By Cody Thorn
East Buchanan is trying to do something at the Class 1 level that hasn’t been done in more than a decade: repeat as a state champion as a public school.
The Missouri State High School Activities Association's smallest classification in football hasn’t seen a public school repeat as the state champions since Orrick did so in 2007 and then 2008. Since then, Valle Catholic has repeated as a state champion, winning 2010-11 and then 2014-15.
The Bulldogs won the school’s first football title last year, after losing in the 2004 finals.
“It means a lot to these boys and for this community,” Bulldogs coach Dan Ritter said of returning to the state finals. “This community runs deep with football pride and to go to back-to-back state championships and represent this community feels great for these players.”
East Buchanan, located in Gower, east of St. Joseph, has allowed only 20 points this postseason, which started with three straight shutouts, including a 21-0 win over a Mid-Buchanan team that was 10-1 entering the game. The defense gave up six points in a win against a previously unbeaten Gallatin in the quarterfinals. The Bulldogs (13-1) rolled to a 41-14 win over Duchesne last week in the semifinals.
The defense has been led by Ethan Bailey, who has 128 tackles, 17 TFL and six sacks and Jack Archdekin, with 119 tackles and a team-high in TFL (18) and sacks (eight).
East Buchanan quarterback Gage Busby has thrown for 1,734 yards and 19 touchdowns and a completion rate of 65 percent.
The top focus for the Blackhawks will be trying to contain all-stater Trevor Klein, who has 2,200 all-purpose yards and 42 total touchdowns.
“Trevor is the man but he’s learned to give credit and take the blame,” Ritter said. “He gives most of the credit to his offensive line, and I second that. Our o-line has been playing outstanding. I think both deserve praise.”
Added Adrian coach Matt Davis, “(East Buchanan) is extremely talented. They have lots of weapons on offense who can beat you multiple ways.”
While Klein will get a steady dose of carries, Adrian will run the ball a lot as well.
The Blackhawks (12-2) have been led by Colton Miller, the team’s quarterback. He has thrown for 870 yards and 15 touchdowns, but he's been a star at running the ball in recent weeks.
In back-to-back weeks he eclipsed 100-plus yards and has scored four of his 11 touchdowns in the quarterfinals and semifinals. Miller’s number on the ground the past two games: 27 carries and 277 yards.
Hunter Bailey is the featured back for Adrian, located on Interstate 49, south of Harrisonville. He has 1,611 yards and 30 touchdowns and has run for 100 yards or more in nine of the 14 games. Had a season-best 237 yards in a loss to Lincoln. After missing the Lincoln game, a 19-16 loss, Bailey rattled off four straight 100-plus yard games before having only one carry last week — a 65-yard touchdown.
“Adrian runs the I-formation like nobody’s business,” Ritter said. “They have a dominant offensive and defensive line, a mobile quarterback, and a powerful fullback. They have a chip on their shoulder. We do not underestimate them and we know their potential. We will not take them lightly.”
Davis noted this game will be special for the community as well. Each year MSHSAA recognizes past championship games. So, members of the 2002 Class 1A championship team were already planning on being in Columbia for those festivities.
Now, with the team back in the state title game for the first time since then, there is an extra level of excitement, Davis said.
“Everyone at school and around the community is really excited,” Davis said. This town loves football and we have had so much community support. Our town has been so supportive. The boys take a lot of pride in what our traditions are and work very hard to play in a way the community will respond and respect them for.”
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