Before the 2012 season, Maryville's status as an elite football program was up in the air after going through a coaching change and losing two of their best players from the year before to suspensions.
Despite both off-season occurrences, the Hounds not only remained elite, they produced what is likely to be remembered as the greatest season in school history.
With MHS alum Matt Webb taking over for Chris Holt, the Hounds blazed a trail of domination to a perfect 15-0 record, an outright MEC title and a Class 3 State Championship—their third in school history and second in the last four years.
The Hounds won by an average of 36 points, trailed in only one game all season and were involved in only two decided by less than 14 points.
One of those was the team's 35-22 state championship game victory over John Burroughs at the Edward Jones Dome.
Knocked out in the second round of the Class 3 playoffs by Richmond each of the past two years, Maryville had what it took this time to be a state championship team.
"It was totally the players buying into the system as far as saying we're going to do things together and we're going to give credit to each other," said Webb. "We're going to be humble and we're going to focus on what our goal is which is to win one game at at time. It really invigorated them to have some distractions in the off-season and to kind of prove to each other and to themselves and to everybody that they can accomplish that. They were able to do it."
Maryville's state championship viability became apparent to most during a 9-0 regular season that began with six wins of 36 points or greater.
Webb knew as far as back as the summer that he had something special on his hands.
And it only partially had to do with the talent that was coming back from the year before.
"In our off-season program, the attendance was totally optional and we had very good attendance," said Webb. "I pushed them through a lot of challenges and they responded to every one of them. I think every championship team has that character trait where what you do in the off-season carries directly over to the season."
With a starting lineup containing 16 All-MEC selections and five first team all-state selections, the Spoofhounds were the very definition of a complete team, one that lacked a single identifiable weakness.
For the first time on offense, they had both an elite passing game, with first team all-state senior
Jonathan Baker at quarterback, and an elite running game that produced 4,276 yards on the season.
Page 2 of 5 - Their defense was even more difficult to move the ball again, giving up 8.7 points per game, 81 rushing yards and 85 through the air.
The Hounds were plus-34 on the season in turnover margin and had five return touchdowns on special teams.
"This was as complete of a team as I've been around," said Webb. "There's been programs where we've been strong on offense or strong on defense and been younger on one side or the other and the other side had to carry it. This year, it was kind of well-rounded."
Always known as a dominant run team, Maryville became increasingly balanced and unpredictable on offense this year.
Some games, like Smithville and John Burroughs, they'd run on almost every play, and others like Kansas City Northeast and California, they threw a majority of the time out of their newly installed spread set.
Either way, the Hounds couldn't be stopped.
They averaged over 44 points per game and were held under 30 only once all season.
"We were fortunate to have a team a first team all-state quarterback who throws the ball well and we had some excellent receivers that could get downfield and were very good possession guys," said Webb. "You look at the California game, from a schematic standpoint, we were able to throw the ball in the first half and those guys were doing a great job playing pitch and catch. In the Dome, our goal going in was we knew John Burroughs had an excellent tailback and we told ourselves as a team we'd take those four horses in our backfield, including the quarterback running the football there at the end to the seal the victory, over any single star all day. That was our goal and that's what we wanted to do. The way they were playing allowed us to steadily move the ball downfield in our run-dominated formations and that was kind of those two games."
Unleashed like never before, Baker finished the year with 33 touchdown passes and only four interceptions, throwing to a long and athletic group of receivers that included Treyton Burch, Brody McMahon, Ridge Yount and Kyle Leslie.
This more than doubled his total from junior year when he threw 14 touchdown passes.
In the team's second round playoff win, Baker broke the school's single-season, career and single-game passing records.
He also rushed for 365 yards—third-most on the team—and 11 touchdowns.
"The thing Jonathan needed to do this year was be Jonathan and not be anything else than what he's capable of doing," said Webb. "Matt Houchin did an excellent job as our offensive coordinator. Jonathan's year can be directly correlated to Matt Houchin. I'm extremely proud of the way he coached him on a daily basis. Jonathan and him had a very good relationship. Jonathan deserves everything he got this year because of the way he worked in the off-season."
Page 3 of 5 - Maryville's ground game mostly revolved around McMahon, a first team all-state selection, senior Derek Stiens, a first-team All-MEC selection, and senior Peyton Mizera. They ran behind the state's biggest and best offensive line consisting of Shane Owens, Cain Farrell, Jackson Morrison, Caleb Mather and Eric Sigman, all of which made All-MEC.
