Eagles run over T-Birds for district championship

The North Callaway Thunderbirds went into the regular season-finale against Southern Boone already guaranteed a spot in the playoffs. All that was left to decide was who’d be crowned the actual district champion and who’d be able to grab some momentum headed into sectional play.

The Thunderbirds, as it turned out, came away with neither. Southern Boone scored on six of its eight possessions and imposed its methodical run game on North Callaway en route to a 32-13 victory in the Class 3, District 6 championship Thursday night.

With the loss, North Callaway (6-4, 2-1 District 6) will travel to Bowling Green next Wednesday night to take on the District 5 champion Bobcats — ranked No. 6 — in sectional play.

It took just four plays for the Eagles (7-3, 3-0) to get on the board Thursday night. Senior fullback Dyllon Harper took a handoff from senior quarterback Cole Finley and plodded 49 yards for the opening touchdown at the 10:16 mark as Southern Boone took a 6-0 lead after the failed two-point conversion run.

The Thunderbirds (6-4) drove 18 yards on their first offensive drive before giving the ball back on a failed fake punt. Senior running back Taylor Paul scored on a seven-yard run at the tail end of a 10-play, 64-yard drive to make it 12-0 after another unsuccessful two-point conversion attempt.

Senior wingback Tyler Grethen tacked on another Eagles touchdown, this time from 1 yard out, before the Thunderbirds finally got on the board. North Callaway senior quarterback Tylar Walker hit junior receiver Jared Graves on a 37-yard touchdown pass at the 7:51 mark of the second quarter to bring the Thunderbirds within 18-6.

Southern Boone scored on its fourth and final first-half possession by way of a 1-yard keeper from Finley to make it 26-6. All totaled, North Callaway gave up 222 yards on the ground in the first half, while they gained 66 yards as a team during that span.

“I was very disappointed in our defense because we couldn’t stop the run and that put a lot of pressure on the offense,” North Callaway head coach Mike Emmons said. “And we couldn’t get anything moving on offense, either.”

The Thunderbirds — averaging 213 yards rushing coming into Thursday night — ended up with a season-low 47 yards on 19 carries, with 22 of those yards coming from senior running back Zak Kee. Walker completed just nine of 21 passes for 128 yards. Graves had three catches for 66 yards and another touchdown catch, this one an eight-yard strike from Walker early in the fourth quarter.

Southern Boone didn’t complete a single pass, though not for lack of trying. Finley put up four passes in the final quarter, looking to put the game on ice but couldn’t take advantage of busted coverages in North Callaway’s secondary.

Grethen led the Eagles with 155 yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries. Junior Austin Pounds and Harper combined for 142 yards on 26 carries in leading Southern Boone to its first district title in the program’s seven-year history.

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