message is survive and advance. We play this game on the road; we’re the visitor team. You go in, and you got to take it from somebody,” Webb said. “Nothing’s changed.”

Maryville carries a six-game win streak into the matchup, one that started Oct. 9 against Lincoln College Prep. Since then, Maryville has outscored its opponents 214-78. The Spoofhounds have run the table since beating the Tigers. They’re hoping to have a seat at it next week, too.

“We got a great group of kids who love each other and love playing together, they have a lot of fun. You combine those things and they trust each other,” Webb said. “We got a group that really trusts one another and we’re a tight knit team. We’re excited to be playing in the state quarterfinals.”

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