Football Prediction: state championship edition

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The Bruins kickoff return team meets with special teams coach Jamie Scholten. Rock Bridge beat Fort Zumwalt West 28-19 for the District Championship on Friday night. Photo by Erin Kleekamp

Brett Stover

Can the Bruins upset the top-ranked Wildcats to take home the title?

Rock Bridge (8-5) vs Blue Spring (13-0)

7:30 p.m. Friday Nov. 29 in the Edward Jones Dome (St. Louis)

Spread: Wildcats by 18.2

Overview:

Raise your hand if you thought the Bruins were going to the state championship when the playoffs began. Now put it down, because you’re probably lying.

When I wrote the first preview of the playoffs, I would not have put money on my writing this one. Of course I knew it was possible, but after RBHS’s four-game losing streak to close the regular season the Bruins’ chances of having a run like one would have suspected when they started at No. #4 in the Class 6 preseason poll, eventually climbing as high as No. 2, was next to nothing. However, the Rock Bridge squad that will take the field in the Edward Jones Dome on Friday looks much more like the one that broke into the top 50 in the nation, rather than the one that now sits much, much lower.

Breaking it down:

The Wildcats have won their last 23 games, with their last loss coming 35-28 at the hands of Lee’s Summit West last September. They are ranked No. 1 in Missouri and No. 7 in the nation by MaxPreps’ computer-based Freeman Rankings. Blue Springs won last year’s Class 6 state championship.
The Bruins have had a season full of ups and downs – a cliché, I know – and have been the underdog in every game this postseason. However, their 8-5 record shouldn’t be taken at face value. They are No. 9 in Missouri (No. 4 in Class 6) and No. 397 in the nation.
The Wildcats must balance their defense, keeping the Bruins’ two standout wide receivers Zach Reuter and Alex Ofodile in check, while still stopping Eli Stout on the ground.
The Bruins must fix their struggles with Batt last week in order to stop running back Dalvin Warmack. However, they still must watch out for Darrius Sheperd as a receiving target. Plus, Logan Twehous needs to throw the ball to his own players more than last week.

Key stats:

Bruins:

  • QB-First: Logan Twehous needs to not throw interceptions if he wants to win. I’ve touched on this enough. During the season Twehous has thrown for 3,457 yards to the tune of a 59.95 percent completion rate. He has 39 passing touchdowns and 19 interceptions (only 13 before last game). His QBR barely dropped, though, and sits at 159.71. Additionally, he has added 384 yards and 5 touchdowns on his feet, good for an average of 3.4 yards.
  • WR-Zach Reuter, who had an astounding 162 yards receiving last week, counting for two touchdowns and a two-point conversion, bringing his total to 1,483 yards (19.8 yards per reception) and 23 touchdowns. Junior Alex Ofodile, a top prospect in his class  with offers from at least a dozen FBS schools, added 143 yards and another two touchdowns, totaling 1,263 and 14.
  • RB-Senior Eli Stout had a big game last week, rushing for 142 yards and a score, crossing the 1,000-yard mark. On the season Stout has 1,031 yards and 8 touchdowns, averaging 5.7 yards per carry.
  • DLine-Senior Ross Alexander leads the Bruins with 149 tackles and 7.5 sacks. Brody Watson adds 6.5 sacks, Hayden Johnson adds five. Matt Troyer  and Zach Reuter are tied for the team lead with three interceptions. The Bruins have 28 sacks and 13 interceptions total.

Wildcats:

  • QB-Junior Ian Brown threw the ball for five touchdowns last week against Eureka, and has 30 on the season. While his total yardage, 2,308, is less gaudy than Twehous’, the transfer from Rockhurst has only four interceptions. Brown’s completion rate is 62.5% and has a 199.46 QBR on account of his ball control. He has only 37 rushing yards (0.7 average) on the season, however.
  • WR-Darrius Sheperd leads the Wildcats with 1,140 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns, averaging 17.8 yards. Kaleb Prewett adds 624 yards and 10 touchdowns.
  • RBDalvin Warmack, last year’s Gatorade Missouri Player of the Year and K-State commit, poses even more of a threat to the Bruins than Batt did last week. He has a ridiculous 2,152 rushing yards (30 touchdowns) to go with 347 receiving yards (3 TD). That’s 2,499 total yards and 33 touchdowns.
  • DLine-Elijah Lee has nine sacks (77 tackles), while Gunnar Strickland (84 tackles) and Khali Davis (72 tackles) each have five. The Wildcats have a total of 33 sacks. Kaleb Prewett leads the team with five interceptions, with a team total of 18.

Extra points:
In 2006, Blue Springs knocked then-first ranked Rock Bridge, largely thought to be on their way to a state championship, out of the running under the old playoff system.
The Bruins have two state championships in four appearances. Their last appearances was a loss to Webb City in 1993, and their last win was 7-6 victory over Camdenton on Faurot Field in 1977.
The Wildcats also have four championship appearances, though they are 4-0 in these contests. They won last year’s final 42-3 over Francis Howell in the Dome.

Prediction:

I’ve picked against the spread many times during the playoffs, but I haven’t yet calculated a spread as wide as this. By my calculations, Blue Springs should win by more than two touchdowns. That seems reasonable, given how the Wildcats have utterly dominated their opponents so far this postseason. However, the Bruins have the intangibles, those non-statistical things like momentum and grit and resilience.  This means while Blue Springs probably will win, Rock Bridge can win.
Conventional wisdom says the Wildcats should win, but conventional wisdom also said Rock Bridge should have lost in the first round.
And the second round.
And the district championship.
And the semifinal against a team that was 12-0 and had never lost a semifinal in 15 tries.
Conventional wisdom says a team that’s 4-5 and on a four-game losing streak shouldn’t make it to the championship.
Although I’ll be standing in the stands, yelling until my voice is raw and then yelling some more, playing in the pep band and praying for a Bruin win, I think the Wildcats win this one.
I hope I’m wrong.
Commentary By Brett Stover
The game will be broadcast on Fox Sports Midwest and Fox Sports Kansas City.