Four area football teams advanced to the Missouri State High School Activities Association state championship game this past weekend with wins in their semifinal matchups. One team is looking to repeat as a state champion while the other three squads are attempting to win their first title.

In Class 5, Francis Howell traveled to southwest Missouri for a battle of the top two teams in the state and came away with a 35-13 win over top-ranked Carthage. The No. 2 ranked Vikings advanced to the state title game for the first time since 2012 and are looking to win its first football state championship.

Kendall Gurley got Howell off to a fast start in the first quarter with a pair of touchdown runs to put the Vikings out front 14-0 after one quarter of play. Howell pushed the advantage to 21-0 as Adam Shipley found Brett Norfleet on an 11-yard pass late in the second quarter. Carthage cut into the lead with less than two minutes left in the half on a long touchdown run to put the score at 21-7 heading into the halftime locker room.

Brady Hultman added to lead with a one-yard touchdown run with 8:11 remaining in the third quarter to extend the advantage to 28-7. Carthage answered on their next possession with a four-yard run to put the score at 28-13. The Vikings put the game away in the fourth as Hultman scored his second touchdown of the half on a three-yard run to give Howell a 35-13 lead. Hultman finished the day with 90 yards on the ground and a pair of touchdowns while Shipley completed six passes for 82 yards and a score to aid the Vikings in advancing to the title game against Ft. Osage Friday at 7 p.m.

Photo Credit – Emma Larkin, St. Dominic High School

It will be an all-St. Louis final in Class 4 as both St. Mary’s and St. Dominic won their semifinal matchups to advance to Faurot Field this Friday at 11 a.m.

The Dragons needed a second-half comeback to defeat defending Class 4 champion Smithville 37-23 as they look to win their second straight title after winning Class 3 last year. After trailing at halftime, the Dragons got their offense on track in the second half to come away with the victory. Jamal Roberts led the way for St. Mary’s with 144 yards on the ground while Chase Hendricks added another 76 yards rushing to aid in the victory.

In the other Class 4 semifinal, St. Dominic raced out to a lead in the first half and never looked back as the Crusaders defeated West Plains 42-14 to move on to their first state title game in school history.

After the Zizzers scored on their opening drive to take a 7-0 lead, Jackson Overton evened the contest up with a five-yard run midway through the first quarter to even the game at 7-7. Jackson Nickodym put the Crusaders ahead for good late in the quarter with an 80-yard return of a blocked field goal attempt to stake St. Dominic to a 14-7 advantage. Overton found the endzone again early in the second period on a 34-yard run to extend the Crusader lead to 21-7. West Plains answered on their next drive to cut the deficit to 21-14, but Sam Cross ran 53 yards to the endzone just two minutes later to push the lead to 28-14 at the half. St. Dominic put the game out of reach in the second half as their defense did not allow the Zizzers to find the endzone while Thomas Pulliam and Cross each scored on touchdown runs to put the Crusaders in the title game. Cross finished the afternoon with 203 yards on the ground while Overton added 108 yards rushing to pace the St. Dominic offensive attack.

In Class 3, Cardinal Ritter once again showed why they are the top team in the class as the Lions rushed past Pleasant Hill 54-35 to advance to their first title game since 2018. The Lions are looking for their first state championship after falling in the title game on two occasions and will take on Reeds Spring Saturday at 11 a.m.

The Lions cracked the scoreboard first as Fredrick Moore scored from 34 yards out to give Ritter a 6-0 lead. Pleasant Hill cut the lead in half late in the first quarter with a 33-yard field goal that made the score 6-3. Moore extended the Lions’ lead early in the second quarter with a 51-yard reception from Antwon McKay Jr., to push the score to 14-3. Pleasant Hill scored a pair of touchdowns to take a 15-14 lead late in the half, but Moore answered with a 75-yard kickoff return to the house as time expired to put the Lions ahead 22-15 at the break.

Cardinal Ritter blew the game wide open in the third quarter as Moore scored on a 36-yard run and then grabbed a 28-yard pass from Carson Boyd while Marvin Burks found the endzone with a 58-yard run and Ryan Boyd gathered a 10-yard strike from Carson Boyd to give the Lions a 48-27 lead heading to the fourth quarter. Burls put the game out of reach with a one-yard run with 4:37 left in the game to give Ritter a 54-27 lead. Burks finished the afternoon with 227 yards on the ground while Carson Boyd and McKay combined for 340 yards through the air to put the Lions in the title game.


Jim Powers
Jim Powers

Jim Powers has been covering prep sports in the St. Louis area for 15+ years and a part of the Missouri State High School Activities Association Championship Broadcasts for the past 11 years. Powers is also a part of the Fox 2 Verlo Mattress Prep Zone Friday nights at 10:10 during the football and basketball seasons. If you have a prep sports story, please contact Jim at Follow Jim at @hssportscaravan