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Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014

Ash Grove will send Hayti home en route to dome

Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Just one SEMO Conference team is still alive in the high school football playoffs.

Not Monroe Hicks or those dazzling Cape Central Tigers, not Aaron Bidewell or those polished Portageville Bulldogs. It's the lickety-split Hayti Indians.

With a win over Ash Grove on Saturday, David Gilmore's squad would qualify for the Class 1 state championship at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.

It has been an incredible year for the Indians, no doubt about it. They check into Saturday's semifinal with a record of 10-1, having outscored the competition 366 to 159.

They have an explosive offense, a relentless defense and the kind of athleticism and team speed normally only found at large schools.

Hayti showed how good it could be in Monday's 44-21 quarterfinal win over Tipton. The Indians used every weapon in their arsenal, accumulating 444 yards of offense.

On the other side of the ball, Hayti's defense held the explosive Cardinals to just 223 total yards.

I think the secret to Hayti's success is their depth situation. Everybody seems to have a competent replacement.

You shut down running back Torey Nelson, here comes Jason Covington. If he can't do the job, Danny Fane can.

If you do somehow stop the running game, you've still got an outstanding passing game to worry about. The Indians go no-huddle, throwing darts all over the field.

Quarterback Pete Peterson has thrown for 1,341 yards, averaging 18 yards per completion with 19 TDs. If Peterson gets hurt, they've still got Brian Lacey.

Hayti's backup has better numbers than some starting QBs in the area, throwing for 357 yards and five TDs.

Their targets are tall, athletic receivers with good hands and blazing speed. William Moore and Llewellyn Borders are the most notable wideouts, but the Indians also has proven receivers in Fredrino Robinson, Timmy Grissom, Danny Mack and Nelson out of the backfield.

Just how balanced is this offense?

Hayti's 61 touchdowns this year have come from 14 different people.

An incredible year indeed.

But if anybody is going to spoil all the fun, it's going to be Ash Grove. Located 25 miles northwest of Springfield, the Pirates have been equally dominant this year.

Ash Grove is 11-1, with their only loss coming to Springfield Catholic. On Monday, the Cardinals toppled the favorite in Class 1, upsetting Lockwood on the road 33-28.

Ash Grove pulled through in the clutch, converting two fourth-down conversions in the final three minutes.

Quarterback Jarod Floyd did the most damage, throwing for 240 yards and running for 300.

With him behind center, the Cardinals use their passing game to set up their running game. On the season, he has thrown for 2,400 yards with 28 TDs.

Jeremy Nicholson is Ash Grove's top receiver with 1,200 yards and 11 TD catches. His little brother Shane Nicholson is nothing to sneeze at either with 700 receiving yards.

Junior Landon Small is the team's top running back with 1,200 rushing yards and 29 TDs. The Cardinals are scoring 43 points per game and giving up 8.

So there you have it.

Two explosive Class 1 teams take the field at Ash Grove on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. If this game were played at Hayti, I would take the Indians. Since it's not, I'll take the Cardinals.

Either way, it should be a great game.

Final score: Ash Grove 30, Hayti 28