Before ever playing a regular season game, the Spoofhounds made a believer out of Kansas City Center head coach Bryan DeLong.
After watching the Hounds go against his team and two other Class 5 schools at the William Chrisman Jamboree Aug. 17, DeLong knew right then and there they'd be a force to be reckoned with state-wide this year.
"They looked like they were in week 10," recalled DeLong. "I knew from that they were the class of 3A. I know everyone talks about John Burroughs and this and that. At that jamboree, they were by far the class of the jamboree. Their kids played hard. They were already in shape. They were physical. I was wondering what their team would look like with the new coach, but they just keep on keeping on. They are the same old Maryville."
DeLong's initial read on the Spoofhounds has turned out to be spot-on.
One of three unbeatens left in Class 3, No. 2 Maryville (12-0) has put together one of the finest seasons in school history, complete with 10 wins by 27 points or more, an outright MEC title and a fifth consecutive district title.
Now at its deepest point in the playoffs since returning to Class 3 in 2010, Maryville will square off with jamboree foe Center again in the quarterfinals Saturday at 1:30 p.m. in Kansas City.
The winner takes on either Duchesne or California in the semifinals Nov. 17.
This is Maryville's first game away from home since the end of the regular season and takes place in a foreign venue.
"I think this team is very proud of what we've accomplished," said Maryville first-year head coach Matt Webb. "But we're not finished. We have a goal and a mission to win one game at a time and go as far as we can. I don't think something like playing on the road will be a big deal. We played two big games on the road against Savannah and Lafayette and won. We're prepared to go win on the road."
In three district home games, top-seeded Maryville slaughtered Lincoln Prep, Kansas City Northeast and St. Pius X by a combined score of 190-15.
Maryville led all three games by at least 41 points at the half and won all three by at least that margin.
The Hounds' 48-7 win over St. Pius X in the district title game qualified as the second largest around the state behind only John Burroughs, a 50-6 winner.
The days of running clocks and two quarter stints for starters are likely a thing of the past at this point.
Appearing much better than any of Maryville's district foes, Center (10-2) claimed the District 7 title with three wins by a total of 26 points.
Page 2 of 4 - The last two came against teams ranked in the top 10 of Class 3.
In the semifinals, they scraped out a 13-12 win over second-seeded Hogan Prep, avenging one of their two regular season losses.
This was followed by a 21-6 win over previously undefeated Oak Grove in the district finals.
During the regular season, Center played two of the same opponents as Maryville—Smithville and St. Pius X.
The Yelllowjackets lost to Smithville 7-6 in week two and flattened St. Pius X 47-7 in week five.
Both results provide further evidence that Center should give Maryville its hardest game since closing the regular season with a 27-20 win over Lafayette.
"I see a team that's very talented," said Webb. "They're athletic. They lost two ball games to very good opponents and they're playing with a lot of confidence. They're very well-coached. They beat Oak Grove very soundly and it's going to be a tough opponent to go on the road and play."
Center, a member of the West Central League, comes in on a nine-game winning streak after a 1-2 start.
The Yellow Jackets won all seven regular season games by at least 28 points, with their two losses coming by a total of eight points to Hogan Prep and Smithville.
The team's 10 wins are the most in DeLong's four-year tenure and follows a 4-6 season last year as part of Class 4.
Underdogs for the third week in a row, the Jackets fully understand what they're up against.
"We're going to have to play our best game," said DeLong. "We can't turn it over. We have to create first downs. Our defense has to play lights-out just to compete with him. This is a tall order. Hopefully, our boys will be up to it."
A program used to producing college-level talent, Central has two former players—Alex Taylor and Zach Williams—that are currently playing at Northwest Missouri State.
One of its current offensive/defensive lineman, Maliek Collins, is drawing heavy interest from Division I programs like Missouri and Nebraska.
Collins, 6-2, 285, is Central's leading tackler with 53 and is tied for the team lead in sacks with four, according to Maxpreps.com.
He'll be matched against two of the state's best offensive linemen in Class 3, senior Caleb Mather and junior Jackson Morrison.
"He's a very good player," said Webb. "Very athletic. If he's getting interest, he deserves to be. He's big and athletic and makes plays."
Collins serves as the centerpiece of a Yellowjacket defense that has been awfully difficult to score against this year.
Page 3 of 4 - Center has given up 20 points or less in 11 of 12 games and teams are averaging just 8.2 points against them.
Last week, the Jackets limited Oak Grove's prolific offense to only six points.
"The teeth of our team has been our defense all year," said DeLong. "When our offense has struggled, our defense has kept us in game."
A low scoring game is likely with Maryville's defense allowing less than eight per game on the season itself.
Lafayette remains the only team to reach 20 on the Hounds.
Mather, an all-state tackle, play-making senior linebacker Ridge Yount and athletic junior safety Trent Nally are three of the Hounds top performers on that side of the ball.
"I'm very proud of the way our defense is playing," said Webb.
While the defenses boast similar numbers, Maryville appears to have a decided edge on the offensive side of the ball.
The Hounds have scored over 200 more points than Center on the year and average over 53 a game.
Only once have the Hounds been held under 30 points.
Over the course of the year, Maryville has shown the ability to run and throw with equal levels of success.
A likely all-state selection, Maryville quarterback Jonathan Baker is in the midst of a record-setting season with 28 touchdowns and only four interceptions.
He was spotless in three district games with 11 touchdowns and no interceptions.
Top targets Kyle Leslie, Ridge Yount and Treyton Burch have all had big games throughout the season.
Burch and Leslie both caught touchdowns in the win over St. Pius X.
Senior running back Derek Stiens has rushed for over 1,000 yards this season and sophomore running back Brody McMahon eclipsed 2,000 all-purpose yards last week.
Senior wing back Peyton Mizera completes Maryville's three-headed backfield attack.
All three had at least one rushing touchdown last time out, and the Hounds rushed for over 300 yards.
Center runs what's described as a hybrid Wing-T offense that uses similar concepts to Maryville.
The Jackets average right around 30 points per game, but have been held down by teams like Smithville and Hogan Prep.
"I'd like to say our offense is just like Maryville's, but it isn't as good," said DeLong. "If someone told me our program was like Maryville, I'd be honored."
Senior Ronnie Hill is Center's quarterback and provides dual-threat capabilities.
He's thrown for eight touchdowns and run for six along with 402 yards.
Senior Anthony Eskridge was an all-conference selection at running back and leads the Jackets in rushing with 793 yards and 11 touchdowns. Playing the slot back role, junior Gabe King has totaled 542 yards and eight touchdowns on the year.
Page 4 of 4 - Eskridge is the only one of the three that doesn't play both ways.
Seniors Nick Williams and Colby Taylor are the team's other defensive standouts.
"This is the first game we've played where I really don't see an advantage," said DeLong. "I think our biggest advantage is we know how good Maryville is. We know how big of a deal football is to that community. We're just excited to play a team like that. We just hope to compete."