(Mound City) --- Mound City's mission to repeat as Missouri 8-Man state champions lives on. The Panthers kept their dreams alive with a 48-26 defeat of previously unbeaten East Atchison in a Missouri 8-Man district final Friday night heard on KMA-FM.
"It means a lot to our guys, they came out tonight and played really hard," Mound City Coach Taylor Standerford told KMA Sports.
Mound City's triumph comes 42 days removed from a 58-50 defeat at the hands of East Atchison on October 4th.
"Since the day we walked off the field it's been on our mind that we were going to come back here and take the dub on their field," senior TJ Hopkins told KMA Sports after the win.
Mound City's victory came on the heels of a strategy stereotypical of Midwestern November football: an efficient running game and physical defense. The Panthers offense churned for 290 total yards, all of which came on the ground.
"That's been our staple for the long time is being able to run the ball. As well as we ran tonight, we did not need to throw the ball," Standerford said.
Defensively Mound City constantly put pressure on East Atchison Quarterback Jake McEnaney. Defensive lineman Blake Hayes resided in the Wolves' backfield throughout most the night and tallied three sacks.
"One of our main points was to get in their face and work as a team to pound them down," Hayes said.
The Panthers also forced McEnaney to throw five interceptions, matching his entire 2019 season total. Landon Poppa hauled in two picks, including one he returned for a touchdown. Dylan George, Tony Osburn and Wil Young also snagged interceptions.
"Our guys just did a good job of being in position to make those interceptions," Standerford said.
George did more than just corral an interception Friday night. The senior running back also ran for 181 yards and two touchdowns and had a 73-yard kick return touchdown in the third quarter.
"They just came off a big touchdown. We felt like we a little bit down and I felt like I needed to up the team," George said.
"He played his heart out. We've known that he could do that from the beginning of the year," Standerford said of George.
East Atchison scored the game's first touchdown with a three-yard run by McEnaney to take a 6-0 lead. Poppa's 45-yard interception return tied the game at 6 early in the second quarter. Mound City then took advantage of two more interceptions and rode a 28-6 lead into halftime. East Atchison attempted to comeback, but Mound City responded to each touchdown with one of their own to ultimately take the 48-26 victory.
McEnaney played a hand in all four East Atchison touchdowns: three rushing and one passing. Gus Hurst was on the receiving end of McEnaney's touchdown pass. The defeat brings the Wolves season to a close with a record of 10-1.
The next stop on Mound City's tour to repeat is a home semifinal contest against Drexel (10-2), who defeated Appleton City 65-6 Friday night.
"We're going to have to stop the run game. They have a great run game and we're going to have to stop that up front," Standerford said.
The complete interviews with Hayes, Hopkins, George and Coach Standerford can be found below.