SMITHVILLE, Mo — Smithville has had its fair share of challenges on the gridiron throughout the 2018 season.
First, the Warriors took on the task of earning a share of the Suburban Blue Conference as a first-year member. When district play started, they squared off with Kearney and Platte County for the second time.
Smithville (12-1) ended up beating both opponents, advancing on to a matchup with Warrensburg in the MSHSAA Class 4 quarterfinals. The Warriors passed the Tigers 45-6 last Friday, setting them up for a trip to take on MICDS at 1 p.m. Saturday in St. Louis.
The winner advances to the state championship.
“It’s another challenge,” coach Jason Ambroson said. “It’s another obstacle to climb that’s been put in front of us. The way that my kids have been handling those challenges and the way they’ve been embracing them, I think it’s a great opportunity and a great experience for the kids in our program.”
The Rams (12-1) almost didn’t make it to this point, having to score two touchdowns in the final minute to stun Hannibal 34-21 last Saturday.
Freshman quarterback Reagan Andrews connected with senior wide receiver Grand Bundy Jr. on both of the scores.
Similar to Smithville, the Rams have one loss to their name this season. Coincidentally, MICDS’ flaw occurred one day after the Warriors fell to Platte County in Week 6. Both programs fell by one point.
Ambroson sees several similarities between the two semifinalists.
“They’re a lot like us,” Ambroson said. “The kids are about the same size, same athletic ability, just very similar in some of the things we do. Very difficult, hard-nosed. The team plays very hard.”
The Warriors are looking to punch themselves a ticket to their first state championship appearance since 1969, where they fell to 24-0 to Cass-Midway at Raytown High School.
This week’s semifinal game marks the first time the Warriors have had the opportunity to spend Thanksgiving weekend together in recent history. Having the opportunity to do such is something Smithville has been working on since Ambroson became head coach in 2015.
The Warriors started off slow in last week’s game, but eventually forced seven turnovers (three interceptions, four fumble recoveries). Senior Spencer Miller recorded a fumble recovery and blocked punt. He also caught a 8-yard touchdown pass from senior Kellen Simoncic.
Simoncic threw for two other touchdowns in the game. The variance in effort reflects the identity Smithville aims to have on the field.
“We rely on each other and play good team football,” Ambroson said. “Any time you can do that as a team, it gives you a good chance to succeed.”
The matchup against MICDS is another chance for the Warriors to do just that as they hope to punch a ticket into the state championship game.
“Our kids are dialed in,” Ambroson said. “It’s a chance to go play for a state championship. I think this is a great opportunity, experience and challenge for our kids.”