Like the old song says: “Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.”
John Howard Payne wrote those words in a famous poem a long, long ago. He likely, however, did not have high school football in mind when he penned them.
Playing at home usually gives a team an edge in sports.
The Parkway West Longhorns (6-3) will entertain McCluer North (6-3) in a Class 5 District 3 semifinal game at 7 p.m. Friday. Both teams had a bye last week.
The game was set to be played at McCluer North.
However, McCluer North football team used an ineligible player in at least six of its nine games this season. The school then reported the mistake to the Missouri State High School Activities Association.
“Upon discovering this error, we self-reported to MSHSAA and have offered our opponent the opportunity to host the playoff game this weekend,” Ferguson-Florissant School District spokesperson Kevin Hampton said in a statement. “We will continue to work with MSHSAA through this process.”
Parkway West did not have to be asked twice about hosting the important game.
“That decision took about 3 seconds to decide,” Parkway West coach Jeff Duncan said. “Any time we can play at home, it’s a great thing for our team and community. Our AD (athletic director) Brian Kessler has done a great job getting everything ready to go for Friday.”
The upside to playing at home is a good one, Duncan said.
“No travel and getting to stay in our normal Friday night routine,” Duncan said.
The Longhorns used their off week to their advantage, Duncan said. It was a little strange for the team and coaches to not be playing a game.
“It’s different but it’s been nice,” Duncan said. “It’s allowed us to get healthy and to slow things down and put in a good plan. We got healthy and we focused on getting better. We had nine days of great work from our kids.”
The staff scouted McCluer North and studied the films that had on the Stars.
“All of our focus has been on them, “Duncan said.
The Longhorns have been working hard to be ready for the game.
“We’ve had a great week,” Duncan said. “Our kids have been focused, enthusiastic and we’ve had a lot of fun.”
Parkway West lost two of its last three games in regular season. The Longhorns fell 36-7 to Ladue and then dropped a 41-28 decision to a struggling Parkway Central squad. Parkway West ended the regular season on a winning note with a 35-7 win over Fort Zumwalt South.
“We lost to a really good Ladue team. The loss to Central was tough, “Duncan said. “We did not play our best and they played a great game. It was great to see our guys bounce back and play well in Week 9.”
Parkway West has not played McCluer North since 2006. The Stars scored a 35-33 win in that meeting.
The Longhorns know they were facing a tough team.
“They are very talented and have played a tough schedule,” Duncan said. “They are a power running team on offense and are very aggressive on defense. We will have to play well. They have good size and have two dynamic playmakers in (seniors) Angelo Butts and Travon Springfield.”
Butts is the quarterback. He has rushed for 574 yards, averaging 11.5 yards a carry. Springfield averaged 7.4 yards a carry. He had gained 1,055 yards this season.
Parkway West likes to run the football as well. The Longhorns have two backs with more than 600 yards each. Sophomore Ja’Marion Wayne has gained 728 yards and 12.8 yards a carry. Sophomore Tyree Simms has rushed for 634 yards. Two other backs in junior Cameron Redmond (194 yards) and senior Sam Buehler (193) contribute as well.
“We feel that we have to be able to run the ball to win,” Duncan said. “Our OL (offensive line) has played well during the season and Ja’Marion Wayne, Tyree Simms and Cam Redmond have taken advantage of that and made some big plays.”
The winner will advance to play in the district title game against winner of the game between Chaminade and Webster Groves.
If the Longhorns want to move ahead, Duncan said they must do three things.
“Take care of the ball, play physical and have fun,” Duncan said. “Those are always the things we focus on. It should be a great night of football.”
And it will be at home for the Longhorns.