Ledger Sports Roundup 10/28/2022

By Jeremy Jacob, Sports Editor
Posted 10/29/22

North Callaway defense, O’Neal’s legs lead to 38-28 district win at Father Tolton

A shootout became a shutout on Friday night in Columbia.

After trailing 28-22 at halftime, North …

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Ledger Sports Roundup 10/28/2022


North Callaway defense, O’Neal’s legs lead to 38-28 district win at Father Tolton

A shootout became a shutout on Friday night in Columbia.

After trailing 28-22 at halftime, North Callaway shut out Father Tolton in the second half to win 38-28 and advance to the semifinals in the Class 2 District 2 Tournament at No. 1 seed and top state-ranked Blair Oaks (9-0) on Friday. After stopping two Trailblazer drives in the first half, North Callaway (7-3) stalled all four of Tolton’s drives in the second half. 

T-Birds advance to district semifinals

Quarterback Braydn O’Neal ran for 205 yards on 16 carries, threw for 80 yards on 8-for-9 passing with an interception and scored three touchdowns — two rushing. Tolton (7-3) finished with 98 yards rushing on 27 carries and went two yards into the negative in the second half. Kyle Pennell caught a touchdown pass and led the defense with two sacks and five tackles while AJ Siegel and Sergio Moreno each had a team-high six tackles.

Head coach Kevin O’Neal said after a scoring-heavy first half, the Thunderbirds made some adjustments to gain an advantage. 

“Our alignment a little bit and our coverages with our defensive backs (changed),” O’Neal said. “We put in a couple different blitzes there at halftime to get after the quarterback and get him off his spot because he was doing a great job, when he had time to throw, finding receivers. Our goal was to make him uncomfortable in the pocket, and I think we did that.”

Jake Ryan didn’t match O’Neal’s rushing totals in the first half — O’Neal had 102 yards compared with 33 yards for Ryan — but the Tolton quarterback matched O’Neal’s two touchdowns through 24 minutes. Ryan threw for 211 yards on 18-for-26 passing with a touchdown and interception and wasn’t sacked until Pennell reached him twice in the third quarter, taking him down alone the first time and leading a flock of Thunderbirds to swallow him up the second time.

North Callaway went 63 yards on 11 plays on the first drive of the second half, capped by running back Tucker Wright’s second touchdown, to take a 30-28 lead. The Trailblazers had fourth down and only a couple yards to go near midfield on their next drive, but their lineman, Ian Meyer, ran into a wall despite scoring a 20-yard touchdown on a similar play on fourth down in the first half.

Early in the fourth quarter, North Callaway had a short field starting at the Tolton 36-yard line before scoring on four plays. After showcasing his speed to the outside for most of the night, O’Neal broke through the middle for a seven-yard scamper for the 38-28 lead with about nine minutes left.

“He’s been great for us all year. He’s one of the best quarterbacks I’ve coached and am very proud to be his dad,” O’Neal said while getting choked up. “He did a great job. He led us again tonight as he’s been doing it all year.”

Ryan led the Trailblazers during their two-minute drill, completing 37-yard passes to James Lee and Sam Ryan. Siegel secured North Callaway’s trip to Wardsville on Friday to face undefeated Blair Oaks after picking off Ryan at the one-yard line. O’Neal said the Falcons will obviously present a challenge, but it’s a challenge the Thunderbirds are happy to have.

“It’s an opportunity for us to see where we want to be as a program and to come out and give our best effort,” O’Neal said. “I talk to these guys all the time. Not many times in life do you get opportunities. We have one coming up and make sure you play your hardest because you never know when that moment might be special.”

Paris season ends after 62-6 loss at state No. 1 Monroe City

Paris’ final football game of 2022 was a lopsided affair but demonstrated what a stable culture looks like.

The Coyotes lost 62-6 at Class top team Monroe City in the first round of the Class 1 District 6 Tournament on Friday night. Paris (1-9) was only able to score once in the second half on senior Leo Bounds’ two-yard quarterback sneak — first rushing touchdown of the season — after Gatlin Fountain ran the ball within the Monroe City five-yard line.

Head coach Joseph Utterback said Paris played in the No. 1 team in the state so a steep challenge was to be expected. Even though the result isn’t what the Coyotes wanted, the first-year head coach said facing Monroe City (10-0) provided his players the chance to see what hard work and the development of a culture could get them some day. Monroe City is a heavy-style running team that is able to be physical at the line, but one of Paris’ seniors made an interesting observation about the Panthers.

“It’s less about running the football, and they do that well,” Utterback said. “Gunnar (Fountain), one of our seniors, came up and he was like, ‘Coach, they are the most polite team I think we;ve played.’ I was line, ‘Yeah that’s what I’ve been preaching to you all season.’ You’ve got to play with class.”

After the game, Utterback said Monroe City invited Paris to partake in a prayer circle that showed some solidarity and civility. Starting with this offseason, he said Paris can build toward the point it can not only win, but in the right way.

“You want to be that No. 1 ranked team in the state then you gotta do it the right way,” Utterback said. “You’ve got to be a quality person. If you have all the talent in the world, but you don’t have the right attitude, then your talent doesn’t matter. The success comes when you can do it and do it the right way. Our kids were able to see it done the right way tonight.”

When that culture gets set, Utterback said better results should follow. He said he liked how his players went into Friday’s game mentally as all of the Coyotes were excited for the opportunity to play the best in Class 1.

Even at halftime, when the score was out of reach, Utterback said the Coyotes had a good attitude with seniors wanting to play to “go out the right way” in their high school careers but volunteering to shorten back their playing time for the sake of the future.

“The seniors said, ‘We also know you need to get these young guys ready because they’re going to be the ones playing for you next year.’ My senior quarterback looked at me and said, ‘Yeah I want to play, but you need to get (freshman) Luke (Ensor) ready because he’s going to be playing quarterback for you next year presumably.’ Once you start playing for each other, that’s when good things really start happening.”

Junior Gabe Goff, who joined the Coyotes more than halfway through the season, approached Utterback during the week, he said, and expressed his desire to play Friday because of not possibly playing next year. After experiencing being on a team in the Monroe City game, Utterback said Goff was sold on playing next year. 

A big reason why players want to be part of the Paris Coyote football program is because of the leadership, Utterback said.

“We’ve got a great senior class, and we’re going to lose a lot of talent,” Utterback said. “It’s a bummer because you don’t get to be their coach again. I’m going to miss those guys. It’s a great group to help me usher in the next era of Coyote football.”

Look for the full stories in the Nov. 2, 2022, edition of The Mexico Ledger or on the website on the same day.