Everything the Spoofhounds have done to this point in the season indicates, one, they are the best team in the MEC, and two, they are even better than a year ago.
The ultimate truth on both fronts will be revealed Friday night at 7 p.m. when Class 3 No. 2 Maryville matches up with Class 4 No. 2 Savannah in the game of the year in the MEC.
Both teams enter the season's second-to-last week still undefeated at 7-0 and 5-0 in the MEC.
With a win, the Hounds would clinch a share of their second straight MEC title and be able to wrap it up outright the following week against Lafayette.
Savannah could do the same with a win and then have a chance to win it outright against LeBlond.
Last year, Maryville, Savannah and Smithville all shared the MEC title.
"This is a fun week," said Maryville first-year head coach Matt Webb. "You got 7-0 in Class 3 coming in and 7-0 in Class 4. We're going to their place and they got us at home. It's kind of what you play for and you want to be in this position at this point in the season. We're excited to have an opportunity to go down there and play them."
Maryville is making its second straight trip down Highway 71 to play for the Traveling Trophy which was retained by the Savages last year with a 21-14 overtime win.
The Hounds, who trailed 14-0, battled back to tie the game in the fourth quarter and barely missed a game-winning field goal at the end of regulation.
Savannah scored on its first possession of overtime on a 10-yard run by quarterback Zane Wilt and held Maryville on four downs to end it.
It was Savannah's second straight win in the series after 17 consecutive losses.
The loss was Maryville's first and only one of the regular season and arms them with a motivational edge.
"Sometimes you can press a little bit when you're too hungry and you really want something," said Webb. "I don't know about Savannah. I know our team is excited to go play them. They're the No. 2 team in Class 4 and they deserve every right they have. They're a good football team and I think we're a good football team. I think this Friday night is going to really be a heck of a football game. If you're in Nodaway County, I suggest you get down there because it's going to be a lot of fun."
The matchup pits two ranked rivals with first-year head coaches.
Webb was hired as Maryville's coach in March to take the place of Chris Holt who left for Oak Park.
Page 2 of 4 - Savannah's former coach Mark Cole resigned in January and was replaced by defensive coordinator Chad Smith.
He's since been suspended for a prior DUI arrest and Bryson Byergo is filling in on an interim basis.
This will be Byergo's fourth game at the helm of the Savages.
Under Webb, Maryville has looked almost invincible through the season's first seven weeks, winning by an average of 43.7 points.
Its closest call came last week in a 34-7 win over Smithville, marking the first time Maryville has played without a running clock in the second half.
Savannah, on the other hand, has been involved in several tight games this year, winning its four by 16 points or less.
The Savages 7-0 start includes a 28-12 win over Harrisonville, which at the time was ranked No. 2 in Class 4, a 21-13 win over Smithville and a 21-14 win over Lafayette.
"They've played a great schedule," said Webb. "They're a good football team. It's going to be a great game."
Going off comparative scores, the Hounds would seem to have the edge.
The two teams have played four of the same opponents—Chillicothe, Cameron, Benton and Smithville—and Maryville has beaten all of them worse.
Savannah's average margin of victory in those games is 32.5 points. Maryville's is 45.3 points.
"It's Savannah week," said Webb. "It doesn't matter who beat who. It's a rival game. I don't read anything into that."
Matchup-wise, this is a classic case where something has to give.
Maryville brings in an offense that's averaging 48.7 points per game and has scored at least 34 in all seven. Savannah's defense, meanwhile, has yet to allow more than 13 points per game all season.
The Savage offense is averaging 30.7 per game. Maryville has given up only 35 points all season, including just seven in the first half, for an average of five per game.
The Hounds are coming off their lowest scoring output of the season, but set a new-season high for rushing yards with 397 against Smithville.
Maryville acquired most of its success on toss sweeps, counter traps and reverses.
Sophomore Brody McMahon rumbled for a season-high 201 yards on 21 carries with two touchdowns.
Wing back Peyton MIzera also set a new-season high with 138 yards on 12 carries and scored a touchdown. Derek Stiens added 58 yards and a touchdown.
For the season, Stiens is Maryville's leading rusher with 727 yards and 14 rushing touchdowns. He's scored at least one touchdown in every game and has 17 overall.
McMahon ranks second with 504 yards and six rushing touchdowns. Mizera has scored in four of the last five games and is up to 430 yards rushing this year.
Page 3 of 4 - The Hounds have eclipsed more than 200 yards in every game, but Savannah has held them well under that total the past two years.
Maryville ran for a season-low 99 yards on 40 carries against the Savages last year.
"We've been able to run the football and be multiple," said Webb. "It's about running our offense which means if they're going to put too many people in the box and we feel like we can get on the perimeter and throw the football some, we'll do that. If they're going to take that way, then we're going to run the football on them. We're going to run our offense. We're not going to do anything special."
The Hounds have usually attained balance in their offense, but last week was the exception.
While the run game clicked all night, Maryville had a difficult time throwing the ball.
Quarterback Jonathan Baker completed just 7-15 passes for 88 yards, zero touchdowns and two interceptions.
Baker came into the game having thrown 15 touchdowns and zero interceptions on the season.
Stiens and McMahon have combined for seven touchdown catches this year. Treyton Burch, Kyle Leslie, Ridge Yount and Tyler Tripp have the other eight.
Savannah's top defensive performers are defensive back Preston Bailey and All-MEC defensive back Tyler Wilt.
Savannah graduated a number of its other key personnel such as first team All-MEC lineman Kip Smith, first team All-MEC lineman Johnny Wiese and All-MEC safety Blake McFadden. The Savages also lost Caelan Campbell to a season-ending knee injury.
The Savages pistol offense is keyed by senior quarterback Zane Wilt and top wideout Tyler Wilt.
Zane was 9-22 passing against the Hounds last year and ran for 105 yards on 22 carries.
Savannah's run game has sputtered at times this year, but has picked up of late.
"The Wilt brothers are good football players," said Webb. "Their offensive line is physical and their running backs run the ball well. They're well-coached and they know how to run offense. I think they're just a well-oiled machine on the offensive side of the ball."
Maryville has defended both the run and the pass extremely well all season.
Last week was no exception, even though the Warriors picked up a season-most 266 yards against Maryville.
The Hounds limited the MEC's leading rusher Zach Parmenter to 104 yards on 21 carries, most of that coming on a 73-yard run to open the second half.
Smithville's talented quarterback Cory Marmet completed only 6-21 passes for 106 yards.
Maryville's front four, led by senior Caleb Mather who had two tackles for loss and a sack last week, has controlled the line of scrimmage in every game this year.
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