Entering its quarterfinal matchup with Odessa Nov. 17, Maryville football sat in an unfamiliar position. For the first time since Week 1 against Blair Oaks, and perhaps for the first time all season, the Spoofhounds were not favored to win the game.
Odessa, with its explosive offense and sturdy defense, was not supposed to lose to Maryville. Yet, over the course of four quarters at the ‘Hound Pound on a cold Saturday afternoon, the Spoofhounds (12-1) dismantled the Bulldogs (12-1), moving past Odessa 29-6 to advance in the semifinals.
Playing as the underdogs for the first time in a long time, Maryville rose to the occasion and sent the previously-undefeated Bulldogs home earlier than anticipated. In a game that records and statistics said they were expected to lose, the Spoofhounds did not trail for a single second.
“We were supposedly the underdogs at our own field, but that’s not the case,” senior running back Tyler Houchin said. “We’re never the underdogs at the Maryville ‘Hound Pound.”
Maryville began the game with a drive that portrayed its offense in a nutshell. The Spoofhounds’ opening possession was not highlighted by any outstanding catches or 50-yard rushes, instead, the ‘Hounds nickeled and dimed their way down the field on the backs of Houchin, senior running back Eli Dowis and sophomore halfback Connor Weiss.
Houchin capped off the 18-play drive with a one-yard rush for a touchdown.
“To go 18 plays on the first drive and score...it’s huge,” coach Matt Webb said. “Those are hard drives to continue to go. It takes a lot of mental focus to stay on edge and do your job for that many plays. Our offensive line just did an outstanding job of executing the game plan.”
Throughout the week leading up to the quarterfinal matchup, Webb insisted repeatedly that the team would need a dose of “Maryville magic” to pull off the upset over Odessa. The coach called for fans and alumni and everyone in Maryville to fill the stands at the ‘Hound Pound, hoping to create some kind of edge.
Whether by happenstance or as a result of Webb’s pleading, the so-called magic came to light on the Spoofhounds’ opening drive.
Playing without junior kicker Nic Garner, the Spoofhounds sent Weiss to attempt an extra point after Houchin’s touchdown. Weiss’ kick spun slowly toward the opening between the uprights, bouncing twice off the goalpost before rolling through.
“This place is magic,” Webb said. “We needed a little magic on the first drive. Connor Weiss comes in because of our kicking situation and I think it hit the goalpost two or three times and I think it kind of rolled to the north. I don’t why it did that way, I’ll just call it magic.”
Maryville’s second drive followed a similar script. The 14-play possession resulted in another one-yard score, this one carried by Dowis. The senior standout attributed the win not to magic or the game plan, but to the Spoofhounds’ own determination.
“We’ll watch the film tonight and tomorrow morning as a team, and we’ll be able to tell that we played with more heart,” Dowis said. “Yeah, the coaches put together a great game plan, but that was just us wanting it more than they (Odessa) did.”
Dowis and Houchin each ended the game with a pair of touchdowns and more than 100 yards of offense on their ledgers. Together, Dowis and Houchin accounted for every Maryville score.
The duo of senior running backs has been paramount to Maryville’s success on both sides of the ball all season, and the quarterfinal game proved no different.
“Obviously, Eli Dowis and Tyler Houchin are warriors,” Webb said. “They’re great kids, they’re seniors, and man, just the smiles on their faces right now, it makes it all worth it.”
The effectiveness of the offense was assuredly helped by the return of Weiss and sophomore quarterback Ben Walker from their month-long absences. Walker did not throw for any touchdowns or fill up the stat sheet, but the quarterback showed flashes of a clutch gene, making plays when Maryville needed him to the most.
Walker connected with Weiss on a third-and-long early in the game, moving the chains and extending a drive for the Spoofhounds.
“Ben Walker (threw) to Connor Weiss on a third and 15 where they got a good connection...to get a huge chain-moving third down conversion,” Webb said. “Yeah, absolutely: I’m proud of Ben, proud of everybody. It’s a team effort.”
While the offense shined, the defense toiled against one of the best Class 3 offenses in Missouri. Coming into the matchup, Odessa’s offense was averaging close to 55 points per game and hadn’t scored less than 34 in any game this season.
Facing an offense that featured a quarterback with a turnover ratio just over 30-to-1 and a running back that had rushed for more than 2,000 yards, Maryville’s defense was stringent, allowing just one score.
“It felt really good,” Houchin said. “It always feels good stopping a team when they score 55 points a game. (To) hold them to six is a big thing for us.”
Maryville’s defense has been remarkably consistent throughout the year. Coming into the game, the Spoofhounds were allowing just 8.3 points per contest. Maryville has allowed teams to score in double digits just three times all season, and just one time has an opponent put up more than 15 points (Blair Oaks, 38 points).
Many expected Odessa to test the unyielding Maryville defense and to push the ‘Hounds toward the brink of elimination. Instead, the Spoofhounds dominated each facet of the game.
“There’s something to prove every day,” Webb said. “You wake up every morning, and we talk about ‘win the day.’” The prognosticators had that team (Odessa) rank No. 1 in the state. We’ve got a very special place here. We proved something.”
The Spoofhounds will move on to the semifinals where they will square off with Trinity Catholic High School in St. Louis Nov. 24. Trinity is another team that the pundits rank as better than Maryville, and the ‘Hound will once again take on an underdog role.
In a week’s time, the Spoofhounds will travel across the state with a chip on their shoulder, playing the David to Trinity’s Goliath. They will attempt to do next week what they did this afternoon in Maryville, and win a game they aren’t supposed to.
“I just hope Trinity Catholic sees the box score and gets a little nervous,” Dowis said “‘Cause the ‘Hounds are coming down to St. Louis.”