Stiens was the only returner from the 2011 backfield and led the Hounds with 1,423 yards rushing and 23 touchdowns.
With no varsity experience, McMahon came out of nowhere to finish with 2,649 all-purpose yards and a team-high 28 touchdowns, filling the void left by Cole Forney and Tyler Walter.
In the state championship game, he went for 213 yards and busted loose for two touchdowns, securing his spot on the all-state team.
"Brody was a freshman here last year and the situation happened in the off-season where he was the next man up," said Webb. "We threw him in there in camp and said here you go. I never had one talk with Brody about being anything but himself. I don't care if he's a sophomore or what he was years-wise. I knew what he could do athletically and talent-wise. Brody just did what the coaches asked him to do and he did it a high level. Again, that credit goes back to coach Houchin and the offensive coaches because they did a great job with all those guys this year."
Maryville's defense contained nine All-MEC selections and two that made first team all-state—Mather and safety Trent Nally.
The Hounds held 12 of 15 opponents to a single score or less and only two cracked 20 points against them.
In each of the team's four games decided in the second half, Maryville's defense made at least one key stand.
Two of them, including the last one that preserved a six-point lead against John Burroughs, featured pass break-ups by Tyler Kenkel.
"It goes back to the kind of drive and determination those guys have, what we put in the summer program to be the best conditioned team" said Webb. "Playing defensive line, it takes a lot of courage in the fourth quarter to make stops when you've been playing both ways and you're tired. A lot of credit goes to them. The pivotal stops were made by the character of the individual guys on the team."
Maryville came into the year ranked No. 2 in Class 3 and made a pretty strong statement in the opener with a 40-0 win over Lawson.
The routs kept coming over the next five weeks.
All of Maryville's first six games featured a running clock in the second half.
While impressive, that level of domination was perceived by some as a byproduct of a soft early schedule.
Page 4 of 5 - The Hounds proved otherwise over the final three weeks, sweeping a gauntlet of games against Class 4 opponents Smithville, Savannah Lafayette.
The win over Savannah was their first since 2009. The win over Lafayette made them outright conference champions.
Lafayette was the only team to hold a lead against Maryville all year and did so as deep as the fourth quarter.
The Hounds scored the game's final 13 points on a fourth and five touchdown pass from Baker to Leslie and a 75-yard touchdown pass to McMahon.
"I think they were both big and they were both big in different ways," said Webb. "Savannah, I've said many times before is our arch-rival and will continue to be. These guys hadn't beaten them in a couple years and that was special for our team to go down and get that Traveling Trophy. Going into Lafayette, we didn't want to tie. These guys had tied for the conference last year. They wanted to be selfish and go home with it themselves. It was a huge win for us. Both of those games were really pivotal in our season as a whole."
Seeded first in Class 3 District 8, Maryville won all three district games by at least 41 points to claim its fifth consecutive district title.
It got much tougher for the Hounds in the quarterfinals, but they were able to pull away from Center in the fourth quarter for a 49-26 win.
Back at home for the semifinals, Maryville decked California 42-7, sending the Hounds on to the state championship game to face No. 1 John Burroughs.
Maryville got up as many as 18 points on Burroughs in the third quarter before two touchdowns by four-star recruit Ezekiel Elliott made it a six-point game in the fourth.
After a fumble gave Burroughs the ball back, Maryville stopped a go-ahead touchdown drive and scored again with under a minute left on a Baker 35-yard run touchdown run to seal the victory.
When the clock hit zero, the Hounds were officially Class 3's best.
"I wouldn't be scared to put this group against anybody," said Webb. "They're a talented group."
Maryville loses a large portion of that talent, with 21 seniors and 15 set to depart.
Three of those—Baker, Mather and Leslie—should have a chance to continuing playing at the next level.
The Hounds are left with seven returning starters, three of which made all-state, and a host of others that gained valuable experience in their many blowouts.
"Tradition never graduates," said Webb. "One of our stories this year is the grizzly bear marks his territory and every bear that comes into the territory has a choice on whether to flee or fight. We've set the bar pretty high. We're going to have a great off-season program starting in January and that's really the only thing we're going to focus on. I don't know who's going to be starting. Every position is open for battle from quarterback all the way down to the defensive line and secondary. It's going to be a new identity. Every team is different."
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