Contrary to what the state rankings showed all season, Class 3's best team resides in the northwest corner of Missouri.
Not metropolitan St. Louis.
Perceived as an underdog in a matchup of 1 vs. 2 in the state, Maryville finished off a perfect first season under head coach Matt Webb with a 35-22 win over John Burroughs in the Class 3 State Championship Game Friday at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.
After an interception by senior linebacker Paden Maudlin on the game's final play, Maryville poured on the field in celebration, its journey through an unblemished and largely unchallenged state championship season complete.
The Hounds hoisted the championship trophy and passed it around amongst each other, with some applying kisses to the state's most cherished piece of hardware.
The title is Maryville's first in Class 3 since 1982, second in the last four years and third all-time.
This one followed two consecutive second round playoff exits that fueled the senior-dominated Hounds throughout the season.
Burdened with state championship expectations since middle school, possibly the best senior class to ever come through Maryville fulfilled them on their final try.
"Together you can always do more," said Webb, a Maryville alum. "This is a true testament to a team victory and a team season going undefeated. We talk about the Mona Lisa and we talk about how it's perfection. We always hold this sign up and all the guys go crazy whenever we see that Mona Lisa. What that stands for is what we want to achieve. These guys, these players, the assistant coaches and the administration did that."
In attaining perfection, the Hounds sent previously unbeaten and No. 1 ranked John Burroughs (13-1) to its third consecutive championship game loss.
It came on a day where running back Ezekiel Elliott, an Ohio State commit and the state's top prospect, gained a new championship game record 419 all-purpose yards and scored three touchdowns.
Against a more physically dominant, well-rounded Maryville team, Elliott's immense flash and sizzle wasn't enough.
"This game, we wanted to be the better team," said Webb. "We knew they had an unbelievable tailback. He's awesome. If there's a way they could get him the ball, they did. He's a very good football player and they're a very good team. We told ourselves we're going to be the better team, and I believe that's what happened."
Relying mostly on its run game and a defense that continually stepped up in big spots, Maryville (15-0) never trailed in the game and went up as many as 18 points in the third quarter.
A pair of Elliott touchdowns pulled Burroughs within six late in third quarter, and the Bombers got the ball back in the fourth with a chance to take the lead.
Page 2 of 4 - They never did.
Maryville stopped a potential go-ahead scoring drive with six minutes left and put the game away with an 11-play, 75-yard scoring march that ate up all but 37 seconds of the remaining time.
Quarterback Jonathan Baker punctuated the victory with a 35-yard touchdown run in the final minute, setting off an enormous roar from the Hound faithful on hand.
At that point, the title was in the bag.
"Really, you can't put it into words," said Baker. "It's indescribable. It was just me in the open field and Derek Stiens. He was leading me through. It's just one of those moments that you literally will cherish forever and just sums up the game we had and how great it was."
In a vintage offensive performance, Maryville ran the ball 69 times in the game for a season-high 436 yards, third-most in Show-Me-Bowl history. This followed a game in which Maryville gained only 104 yards rushing and attempted 20 first half passes.
Sophomore running back Brody McMahon exploded for 213 yards and two long touchdowns, outdone in terms of production only by Elliott.
Senior back Derek Stiens picked up 96 yards and scored two touchdowns. Baker totaled 93 yards on the ground, exceeding his passing total of 57 yards on just nine attempts.
Maryville's 35 points were the most scored against Burroughs all season. It was the team's 14th time surpassing the 30-point barrier this year.
The Hounds also ran 78 plays in the game, second-most in title game history.
"We played a heck of a team today," said John Burroughs head coach Gus Frerotte, a former NFL starting quarterback. "They're big, fast, strong. They stuck to their guns and ran the ball for 436 yards. That's rough when their second and third backs are getting 100 yards on you. That makes for long day. We had our chances to put some points on the board, and it just didn't happen."
Burroughs' game total of 22 points was the second-most scored against Maryville all year, but marked a season-low on their end.
The Bombers had only one extended touchdown drive in the game.
Four others that entered Maryville territory yielded a total of three points.
Elliott scored all three of the team's touchdowns, including two of 75 yards or longer.
He ran for 218 yards on 18 carries and two scores, caught five passes for 72 yards and returned a kick-off 84 yards for a touchdown. His opening carry resulted in a 79-yard touchdown run, setting the tone for a monster day.
