By Mark Schremmer
Globe Sports Writer
The winning formula isn’t complicated. And it isn’t fancy.
But it does work.
Year after year, the high school football teams that are successful running the football and playing strong defense are often the ones competing deep into November.
This year is no exception.
All of the area teams remaining in the playoffs – Webb City, Monett, Lamar and Commerce, Okla. – pride themselves on their ground games and their stingy defenses.
The Webb City Cardinals advanced to the Missouri Class 4 semifinals with a 35-6 win over previously unbeaten Sullivan on Saturday. Webb City, the two-time defending state champion, improved its winning streak to 43 consecutive games.
The Cardinals scored three rushing touchdowns in the game, as well as a 77-yard return by Phoenix Johnson after a blocked field goal by Nate Brown. He also blocked a punt, which set up a 22-yard touchdown run by Cooper Smith.
In addition to the success on special teams, Webb City kept a Sullivan team that had scored at least 32 points in every game this season to six. That touchdown didn’t come until the fourth quarter after Webb City had already built a 35-0 lead.
The Monett Cubs continue to shine on defense, advancing to the Class 3 semifinals with a 49-6 win over Eldon on Saturday.
After beating Aurora 37-20 in the first round, Monett has kept its past three playoff opponents – Reeds Spring, Cassville and Eldon – to six points each.
Offensively, the Cubs dominated on the ground with 360 rushing yards in the win over Eldon, with 250 yards coming in the first half. Aaron Hall ran for 178 yards on 22 carries.
The Lamar Tigers were so successful with their running attack that they didn’t even attempt a pass in Saturday’s 55-14 Class 2 quarterfinal win over Liberty. Quarterback Levi Petersen and running back Jared Beshore each rushed for well more than 100 yards, while quarterback Tripp Tucker came close to the 100-yard mark. As a team, Lamar ran for nearly 500 yards.
However, their greatest success may have been on defense as the Tigers limited a Liberty team averaging 38.8 points to 14.
“Their offense put up 14, and I know they’ve been averaging a whole lot more than that,” Lamar coach Scott Bailey said. “So you have to look at what our defense has done. If you go all the way back to the Mount Vernon game, our defense has given up a touchdown a game. We gave up two (Saturday), but we gave up two to a very good offense.”
Lamar is now two wins away from defending its state championship.
The Commerce Tigers advanced to the second round of the Oklahoma Class 2A playoffs by beating Pawhuska 48-15 on Friday.
Commerce boasts a pair of 1,000-yard rushers in D.C. Chance and Parker Morgan. Chance took the lead role on Friday with 253 yards rushing, two catches for 43 yards and a load of tackles from his linebacker position.
So while high-flying offenses are what get on the highlight reels, these old principles of football are typically what win in the end. There’s nothing wrong with a good passing game. They are fun to watch and good for keeping teams honest.
However, to be playing well at this time of the year you also need to be able to control the line of scrimmage on both sides, tackle well and make plays on defense.
If you want some good examples of how this is done, just check out our area teams still left in the playoffs.