FAUCETT, Mo. — Once again, the Mid-Buchanan Dragons are in the state semifinal round.
Once again, their opponent stands to be the toughest Class 1 opponent of the season as Aaron Fritz’s team travels across the state to meet the most vaunted program in Missouri history.
The Valle Catholic Warriors (12-1), once holders of a nation-leading 51-game winning streak, are home to a state-leading 14 football titles. Only Webb City (14) and Jefferson City (10) have reached double-digit championships.
Valle, nestled in mideastern Missouri on the Mississippi River, won five titles in the ‘80s, four in the 90s, and snapped a 15-year streak without a championship by adding crowns in ‘10, ‘11, ‘13, ‘14 and ‘15.
“I think they have the most state football titles in the history of Missouri. It’s gonna be a challenge,” Fritz said. “We’re gonna be big-time underdogs because where we’re going and how far we have to travel, but we’re kinda looking forward to that, I think.”
The Dragons (12-1) advanced to their second straight semifinal game with a thumping of South Harrison, while the Warriors needed every minute to defeat Thayer in the quarterfinals. Valle trailed late in the fourth until a touchdown pass and game-sealing interception returned the Warriors to the semis after failing to get out of the districts a season ago.
Mid-Buch is looking to get over the hump after falling to Class 1 runner-up Lincoln 14-13 in last year’s semifinal in Faucett. The Dragons will do so with a dynamic spread offense lead by junior all-state quarterback Javan Noyes, who remains a threat to score with his arm or legs on any play. The likes of Christian Scaggs and Drew Russell remain his favorite targets through the air, while TJ Runyan proved to be among the top running backs in northwest Missouri.
“It really makes us very dynamic,” Noyes said. “You never know when a big play’s gonna come up. It makes us hard to defend.”
The Warriors are averaging 48 points per game and giving up only 10.5 per outing. They have allowed just 26 points in four playoff games.
The best connection has been quarterback Chase Dunlap and receivers Owen Viox and Jayden Gegg, who had 131 yards on three catches and the game-winning reception in the quarterfinals. Dunlap threw for 339 yards and two scores against Thayer, though the ever-mobile QB was limited on the ground with a knee injury and hindered him with three interceptions.
Valle also held Thayer to just 159 yards of offense.
“They run a spread offense. They fly around on defense,” Fritz said. “It honestly looks like ourselves — same type of offense, very similar defense. It’s gonna be interesting who can go out, be more physical and contribute in the little ways — flying to the football, making tackles, doing those little things you wanna do because the offense and defense are similar.
“Who’s gonna go out and make that first strike and set the tempo of the game and change momentum?”
The Dragons and Warriors will meet at 1 p.m. today at Fr. John Dempsey Field.