"We didn't want to run it up the middle," said Frerotte. "We wanted to tire them out, which we did. He's just a phenomenal player with a great mind for the sport."
Page 3 of 4 - Elliott's 290 yards on offense accounted for well over half of the team's total of 419.
Junior quarterback Nick Duncan threw for 150 yards and added 50 on the ground.
The Hounds shut down everyone else.
"We gave the ball to Ezekiel as many times as we could and he made a ton of plays, but you have to have other people step up and make plays for you to win championship games like that," said Frerotte.
Burroughs, which had trailed for all of 32 seconds in its first 13 games, spent most of its final 48 minutes playing catch-up to the Hounds.
Maryville scored the game's opening touchdown on a 4-yard run by Stiens with 8:01 left in the first quarter. This completed a 12-play, 87-yard drive that included only one passing attempt.
Burroughs answered right away with Elliott's 79-yard touchdown run on their first offensive play to tie the game at 7. Elliott gained his final bit of separation on the play with a huge crack back block against Maryville corner Joe Schreck.
The Hounds struck back with a long scoring run of their own from McMahon, this one covering 65 yards, to go ahead 14-7. The trading of scores stopped on the next possession when Maryville came up with a huge goal line stand, stuffing Elliott on fourth and two from the two.
The Bombers were set up first and goal at the one, but got off-kilter when Elliott lost a fumble at the goal line that was recovered for a seven-yard loss at the eight.
Elliott said a Maryville defender popped the ball loose with his helmet.
After stopping Maryville on three straight drives and losing a fumble in Hound territory on one of theirs, the Bombers cut the lead to 14-10 on a 26-yard field goal by Rushil Sheth with 28 seconds left in the first half.
Apparently thinking the Hounds were just going to run out the remaining time, Burroughs went to sleep on the next two plays and paid a hefty price.
McMahon returned the kick-off 36 yards to the 41 and then raced 59 yards around left end on a first down rushing play to make it 21-10 with 12 seconds left in the half.
A stunning turn of events to be sure.
"That's a back-breaker," said Frerotte. "They run the same play they've been running all day and we missed two tackles and the guy goes in for a touchdown. I don't know if it was guys thinking it was 20 seconds left and somebody else will make the play. If we go into the half 14-10, we're feeling pretty good. Otherwise, it's 21-10 and we got a little more of a mountain to climb."
Page 4 of 4 - The Hounds extended their lead to 28-10 with 5:27 left in the third on a powerful 1-yard run by Stiens.
The drive took 14 plays to cover 59 yards and ate up 4:58.
Choosing to kick deep to Elliott, the game's biggest lead diminished quickly.
Starting on the right sideline and cutting back across the field, Elliott returned the ensuing kick-off 84 yards for a touchdown, pulling the Bombers back to a 28-16 deficit.
He scored again from a yard out with 12 seconds left in the third, capping a 10-play 89-yard drive.
A second missed extra point kept Maryville's lead at 28-22.
In the fourth quarter, Maryville was driving to go back up two scores when Stiens lost a fumble for the first time all year, and the Bombers recovered at their own 29 with nine minutes left.
A 21-yard run by Elliott and a 14-yard run by Duncan moved the Bombers down to Maryville's 29-yard line.
The next three plays netted just four yards, bringing up a game-deciding fourth and six.
Duncan rolled to his left and tried to hit wideout Foyesade Oluo on a corner route, but the pass was broken up by senior corner Tyler Kenkel, giving the Hounds the ball back.
Kenkel came off his receiver to make the play.
It was his second lead-preserving pass break-up this year, with the earlier one coming against Savannah.
"That's kind of what flashed through my mind," said Webb. "Once again, he had some determination to go in and break up the ball and save a game. That's what he did."
The Hounds used up 5:04 on their next drive, with Baker picking up two huge first downs on roll out scrambles before finishing it with his elusive 35-yard touchdown scamper.
Six of Maryville's 11 carries on the drive netted at least five yards even though Burroughs knew exactly what was coming.
By the time Burroughs' quick-striking offense hit the field again, only 37 seconds remained and the championship was firmly in Maryville's grasp.
"I think it's a testament to the character and will power of our offensive line," said Webb. "One of our philosophies within the process is to be able to run the football when everybody in the stadium knows you're going to do it and be able to be successful. That's exactly what happened today."