Maryville football senior tight end Marc Gustafson leads the team to the field at its district semifinal game against Cameron Nov. 6. The Spoofhounds' 41-13 win has led them to play in the district championships against Richmond Nov. 13 in Richmond, Missouri. 

Maryville football’s backfield must’ve had its own version of “Michael’s Secret Stuff" from Space Jam, or at least something similar, as its efforts paved the way to a 41-13 victory for Maryville Nov. 6 against Cameron.

Maryville, the No. 2 seed, will be back on the road for the first time since Oct. 23 to battle No. 1 seed Richmond (8-1) in the Class 3 District 8 tournament championship.

The ’Hounds are looking to avoid another district championship loss, as they fell to the Lathrop in the final seconds of the district championship to end their 2019 campaign. Maryville coach Matt Webb feels little pressure, as his team is used to playing this late in the season.

“We play in it every year; it’s not a different game,” Webb said about the district championship. “It’s not about — once again, it’s playoff football. Our kids came out the other night, and I’m very proud of how we played in Week 1 and Week 2 in the playoffs, and now we get a chance to really earn a district championship.”

Earlier in the postseason, Webb said his team needed to play as a higher seed should, but now the Spoofhounds find themselves as the lower seed. Junior quarterback Connor Drake said the team’s mentality has changed.

“Being the lower seed, we now have to have the underdog mentality. We are a very confident team right now. Our run game is the best it’s been all season, and our defense is playing very well too,” Drake said. “We are coming together in all three phases of the game, which makes us a very dangerous team.”

Maryville’s running game took a gigantic leap forward in the matchup with Cameron. Senior running back Connor Weiss tallied 266 yards rushing and three touchdowns. Senior running back Trey Houchin found the end zone twice, and junior running back Drew Spire scored a touchdown as well.

The ’Hounds’ rushing attack could prove to be beneficial, as Richmond had trouble stopping No. 4 seed Chillicothe’s run game Nov. 6. Chillicothe’s junior fullback Damarcus Kelow rushed for 231 yards on 27 carries with four touchdowns. Hornet’s junior wideout Tucker Wagners had 81 yards rushing with one touchdown.

“I feel like we’re playing playoff football. I’m very pleased where we’re at, to be able to rush for over 400 yards against Cameron the other night,” Webb said. “It shows that our kids know how to execute. We got a good offensive line and good backs.”

Maryville’s offense has shown no signs of slowing in its past five wins. The Spoofhounds have put a total of 217 points on the scoreboard in that span. On the season, Maryville has averaged nearly 35 points a contest.

“Watching film, and seeing how Chillicothe was able to run the ball on Richmond, gives us great confidence in that we’ll be able to do the same thing whether it’s Kade (Wilmes), Trey, Connor, or Caden (Stoecklein),” Drake said. “We know that if the line keeps blocking great, the backs will hit the holes and make great plays. Our identity on offense is that we are going to run the ball until our opponents stop us.”

It won’t be easy however, as the Spartans defense has been solid since Oct. 2. Richmond has allowed opponents to score a total of 70 points in five games. On the season, the Spartans allow an average of 17 points.

Defensively, the Spoofhounds will keep their eyes on junior quarterback Keyshaun Elliot. The 6’3”, 210-pound grandson of former NFL running back Lenvil Elliott is a menace in both the passing and running game.

Against Chillicothe, Elliot finished with 142 yards rushing on 13 carries and completed 12 of 15 throws for 222 yards and three scores.

“They’re a dynamic offense with very multiple sets. They are huge on the offensive line. They run the option with Keyshaun Elliot,” Webb said. “He’s the best player we’ve seen this year at the quarterback position. He’s a dynamic dual-threat quarterback. He’s an awesome player; we’re going to have our hands full.”

Defensively, Maryville allows an average of 21 points per game, while the Spartans’ offense scores an average of 43 points a game.

Both teams will field juniors at the quarterback position. For Drake, this will be his first start in a district championship.

“I try not to think about it being the district championship game. I don’t want to get too nervous. I just have to focus on me and what I can do to help this team in the best possible way,” Drake said. “I know that my teammates and coaches will have my back to help me prepare for this game.”

Both teams enter this weekend with impressive winning streaks. Richmond has been the winner of its past six games, while Maryville comes in with five straight wins under its belt. The streak has implemented a source of confidence for the Spoofhounds.

“Before the Odessa game, coach Webb told us that we are going all in to finish the regular season. We took that to heart and played well the next five games,” Drake said. “Coach also told us that we reminded him of the 2017 team that won a state championship, so that gives us extra confidence knowing that we can do it.”

The last time Maryville saw Richmond was in 2016, when the Spoofhounds captured a 35-32 victory and were eventually crowned state champions.

“This game is going to be one to remember,” Drake said. “I’m looking forward to watching my team succeed. We are playing our best as a team going into this game, so we just hope to keep the train rolling.”

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