Joplin High School's run to this Friday night's district football championship game against Kirkwood prompted some research in the football history books.
The Eagles (9-2) are playing the longest football season by a Joplin team in 34 years.
The last time a Joplin team played a 12th game was 1984 when Parkwood won a Class 4A semifinal game at undefeated and No. 1-ranked Harrisonville 21-16. The Bears lost to Jefferson City Helias 23-13 in the championship game the next week at Arrowhead Stadium.
The Bears trailed 16-14 in the semifinal game but mounted a 95-yard drive in the final four minutes. Jason Sohosky's 65-yard catch and run on a crossing pattern on a pass from Sean Sadler was the big play of the drive, and Jeff Flowers' one-yard plunge with 1:20 remaining gave Parkwood its only lead of the game.
This Friday night marks the first 12th game at Junge Field since 1982 when Parkwood beat undefeated Camdenton 17-15 on Lee Marcum's 31-yard field goal with 15 seconds remaining. The Bears owned a 14-0 halftime lead, but the Lakers scored on two of their first three possessions in the second half, and a 2-point conversion on a broken play gave them a one-point lead midway through the fourth quarter.
The Eagles are one of eight teams remaining in the playoffs for the first time since 1985 — the first year after Parkwood and Memorial high schools consolidated. And that just might be the most unique quarterfinal game ever played in Missouri since the prep football playoffs began 50 years ago.
Joplin lost that quarterfinal game to St. Louis University High 13-7 in overtime, ending a 9-2 season for the Eagles. And believe it or not, the game was played on a Tuesday morning.
The game was originally scheduled for Monday night at SLUH. The Joplin team and coaches spent part of the afternoon at Busch Stadium watching a quarterfinal game involving Hazelwood Central and its standout running back Tony VanZant, who signed with Missouri but had his college career hampered by a knee injury suffered during a summer all-star game. Joplin coach Dewey Combs said that afternoon that VanZant "was the best high school running back he ever saw."
Kickoff at SLUH was at 7 p.m., but a storm and lightning hit about 15 minutes before kickoff. The players never returned to the field from the locker rooms, and the game was postponed at 9 p.m. and rescheduled for 9 the next morning.
The storm left the SLUH field basically unplayable, so both head coaches agreed to move the game to an artificial surface at Lindenwood College in St. Charles.
The reason it had to start at 9 was prep soccer playoff games were scheduled for that afternoon. In fact, Joplin's score on a touchdown pass in the back of the end zone was first ruled incomplete because the official got confused between the football lines and soccer lines. He quickly corrected his call.
Joplin had first possession in overtime, but its fourth-down play was stopped inches short of the goal line. SLUH lined up in field-goal formation on its first play but ran a fake and threw a 10-yard touchdown pass. SLUH's plan was to fake the field goal on first down, throw an incomplete pass if necessary and then kick the field goal on second down.
JIM HENRY is executive sports editor of The Globe and receives correspondence at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Jim_Henry53.