During his Spoofhound playing days, Matt Webb never got to experience the thrill of making it to the state championship game.
He got close his junior year, but the Hounds lost deep in the playoffs to Bolivar.
Some 20 years later, Maryville's first-year head coach has his alma mater on the doorstep of their first title game appearance since 2009.
The Hounds host California in the Class 3 semifinals Saturday at 1:30 p.m. with a trip to the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis on the line.
The winner gets either John Burroughs or Monett in the finals on Black Friday at 1 p.m.
"As an alum, it's a certain amount of pride," said Webb, a 1993 Maryville graduate. "This year's team, I've said many times, I give a lot of credit number one to God. I'm a man of faith and this group was meant to be put together for a reason. The second thing is Chris Holt and the assistant coaches that are here in place. The coaches have earned every right to deserve to play in the semifinal game. That's what we're focusing on right now is the semifinal game. We'll cross that other bridge once we pass that."
District 8 champion Maryville (13-0) and District 6 champion California (13-0) are two of three unbeatens still standing in the playoffs.
They represent the best Northwest Missouri and Mid-Missouri have to offer in Class 3.
Class 3 No. 2 Maryville has won 12 of 13 games by at least 17 points this year and only trailed in one of them.
The Hounds reached their first semifinal since returning to Class 3 in 2010 with three 40-plus point wins in district play and a 49-26 quarterfinal win over District 7 champion Center in Kansas City.
Class 3 No. 8 California won all 10 of its regular season games by at least 11 points over competition based exclusively in their sector of the state or east.
The Pintos hosted each of their first four playoff games, beating Centralia 28-21 in the District 6 finals and Duchesne 21-12 in the quarterfinals.
The undefeated clash will kickoff at approximately halftime of Northwest Missouri State's first round playoff game against Harding taking place just a few miles away.
"I see an undefeated team that's coming in here," said Webb. "They average 42 points a game on offense. We average 49. They average giving up seven points a game on defense. We average giving up eight. They've had five shutouts. We've had three. I see a lot of similarities. Both programs are hard-hitting on defense, very good, very talented. They've got good playmakers on offense and run a good scheme. It will be a tough game this Saturday. It will be a lot of fun. Everybody that's in Maryville this Saturday needs to be traveling down Munn. To have two home games in the playoffs is awesome for our community."
Page 2 of 3 - Separated by 226 miles, Maryville and California share just one common opponent on the season—Chillicothe—and both won by 42 points.
The Hounds' 49-7 victory occurred in week three of the regular season, and California beat them 42-0 in the district semifinals.
California second-year head coach Marty Albertson considers his team a slight underdog in this matchup and says Maryville is a cut above every team they've seen this year.
"I think they are a lot bigger than we are," said Albertson. "We're not real big. Our linemen are giving up 50 pounds which makes it a little tougher. Maryville is overall a little more talented than Centralia or Duchesne. I don't see a lot of weaknesses in Maryville. They've got good running backs, a good quarterback. Their offensive and defensive lines are really good. They're pretty solid all the way across. They're the best we've seen up to this point."
A 5-5 team year ago, California is seeking its first title game appearance since going three straight years from 1997-1999.
Albertson attributes an increased commitment in the weight room for the team's eight-win improvement this year.
The Pintos have had four challenging games, but the rest were routs similar to what Maryville has done.
"There's no weaknesses in their team," said Webb. "They're solid at quarterback. They're solid at running back. Defensively, they play physical. They tackle well and they run a good scheme. They're undefeated for a reason. We're just fortunate to be able to play them."
California runs a double-wing offense that puts a premium on running the football.
The Pintos use anywhere from six to eight running backs in a game, but their best one—Division I recruit Anthony Price—suffered a season-ending knee injury in the win over Centralia.
Junior Dylan Albertson (6-2, 185), junior Seth Fairchild (5-8, 155), sophomore Walter Borghardt (5-8, 150), junior Jerry Lutz (5-9, 170) and junior Luke Berger (5-9, 160) comprise Calfiornia's backfield stable.
The Pintos quarterback is 5-10, 170 pound sophomore Jaden Barr.
"They're very similar to us," said Webb. "They got a lot of different guys they get the ball to in their scheme and they're just a balanced attack. They are more run than pass, but when they need to pass they've been able to. I think their philosophies are very similar to ours and our core beliefs in what they want to accomplish."
The opposing Hound defense gave up its season-high point total to Center, but that was only because of a kick-off return touchdown and a touchdown pass on the final play of the game.
Maryville collected four second half turnovers, increasing the Hounds playoff total to 17. No one this season, including Class 4 district finalist Smithville, has scored more than eight points against Maryville at the Hound Pound.
Page 3 of 3 - "It's going to be about stopping the run and getting them into long-yardage situations to where we can rush the passer a little bit" said Webb.
Maryville's offense will operate against a California defense that has yet to allow more than 21 points in a game all season.
The Pintos had a streak of three straight shutouts going before the Centralia game.
In the regular season, Blair Oaks was the only team that surpassed 12 points on them.
"Really what helps our team is overall team speed," said Albertson. "We're awfully quick. We really don't have any slow guys on the field. If one guy misses a tackle, there are three other guys there. We've bent a little bit, but we haven't given up the big play. Hopefully, we keep that going."
California uses a lot of its key offensive personnel on the defensive side of the ball.
Albertson and senior Logan Rowles (6-2, 185) give the Pintos a pair of rangy safeties. Senior Garret Baquet (5-7, 185) and Barr start at corner.
The Pintos are admittedly undersized to Maryville on the defensive line, with their biggest lineman weighing in at 230 pounds.
"We give up a lot of weight, but we have to use our quickness," said Albertson. "We can't go man to man or we'll be in trouble. Hopefully, our quickness will pay off and we can slow them down a little bit. You're not going to stop Maryville. You're just trying to slow them down."
Operating out of the Wing-T and the spread, Maryville has scored at least 48 points in all four playoff games.
Senior quarterback Jonathan Baker is completing over 66 percent of his passes with 1,905 yards, 29 touchdowns and only four interceptions.
The running trio of senior Derek Stiens, sophomore Brody McMahon and senior Peyton Mizera have helped the Hounds amass over 3,700 rushing yards on the season.
McMahon was the team leader last week against Center with 138 yards, with half of that coming on a 69-yard run that ignited Maryville's 28-point fourth quarter.
"Running the football on offense and staying multiple," said Webb of the offensive keys. "If the opportunity exists to throw the ball, we'll be able to do that. It kind of depends what they line up in defensively."
Maryville could be without one of its key two-way players, senior tight end/linebacker Ridge Yount.
He sustained an injury in the second half against Center and left the field in a walking boot.
Webb wouldn't comment on his status.