The best time of the year is usually reserved to describe the feel of the holidays. Who doesn’t like the food and family that materialize over Thanksgiving? Even the biggest humbug can’t help but smile as Christmas approaches.
I contend that if you live in a community like Maryville, this weekend is the greatest time of the year, especially if you are a sports junkie like my son, Sam, and I claim. I’ll give you a little preview of what I mean.
Just like Santa begins his journey on Christmas Eve, the festivities begin at one Friday afternoon. That is the exact time Justin Pitts and his defending national championship Bearcat basketball team takes the floor for the first time since last March.
If you need a reminder, last March 25th the Northwest men’s basketball team defeated Fairmont State by 10 points in a packed arena in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Most of those gathered that afternoon wore Bearcat green.
Here’s a trivia question for you. Which team gave the Northwest men’s basketball team their closest post-season game last year? As you are thinking about that question and the fact that the national championship game was a 10-point spread, you have to go all the way back to the very first post-season game.
I’ll give you a couple of hints. Northwest played this team twice. They won the first game 87 – 52 and Justin Pitts had 31 points. The two teams met in Maryville in the first round of the regional tournament. Northwest won again, but the score was 79 – 74 in overtime. One thing was the same. Pitts scored 33 points in this game.
Did I hear an Upper Iowa answer out there? Look at this thing from Upper Iowa’s standpoint. They started and ended last season with a loss to the Bearcats. They recruit hard, practice hard, the team have all the enthusiasm that goes with the starting of the season. Who do you play? You got it; Northwest Missouri State, led by last year’s national player of the year, Justin Pitts. That is the player who averaged 32 points per game against you last year.
Exactly 24 hours later, the Maryville Spoofhound football team will kick off in the quarterfinal round of the Missouri State Playoffs. This is not an unusual game for the Maryville football team. After all, the Spoofhounds have reached this game each of the last six years.
The one quarterfinal game I’ll never forget is when an undefeated Spoofhounds team traveled to Oak Grove to play a two-loss team. Even the Oak Grove press box work force didn’t think their team had much of a chance.
After all, Maryville was the two-time defending state champion. No one had played them close that year. The team was led by Brody McMahon. Brody was in his third all-state season. As a junior, he was named the Class 3 Offensive Player of the Year. His state final performance had been a major factor in defeating Ezekiel Elliot’s team in the state champion game.
Oak Grove was playing hard for their coach. Their all-state running back, Aaron Graham, was healthy. The score stayed close until just before half when Oak Grove exploded for two touchdowns. Graham rushed for 345 yard in 25 carries. Oak Grove scored 69 points and Maryville’s 42 game winning streak was over.
Why do I bring up a memory that surely must prove this is not the best time of the year? It is proof that this is the best time of the year. The shoe is on the other foot this year. Maryville goes into the quarterfinals Saturday afternoon with two losses. They also maybe the hottest team of the eight teams left in Class 3.
They face a Center team loaded with athleticism, just like Lafayette High School. What happened when Maryville faced their MEC rival? They held the Irish to 12 points and provided their momentum headed into postseason.
If Maryville can get by Center and the number one team in the state, McClure South, wins, Maryville will play their semifinal game at the Hound Pound next week. Does anyone need to be reminded how long it’s been since Maryville has lost at home?
Why stop at the Hound Pound? The same time the Spoofhounds begin their quarterfinal game, the Northwest Missouri State football team plays their last regular season game at Missouri Western. After losing the last two games, how can the Bearcats look beyond the Western game?
It’s easy for me to see. Northwest is still ranked sixth in the region, which would put them in the playoffs. If they can squeeze a win over their arch-rivals, the Bearcats can once again defend their national championship.
You might think this sounds crazy, but I think the Bearcats can win a third straight national championship. They definitely have the defense to do it.
Did you realize that not a single team in the first 10 games has scored more than 20 points against them?
I’m not sure there’s a team in the nation in that can score three touchdowns against Rich Wright’s lock-down defense. All that has to happen now is for the Bearcat offense to score just three little touchdowns in each of the rest of their games.
I’m just guessing here, but I think the 12 points the team scored last week in the 13 – 12 loss to Fort Hays will be a huge motivation. The Bearcat offense will explode this weekend and take it all the way to the National Championship game in Kansas City.
I’m pretty sure not a single game that makes the post-season wants to face Northwest. Who has more post-season experience that the Bearcats, both the players and the coaching staff?
I almost forgot that Sunday, the Northwest Missouri State basketball team will play their second game of the year. I forgot to mention where their first two games are played. That would be in a classic at Missouri Western.
The Bearcats fans may help the St. Joseph economy this weekend. Just like shopping for Christmas. It’s the best time of the year.