The Missouri State High School Athletic Association has plenty of tough decisions to make from one year to the next.
That's because they have to keep the best interest in mind for the next generation, and rarely do the choices get much more difficult than deciding how the postseason is going to break down. While it's true there's a system in place that rewards a team for its regular season accomplishments, there was no confusing the fact that the Missouri Military Academy, 1-10 overall, drew quite a tough opponent last Friday in Class 3, District 6, at Blair Oaks, 10-0 overall.
Considering the Falcons also went 11-1 overall in 2016, the Colonels had quite an uphill battle ahead of them, and while the team did make some adjustments in an effort to pull off an upset, in the end it was Blair Oaks that came out ahead 52-0.
"It's hard to do anything when you can't get a positive play. Blair Oaks is ranked second in the state for a reason," said coach Mitchell Jenkins. "They're assignment correct and very disciplined. We just never got out of the gate."
One problem MMA had in this contest was that it fumbled on its third play from scrimmage. This gave Blair Oaks incredible field position that it used to first notch a quick score before creating a wave of momentum the Colonels simply couldn't overcome.
"We started Wrayvous Givens at quarterback, who was a sophomore making his first varsity start. He played hard, but he was kind of outgunned, so to speak," Jenkins said. " We stuck with Wrayvous knowing he's our guy going forward and looking at 2018. It's his job to lose next year, so every repetition he got was going to be money in the bank towards next season."
Even though starting quarterback Pedro da Rocha was under center for the Colonels second series, he wasn't able to get anything going. That's why, when MMA got the ball back down by four touchdowns, Jenkins chose to play da Rocha, a senior, at wide receiver and defensive back for the rest of the contest.
"da Rocha gets a lot of the attention, as he should, but we're going to miss all of our seniors. What makes da Rocha different is that he's not just an amazing athlete, but he's also an amazing person," said Jenkins. "We're going to lose a ton of athletic ability with his graduation."
da Rocha's value to this team is a signal that burns even brighter when you consider the Colonels final numbers for this game. That includes running just 28 offensive plays. Because only four of those plays went for positive yardage, that left the squad with negative 33 yards for the game.
"We've got an amazing group of juniors and sophomores who'll be seniors and juniors next year. Now we need to get in the weight room so these guys can get bigger and stronger," Jenkins said. "The nature of our program is we don't always get athletes for four years like other schools do. We have to find guys like (Givens), who lives here in Mexico and will be here for four years and work with them and try to build on what we have. Our sophomore and junior classes have tremendous leadership."
Because so much of what happened early in the game didn't go MMA's way, it was somewhat overlooked that the team pitched a defensive shutout in the second half. That probably had something to do with the fact the team was behind 20-0 in the first quarter then got outscored 32-0 in the second.
"We've got to find a way to get the talent out of these players as coaches. Right now we're going to go ahead and give the kids a couple weeks off," Jenkins said. "I need a breal and my coaches need a break, more mentally than anything else. Winter sports starts next week with basketball and wrestling, so anyone who's not doing that, we're going to start (offseason training) right after Thanksgiving. We'll be trying to get bigger, stronger and faster so we can close the gap on some of these schools."