The clock finally struck midnight for the Drexel football team.
Mound City put an end to Drexel’s Cinderella season last Saturday afternoon with an emphatic 52-6 victory in the semifinals of eight-man football.
The Panthers (11-2) played like a team on a mission to defend their title. They will get that chance when they play Southwest (Livingston County) for the championship Saturday in Columbia.
“We ran into a team that that is experienced in post-season play and we are kind of learning on the fly on how to handle things,” Coach Philip Dean said. “There’s no substitute for experience. We also had not seen the level of physicality they play with as we were outmanned at the point of attack and they took it to us.”
Dean believes the game might have gone better had Drexel gotten off to a good start. After stopping Mound City on downs to begin the game, the Bobcats first offensive play resulted in a pick six turnover as an errant snap and defensive pressure helped lead to the interception. Mound City then converted, on fourth down, their next possession by breaking a long run to go up two scores and kept on rolling from there.
Drexel finally got on the board late in the game when Adam Gilbert broke several tackles on a 40-yard run against the Panther second team.
“I do think our kids fought hard regardless of the score,” Dean said. “Their coach was complimentary of our defense, saying it was the best one they’ve seen all year. We did a good job of controlling our gaps initially, they just had three backs who could cut back into open space and once they were in the open field, they were tough to catch. Most of their scores came on long runs.”
Drexel ends the season at 10-3 in their first year of eight-man football after going 1-9 the previous season in 11-man.
The Bobcats would appear to be in good shape for the future as they will only graduate three seniors: Destry Kerr (a defensive back who had an interception in the semifinal game), Brody Julien and Gilbert.
“It’s kind of bittersweet right now because you just hate the way it ended and you don’t want one game to overshadow our season,” Dean said. “Looking back, we are going to be able to take pride in bringing Drexel its first district title since 2004, and making it to the semifinals of state for the first since the early 1970s. We’ve been playing football at Drexel for over 50 years and this will go down as one of the best in school history.”
Individually, Drexel had a lot of players rank among the leaders in the state and nation, according to Dean. That list includes:
- Ethan Irvin, junior defensive back: Is tied for first in Missouri 8-man for Interceptions (7). His 7 interceptions is tied for fourth best in Missouri (11- and 8-Man).
- Jacob Coffey, freshman running back/linebacker: third in Missouri 8-man for tackles (133), which is first in his class (freshmen) in Missouri (11- and 8-man) and 11th in all grades (nine-12th). He is also tied for fifth in Missouri 8-man for tackles for a loss (22). He was also sixth in rushing yards (1,445) placing him first in his class (freshmen) in Missouri (11- and 8-Man) and seventh in his class in the nation (11- and 8-man). His 23 touchdowns is fourth in his class (freshmen) in the nation (11- and 8-Man) and first in his class in Missouri (11- and 8-Man).
- Adam Gilbert, senior kicker/punter: Leads Missouri 8-man in kickoff yards (3,805) and touchbacks (38). His kickoff yard total is third best in Missouri (11- and 8-man). He also leads Missouri 8-man in PATs made (27). Also leads Missouri 8-man in punt yards (1,143) and punts inside the 20-yard line (13). His punts inside the 20-yard line is sixth best in Missouri (11- and 8-Man).
- Gage Sanders, junior defensive end: Is fifth in Missouri 8-man for sacks (13). His 13 sacks is eighth best in Missouri (11- and 8-man). He is also tied for fifth in Missouri 8-Man for tackles for a loss (22).
- Lane Vunovich, junior defensive end: Is fourth in Missouri 8-man for tackles for a loss (23).