ST. JOSEPH, Mo.— Maryville football traveled to the north side of St. Joseph Oct. 19 with hopes of winning the MEC championship outright, something the team failed to do a season ago, winning the Class 3 State championship regardless.
The Spoofhounds (8-1, 7-0 MEC) accomplished just that while taking care of Lafayette (7-2, 5-2 MEC) by a score of 27-7 in what served as the regular season finale for both Midland Empire teams.
Maryville’s defense was sturdy and its offense was good enough in the win. The Spoofhounds played without star senior running back Eli Dowis, who went down Oct. 12 with a knee injury versus Savannah. Starting quarterback Ben Walker and running back Connor Weiss, both sophomores, also didn’t play in the contest.
Without the duo of dynamic backs in Dowis and Weiss, Maryville did as it always does and relied on the next men up.
Senior running back Tyler Houchin received a healthy dose of the first half carries, which is not much different from his usual workload. A trio of Spoofhounds helped fill the remainder of the hole left by the absence of Dowis and Weiss.
Senior Korbin Koch, junior Tyler McGary and sophomore Aiden Cullin logged heavy minutes for the ‘Hounds, combining with Houchin for all four of the team’s scores.
“It’s always exciting to go in,” said Koch, who registered Maryville’s first score on a 54-yard rush. “I can’t thank Connor (Weiss) enough for how much he’s done for me getting me ready for this position.”
For Koch, who’s in his first year with the program after spending the previous seasons of his high school career at West Nodaway High School, playing such a vital role in his new team’s clinching of a conference title was elating.
“It feels good to win a championship,” Koch said. “Especially with my new group of friends I have here, it feels nice.”
The Spoofhounds are no strangers to playing in championship environments. Charged with significant playing time in a critical game for the team, the youthful ‘Hounds showed poised, refusing to be swallowed by the moment.
“Championships are won by teams, not individuals,” coach Matt Webb said. “We stepped up big time as a team tonight. Every kid that dressed out has a huge role, (and) I’m very proud of them.”
A fast start aided the Spoofhounds in the contest, something that has developed into a reoccurring theme of sorts. Maryville has not trailed in a game since Week 1, when it lost 38-35 to Blair Oaks.
In the weeks since, the Maryville offense has ranged from average to dynamic, while the defense has been unyielding without discriminant. Maryville’s defense has allowed just 8.56 points per game on the season.
The defense was helped in part by Cullin and junior Deon Metezier, who combine for three interceptions on the night. The game provided a greater spotlight than usual for Cullin, who, under normal circumstances, logs minimal snaps until a wide score margin or a late quarter number calls for him.
“It felt great,” Cullin said. “I just read my checks, I got a lot of help from (senior linebacker) Jason Bagley. I just read my checks and made a play.”
The junior recorded two interceptions and a number of carries, including one for 59 yards, setting up a touchdown for Houchin.
“(Aiden is) a redheaded kid,” Webb said. “When you got red hair, you’re a little salty, so that’s his nickname: ‘Red.’ He’s a good player. He has a lot of fun and makes some big plays. He really stepped in and had that great run. I’m really proud of him.”
The ‘Hounds regular season ended on a starkly different note than it started. After the Week 1 loss to Blair Oaks, the team raced to eight-consecutive wins and captured a conference title. They weathered injuries and hardships and the highs and lows that come with each season, and still, they kept winning.
“I’m very excited for the kids,” Webb said. “(Winning the MEC) was a goal. We talk about ‘one week at a time,’ but that’s something, absolutely, you want to make a check mark off of. It’s something (where) you put a notch on your belt and move on.”
As the postseason looms, the Vikings of Northeast Kansas City will ready to take on the Spoofhounds in Maryville Oct. 26. As the season came to a close, the ‘Hounds notched their belt. As the postseason begins, they’ll prepare move on.