Dowis returns from knee injury

In his return from a knee injury that kept him out nearly a month, senior Eli Dowis threw for 253 yards and recorded four total touchdowns in Maryville’s 34-12 district championship victory over Savannah Nov. 9.

After another convincing playoff victory over a conference rival, Maryville football sits two wins away from a chance at a second-consecutive Class 3 State Title.

The Spoofhounds (11-1) skated past Savannah 34-12 on an icy evening in Maryville Nov. 9, capturing the MSHSAA Class 3 District 8 Championship, ending the Savages’ season in the process.

Now, Maryville moves on, preparing for its toughest test of the aging season, coming in the form of Odessa. Following an impressive 49-6 victory over Pembroke Hill, the Bulldogs (12-0) will attempt to play spoiler to the ‘Hounds pending encore campaign.

On the heels of its 11th-consecutive victory, Maryville possesses an undoubtedly able defense, one that held Savannah’s high-octane offense to just 19 points in eight quarters of football this season. For the Spoofhounds, defeating their Highway-71 rival for a District Title was, for the most part, not fulfilling, rather just another stop on the road to a state title.

“It’s a district title; the object of these games is to win and advance,” coach Matt Webb said. “It’s about winning and advancing, so I’m excited to make it to the quarterfinals.”

The quarterfinal game, scheduled for Nov. 17 at the ‘Hound Pound, will likely be a dogfight in more ways than one. The Spoofhounds and Bulldogs each tout an offense averaging more than 44 points per game and a defense that allows less than 20 points per contest.

By the numbers, Odessa’s offense has been a notch ahead of Maryville’s, averaging 54.25 points per game, while the ‘Hounds have averaged just over 44. Defensively, the script flips. Maryville’s defense has yielded 8 points per contest, while Odessa has allowed just under 14 per game.

When faced with the prospect of facing such a dynamic offense, Webb was blunt. He knows the perilous nature of the quarterfinal matchup that awaits the team.

“Odessa has a tailback that’s rushed for over 2,000 yards,” Webb said. “They’ve got a receiver who’s had 100-yard receiving games in five of the last six football games. They’re the best offensive team we’ve played so far this season. They’ve got a huge offensive line, their quarterback is an excellent athlete. These guys are a machine.”

While Maryville’s defense is no stranger to quieting high-scoring offenses, the test Odessa brings is different than any other the ‘Hounds have faced this season. Teams like Savannah and St. Joseph-Lafayette featured strong offensive attacks, but when compared to the Bulldogs, those MEC schools appear second-rate.

“I think it’s going to be a battle from the opening kickoff to the last play,” senior running back Eli Dowis said. “They’re a good team; they’re big up front and athletic at the skill positions.”

The two similarly-nicknamed teams have recent history in quarterfinals matchups. The Bulldogs defeated the ‘Hounds 28-14 in Odessa to move on the to the semifinals in 2015. Odessa went on to play in the state title game, losing to John Burroughs (St. Louis).

Each team’s roster has changed dramatically since the previous meeting three seasons ago. Still, the history exists, and the Spoofhounds are determined to not let it repeat itself.

“They beat us at their place a few years back in a quarterfinal,” Webb said. “They’re an excellent football program that’s having a great year.”

With the increased emphasis on winning that comes with postseason football, one might think a quarterfinal matchup would dispense added pressure on the Spoofhounds. The stakes are inherently higher, and the margin for error is decidedly thinner in the postseason.

Despite the increased stakes, the upcoming contest with the Bulldogs is business as usual for Maryville.

“I don’t think there’s any added pressure,” Dowis said. “Yes, they’re good, but it’s still just another football game. We’ve played good teams before, and I don’t see this as any different. Hopefully, we have what it takes to gut out a win.”

Beyond a Week 1 hiccup in a loss to Blair Oaks, the Spoofhounds’ season has panned out without fault. For Maryville, an 11-game win streak, a 60-game home win streak and a chance of continuing its quest toward a second-consecutive state title will be on the line against Odessa.

“It’s quarterfinals: you’re down to eight teams left in the state,” Webb said. “We’re fortunate to have (the game) at home. It’s Saturday afternoon; there’s nothing else going in on Maryville this weekend. If you’re alive and you’ve got a grandparent or a neighbor or a nephew or somebody, come out the ‘Hound Pound. We need every bit of Maryville magic we can get.”

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