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Cardinals Repeat As District 16 Champs

By David Sharp
All stater Ethan Harris rushed for 184 yards on only eight carries leading South Shelby (6-4) to a 41-0 win over Knox County closing out Class 1 District 16 football action. Harris scored five touchdowns behind a dominating performance from the defending state champion Cardinal front lines.
Knox County senior Zach Parrish established a new school rushing record during the fourth quarter.
South Shelby shoved the Eagles out of the way, scoring their first touchdown on a two play 55 yard drive. Ethan Harris raced 40 yards behind nearly flawless blocking only 17 seconds into the contest.
Matthew Schuman booted extra points on the first five Cardinal touchdowns before leaving the contest in the second quarter due to injury.
Knox County (5-5) earned a first down on their opening drive, but were stuffed by a tough Cardinal defense. South Shelby wrested the football away on downs on the KCHS 37 yard line.
Ethan Harris capped the drive with a touchdown at the 6:37 mark of the first quarter. Knox County mounted their best drive of the first half, keeping the football for nearly six minutes. South Shelby stopped the Eagles at Cardinal 41 yard line on downs.
Ethan Harris scored again at the 11:34 mark of the second quarter. The Eagles could not move the ball and punted. Ethan Harris capped a 61 yard drive with a 50 yard touchdown dash at the 7:24 mark of period two.
Keenan Gillaspy got off a 40 yard plus punt after South Shelby stopped another KCHS drive. Harris cracked off a highlight reel run, dashing 61 yards on a one play drive at the 5:18 mark of the second quarter. South Shelby held a commanding 35-0 lead.
All state linebacker Bryce Johnston sacked Keenan Gillaspy on fourth down, giving the ball back to the birds on the Knox County 34 yard line.
South Shelby junior Adrian Cadell is a top candidate for the 2008 tailback job. Cadell scored the sixth and final touchdown of the contest at the 2:03 mark of the second quarter.  The kick failed and South Shelby took a 41-0 lead to halftime.
   Knox County did not have much better luck moving the football than in the first half until their final drive. South Shelby had another touchdown called back on a holding penalty. The clock ran continuously by the Missouri Mercy Rule the entire second half.
"We talked about getting off to a fast start," said South Shelby coach Rob Wilt. "Our line did a great job blocking up front. Our fullback did a great job. Ethan Harris put the ball in the end zone about every time he touched it for awhile. I thought we played about as well as we could offensively. Knox County is a good running team. I was proud of the way our defense shut them down, especially in the first half."
South Shelby inserted their JV with about six minutes remaining in the game. The deep Cardinal team drove the football to the Knox County nine yard line. The Eagles took the ball away on downs with 3:02 showing on the fourth quarter clock.
South Shelby finished with 26 rushing attempts for an unofficial 277 yards. The Cardinals went 4-8 passing for 59 yards.  Matt Schuman led all receivers with two catches for 30 yards. Knox County was 3-6 passing for 13 yards. The Eagles finished the game with 43 carries for 179 yards. South Shelby held a 14-10 unofficial edge in first downs on the night.
   Zach Parrish had 92 yards on 32 carries against the defending state champions’ varsity defense. Parrish cracked off a 48 yard run behind the right side of his offensive line. A 12 yard and then a ten yard run on the final play of the game propelled the senior running back to a 164 yard night on 38 carries.
Zach Parrish established a new Knox County High School record for single season rushing with 1,845 yards. Kent Eyler held the school record since 1980 with 1,829 yards.
Seniors Daniel McMahon, Kane Simmons, Zach Parrish, Ethan Hustead, John Greenley and Jeremy Hudson completed their Knox County football careers. McMahon was unable to play all season due to a back injury. Lucus Hudson and Andy Greenley were unable to play due to injury. Zach Parrish played his final game with a broken hand.
"They owned us up front," said Knox County coach Steve Ramer. "They ran right at us, plain and simple. They run almost the same exact plays we do."
