Unbeknownst to anyone at the time, Maryville's week two home game with St. Pius X was actually a preview of the Class 3 District 8 finals.
The two teams, who've traveled very different paths to get to this point, will meet again in the Hound Pound tonight at 7 p.m. with the district title and a spot in the Class 3 quarterfinals on the line.
The winner advances to play either Center or Oak Grove Saturday at 1:30 p.m.
Top-seeded Maryville won the earlier meeting against sixth-seeded St. Pius X 43-7 on Aug. 31, a game that Hound coach Matt Webb says will have no bearing on the rematch.
"You can throw out our week two game," said Webb. "That doesn't mean anything. They're a much better team. They're growing up. They were young at the time. They're much better than they were at the beginning of the season, and I think we are. We are playing well right now in all phases and it should be a good game (tonight)."
Playing for its fifth district championship in a row, Maryville (11-0) won its first two district games over eighth-seeded Lincoln Prep and fourth-seeded Kansas City Northeast by a combined score of 142-8.
None of the 16 teams remaining in Class 3 have been more dominant than that through the first two rounds.
The only sub.-500 team left in the Class 3 playoffs, St. Pius X (5-6) arrived at this stage with a 35-13 first round upset of third-seeded Richmond and a 21-20 win over seventh-seeded Cameron in the semifinals.
The Dragons missed a game-winning field goal attempt in the last minute, allowing the Warriors to prevail.
It was St. Pius' fifth consecutive win after an 0-6 start that included six defeats by at least 13 points.
St. Pius X began its turnaround with a 28-10 win over Warrensburg in week seven, then defeated O'Hara 20-19 and Class 5 Sedalia Smith-Cotton 28-21 in its final two regular season games.
"They're a team that believes," said Webb. "They got a good win streak going. To go into Richmond and beat Richmond at their place is a tough thing to do and to beat Cameron, a very athletic team we faced this year, it speaks well for them. Their coach does an outstanding job. I have a lot of respect for him and what they've accomplished."
St. Pius X coach Rick Byers cited a decrease in turnovers, personnel changes on the defensive side of the ball and added maturity from a team that has just seven seniors as the primary reasons for the team's late-season resurgence.
Ill-equipped to compete with Maryville earlier in the year, the Warriors aspire to at least hang with the Hounds this time.
"We know we're still under-manned going up against them, but we'll do the best we can" said Byers. "Playing them twice is a kind of a double-edged sword. The kids have fears in their head about what didn't work last time. We want to make sure we come up and definitely don't turn the ball over and at least give ourselves a chance to be in the game."
Maryville has beaten St. Pius X three times in the last two years by an average of 32.7 points.
Of the three games, the one earlier this year was by far the least competitive.
With their starters in the game less than a half, the Hounds built a 40-0 lead in the second quarter, and the entire second half was played with a running clock.
Maryville outgained St. Pius X by over 200 yards in the first half and finished with a 243-1 edge in rushing yards.
The Warriors avoided being Maryville's second straight shutout victim with a touchdown that came with 3:36 left.
Hound senior running back Derek Stiens gained 116 yards and accounted for five touchdowns (four rushing, one receiving). Quarterback Jonathan Baker was 9-12 passing with three touchdowns.
"We talk about balance from an offensive standpoint every week," said Webb. "We were able to accomplish that against them. That's what we'll strive to do."
Maryville is coming off its highest scoring game and most lopsided win of the year over Kansas City Northeast 76-0.
It was Maryville's ninth win out of 11 by at least 27 points.
Playing just over two quarters, Baker broke two career records and the school’s single-game passing record with 343 yards and five touchdowns on 19-22 passing. For the season, he has 26 touchdowns and just four interceptions.
Senior wideout Kyle Leslie and senior tight end Ridge Yount each caught two touchdown passes, combining for 13 catches and over 200 yards. Leslie set a new career-high with 118 yards on seven grabs.
Stiens went over the 1,000 yard rushing mark in the first half and had a 5-yard rushing touchdown in the third quarter.
Maryville's defense held an opponent scoreless for the third time this year, caused six turnovers and scored on two of them.
Tyler Tripp and Yount each had a defensive touchdown in the game.
"They don't make any mistakes," said Byers. "They're blocking every man. Every man is accounted for. That's just the great simplicity of their offense. They don't leave anything to chance. They don't turn the ball over. They don't make mistakes. Going in, we know we have to play perfect."
Outscored by 122 points on the season, St. Pius X averages 17.1 points per game and gives up 28.2 per game.
However, during their current five-game win streak, the Warriors have averaged 26.4 points and given up 21 or less in each game.
The Warrior offense runs through senior quarterback Grant Gavin, a four-year starter.
On the season, he's thrown for 1,472 yards, 10 touchdowns and 17 interceptions.
Gavin has not faired well in his previous two starts at the Hound Pound, completing only 5-27 passes.
In the game earlier this year, he was 3-11 with 19 yards and two interceptions. This followed a game against Maryville in 2011 in which Gavin went 22-37 with 244 yards and two touchdowns.
"He's playing really well now," said Byers. "He's got some guys that he can get the ball to that have proven themselves to be more sure-handed. He's also playing on the defensive side of the ball, so that's increased his physicality."
The Warriors top receiving threats are junior Bennie Palmentere, sophomore Marshal Mason and senior Sam Monachino.
Palmentere leads Pius in catches (35), receiving yards (395) and touchdowns (5). Mason is second with 23 catches and three touchdowns.
Monachino missed a stretch during the season with a broken finger and ranks third on the team with 20 catches.
Gabe Akalugwu is the Warriors leader rusher with 394 yards.
The Warrior defense will look a lot different than it did the last time around and has played much better of late.
Junior Joe McCoy is the team leader in tackles with 123.
"The big thing Monday night is going to be this is for a district championship and we're playing at home," said Webb. "I think it would be great if everyone in Maryville would show up and support us. This is a great group of kids that have accomplished a lot this year. We want to make sure the stands are packed Monday night."
By Joey Falkoff email@example.com
The Maryville Daily Forum - Maryville, MO
By Joey Falkoff firstname.lastname@example.org
Updated Nov. 5, 2012 @ 1:33 pm
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