Following a perfect regular season that ended with a thrilling win over Lafayette to clinch the outright MEC title, Maryville enters the state's new-look playoff system as one of the top contenders in Class 3.
Seeded first in District 8, the No. 2-ranked Hounds (9-0) begin what shapes up to be a prolonged playoff journey with a first round game against No. 8 seed Lincoln Prep (2-7) at 7 p.m. tonight at the Hound Pound.
It's the first of three games Maryville has to win in order to win the district and the first of six required to win the Class 3 state title.
Each of the past two years, the Hounds have lost in the second round of the playoffs to Richmond which is seeded third in the district.
"This time of year, it's one and done," said Maryville head coach Matt Webb. "We've worked our rear ends off to be 9-0 and be a No. 1 seed and to be able to play at home. That's what we want. We put ourselves in a great position. Now, we're in a tournament and all you want to do is win one game at a time. You're one and done and the nights and the practices and the days you get to spend with each other as a teammate, you're limited. And you want to make sure when you walk off the field for every game from here on out that you played your best because you don't know when it could be done."
Maryville locked up the No 1 seed in the district long ago and is the only one of the eight teams with more than six wins on the season.
Playing up in class the last four weeks, the Hounds won eight of their nine regular season games by double-digits, with the lone exception being Friday's 27-20 win over Lafayette in the regular season finale.
Maryville overcame its first two deficits of the season that night, both of seven points or less, by scoring the final 13 points in the fourth quarter.
"I don't think the Lafayette game did anything but solidify the fact that we're a good football team and Lafayette is a good football team," said Webb. "What was revealed against Lafayette was our character and our courage to be down twice in a ball game and come out on the road and come back and win a football game. There's not an ounce of scared or nervousness with this football team. They're ready go to win one game at a time."
The Lafayette game marked the end of a grueling three-game stretch against the other top-tier teams in the MEC.
Each week got progressively harder for the Hounds who won by 27, 17 and then seven points—their closest margins of the year.
Page 2 of 3 - Maryville's playoff schedule will work in much the same manner, but the Hounds are starting back at level one on the degree of difficulty scale.
Lincoln Prep, a member of the Kansas City Interscholastic League, is much more in line with teams like Benton and Cameron than Lafayette.
The Tigers only two wins were over Southwest Early College and African Centered College Preparatory in weeks three and four. Since then, Lincoln Prep has lost five straight games.
Two of their losses were to West Platte (28-0) and Trenton (56-16)—a pair of Class 2 schools that finished 5-4.
Lincoln Prep's last game against an MEC opponent was last year against Benton and the Tigers lost 45-0.
This will be the first meeting between the Hounds and Lincoln Prep during at least the last seven years.
"They're very athletic," said Webb. "We're a one-seed. They're an eight-seed. I expect us to play well, but they'll come up here and they'll play hard. You watch them on film and they play hard. They're athletic. They run around. They got some guys that have a lot of speed that can cause us some problems if we're not prepared to play our best game."
Maryville averaged 44.3 points per game during the regular season and scored 31 or more in the first eight. Defensively, the Hounds surrendered an average of 7.8 points per game, with only Savannah and Lafayette scoring above seven points.
On both sides of the ball, the Hounds are littered with all-conference or all-state players.
One of those, Hound senior quarterback Jonathan Baker, accounted for all four of Maryville's touchdowns last week, tossing for two and running for two. He has 18 touchdown passes to only four interceptions on the year.
Primary running backs Derek Stiens and Brody McMahon combined for 166 yards against Lafayette, with McMahon scoring on a 75-yard reception. Stiens leads the Hounds in rushing with 897 yards and 14 touchdowns. McMahon is second on the team with 709 yards and nine touchdowns.
Maryville's top defensive performers last week were senior end Tyler Tripp and senior nose tackle Caleb Mather.
They combined for 12 tackles and six backfield stops.
The Hounds came up with two turnovers, both on fumbles, giving them seven take-aways over the last two games.
Lincoln Prep averages 17.7 points per game, but 111 of its 159 points were scored in its two wins.
The Tigers averaged less than seven points a game in their seven losses and were shutout twice.
Defensively, Lincoln Prep gives up 25.9 points per game. Twice, they've allowed more than 50 points in losses to Pembroke Hill and Trenton.
"We want to look like a No. 1 seed," said Webb. "We've earned it. We've worked hard. A No. 1 seed should go out and play well, play mistake-free, operate efficiently, tackle well on defense and play well on special teams. That's how a No. 1 seed should look and that's how we should come out and execute."
Page 3 of 3 - Should the Hounds take care of business, they would host the winner of No. 4 seed Kansas City Northeast and No. 5 seed Central Academy in the district semifinals Wednesday at 7 p.m.