"You have to give them credit. They played with a different mode and a different aggression than we did tonight.  You have to earn your way against South Shelby. I wish them the best of luck. It would be nice to see them go on and know you lost to a state champ."
South Shelby went unbeaten in district play, winning the District 16 championship. The Cardinals travel to Marceline, who beat Scotland County by a 45-6 margin in their final district game.
Putnam County staged a dramatic comeback and beat Milan on a last minute two point conversion run by Torey Weston. The play denied the Wildcats a trip to the playoffs by a 26-25 margin. Marceline won the district via the net point tie breaker.
Paris finished with an 8-2 overall record taking second in District 16 with a 37-11 win at North Shelby. Knox County had one of their better finishes in school history. The Eagles had their fifth even record season all time. Knox County was third in their district with a 1-2 record.
"We tied for the 12th best season in Knox County school history. That’s a step forward," said Coach Ramer. "We have to get better as a whole. I think it’s a confidence factor. We played well against certain teams because we know we have a chance."
The Eagles played 6-4 Milan tough to a 28-21 home loss. Knox County battled to the end against Paris but could not stop the powerful Coyote offense. The Eagles suffered lopsided losses to South Shelby, Clark County and Brookfield.
Knox County won two tremendous one point games at Putnam County (4-6) and North Shelby (3-7).  The Eagles dominated Scotland County (0-10) and Westran, pitching defensive shutouts in both contests. Knox County beat Schuyler County (1-9) by nine points in week two.
   The Eagles finished tied for third place in the Tri-Rivers Conference with a 4-3 conference mark. Milan and Putnam County shared third place with the Eagles.  Clark County was the conference champion followed by Brookfield. North Shelby was sixth in the conference followed by Schuyler and Scotland County.
Knox County has ten full or part time starters eligible to return next season. The Eagles also have several young players on their 2007 roster that saw signifigent playing time. Knox County had a good middle school football season. Future football prospects look bright. The Tri-Rivers as a whole may have one of their better quality football campaigns in years during the 2008 season.
Coach Ramer summed up the challenge for his team to reach the next level of play. "When we play teams that require us to play hard and mistake free football we don’t play quite the same way," said Ramer. "We don’t play with the same intensity and the same fire. We got in a catch mode against good teams."
"We need to come off the ball and hit people instead of catching (their hits)," said Coach Ramer. "We are trying to change that mentality. We have five teams that we felt confident against. Next year we have to feel confident against those other five teams.  We have to continue to move forward."
Coach Ramer talked about his departing seniors. "The seniors played a big part in our turn around. This season is one of the better ones in school history. Next year we need to get better than a 5-5 team and move up to one of the top two teams. We will just have to keep working."
"Zach Parrish showed a lot of heart tonight, and all season. He really wanted to play his last game of his senior season," said Ramer. "He had a pin in his hand. He played the whole game and never said a word. We even put him in on defense at the end, and he knocked down a pass and made a couple of tackles. That kind of heart we can build on."
"Ethan Hustead wishes he could play another year, and we wish we could have him," said Coach Ramer. "John (Greenley) and Jeremy (Hudson) came a long way. Two or three years ago I didn’t think they could be starters, but they just kept on working and getting better."
"Kane (Simmons) was injured much of the year," said Ramer. "We wanted to put him in the line but when Andy (Greenley) got hurt we put him at fullback. He picked it up really quickly. That is a lot of credit to him. He played where he had to play and got it done. Those seniors started us. They worked hard and preached the weight room."
"Our juniors have to see what our seniors have done and get better. That is the main thing we have to do, get better. Our seniors taught us how to win five games. We have to take that lesson and add three, four of five to that. "
"We learned for a half a season what it takes to win. We learned how much you have to play mistake free football and how much effort it takes to be a good team and beat a good team," said Coach Ramer.
"We are in the middle of the pack. We aren’t at the bottom anymore," said Ramer. "Now we have to take the next step and get to the top of the pack."