The Central football team looks to push through a familiar obstacle on Friday in the Class 3 state quarterfinal round against Lutheran South.
The Rebels defeated Salem last Friday to earn their sixth straight district crown, but have failed to progress beyond the next playoff game in five previous five attempts.
If Central (12-0) finally breaks through, it will face the winner between Mt. Vernon and Eldon in the state semifinals.
The Rebels continue to roll while overcoming the hindrance of several injuries that have consistently piled up.
Senior captain and defensive end Triston Campbell has been unavailable all season following knee surgery, and Ezra Sidebottom has since missed several games with his own knee issues.
Primary return man Dawson Day has been sidelined due to a hand injury, and sophomore Dylan Corcoran recently underwent an appendectomy. Lineman Tanner Friend missed most of last week's action after hurting an ankle.
However, the Rebels maintain a solid running game behind elusive senior tailback Tyreece Welch, who is often relieved by a combination of Tanner Smith and Jake Glenn.
Quarterback Jace Bland offers an experienced dual-threat, and packs power when deciding to scramble from the pocket.
Will Hopkins has proven to be Bland’s primary target this season, and capitalizes on each chance to pick up yards after the catch.
Junior Jake Casey provides an additional threat downfield, and recorded 110 yards plus a touchdown on four receptions against Salem in his first year for the Rebels.
Although somewhat battered, the Central defense has remained aggressive in the postseason. Seniors Holden Mayberry and Ethan Weiss lead the front four, and are supported by hard-hitting linebackers Evan Sidebottom and Glenn.
Valle Catholic secured its 10th consecutive Class 1, District 1 title with a victory over mistake-burdened Hayti last Friday.
The Warriors will travel on Saturday to face Thayer, which they defeated 35-8 last year in the state quarterfinals before falling to eventual state champion Penney.
Valle Catholic (10-1) was handed its lone setback of the season by Class 2 powerhouse Lamar 55-7, which ended the historic 51-game win streak of the Warriors last fall.
Senior quarterback Mason Skaggs leads the Valle Catholic offense with speed and accuracy from the pocket. His leading receivers include senior Chris Loida and junior slot-tailback hybrid Carter Roth.
Senior linebacker Brendan Meyer and defensive end Jacob Bieser highlight the Warriors’ stingy resistance. Juniors Tyler Blum and Roth pair up in the secondary to battle against the opposing passing attack.
The winner between Valle Catholic and Thayer will host either Lincoln or Lockwood in the state semifinals.
The Warriors are seeking their 15th state title in program history. The Show Me Bowl will take place at Faurot Field in Columbia.