O'FALLON — The Christian Eagles' quickness was a quagmire of doom for the North Callaway Thunderbirds.
Utilizing the fleet-footed playmakers at his disposal, Christian junior quarterback Kaden McMullen passed for 276 yards and five touchdowns as the No. 4 seed Eagles manhandled No. 5 North Callaway 49-22 in the Class 2, District 5 quarterfinals Friday night.
The Thunderbirds — who were down 36-0 at halftime — had their five-game winning streak snapped in ending the season with a 7-3 record.
"They just looked so fast on this turf — I wish we'd played them in the mud in Kingdom City," North Callaway head coach Don Boulware said with a laugh. "We were slipping around all night. Speed, speed, speed, speed — all over the place (made Christian hard to defend).
"I've got to believe from the film I saw, that's one of the better games that they've played in a while. I'd be interested to hear what their coach had to say about it."
The Eagles (6-4) extinguished any expectations the Thunderbirds had for extending their season by scoring on all six of their possessions in the first half.
Junior running back AJ Taylor got Christian started on a 17-yard touchdown run with 8 minutes, 52 seconds remaining in the first quarter. Junior kicker Chase Heath then capped an 11-play, 34-yard drive by connecting on a 30-yard field goal with :39 to play in the quarter to make it 9-0.
McMullen followed with his first touchdown, delivering a 15-yard throw to senior wide receiver Zori Dotson to punctuate an 11-play, 44-yard series with 6:38 left in the second quarter. Taylor's second scoring run — this one going for 34 yards — increased the Eagles' lead to 22-0 at the 4:27 mark.
Christian then pulled away behind a pair of scores in the final 2 minutes of the first half. McMullen hooked up with his leading receiver, junior Kalin Black, on the first of three touchdowns on a 76-yard strike with 1:54 to go.
On the second play of North Callaway's next possession, senior quarterback Jadon Henry's pass was intercepted by Eagles senior linebacker Blake Heuer inside the Thunderbirds' 40-yard line. Two plays later, McMullen's 17-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Isaac McGee with :33 remaining sent Christian into halftime with a commanding 36-0 edge.
"No excuses, they whipped our butt in the first half and we kind of stood there and let them take it," Boulware said.
McMullen topped off a 14-of-17 performance — with no interceptions — by adding touchdown passes of 18 and 14 yards, respectively, to Black in the second half. Black finished with five catches for 135 yards.
The Thunderbirds — who managed just 50 yards of total offense in the first half — finally got on the scoreboard on a 49-yard touchdown pass from Henry to junior tight end Wyatt Raithel with 5:51 to play in the third quarter.
Senior fullback Mason Wortman then had a 6-yard touchdown run with 9:53 left in the game and scored on another 6-yard run with :36 to go.
Henry led North Callaway with 67 yards rushing on eight carries, Wortman followed with 49 yards in nine attempts and junior running back Cody Cash had 41 yards on 12 carries. The Thunderbirds — who were averaging 248 yards rushing as a team — were held to 166 yards on the ground Friday night.
"We've kind of been a perimeter, get-to-the-edge team and they scouted us well — against their speed it was hard to do," Boulware said. "We thought we could have a little luck running inside.
"It just seemed like it was three-and-out, three-and-out, three-and-out — it was hard to get anything going."
North Callaway reeled off its five consecutive victories after a disheartening 14-6 Eastern Missouri Conference home loss to Wright City on Sept. 20. The Thunderbirds' winning streak resulted in a share of the EMO title with Montgomery County and Wright City.
"From the Bowling Green game on (a 22-21 road victory on Oct. 4), we were a good football team," said Boulware, a 1973 North Callaway graduate completing his first season with the Thunderbirds. "We played really well down the stretch.
"To come from where we were that night against Wright City, I didn't know if we'd win another ball game again after that. We played a lot better from that point on."
Christian moves on to a District 5 semifinal matchup at top-seeded Centralia (10-0) next Friday night. Fourth-ranked Centralia hammered No. 8 seed Missouri Military Academy in a 52-6 quarterfinal romp Friday night.
"My hat's off to (Christian). I make no excuses — you get beat by a good team," Boulware said. "We opened the season getting beat by a good team (No. 1 Lincoln in Class 1) and we got beat by a good team tonight.
"I'm proud of the way the boys finished."
Ryan Boland can be reached at (573) 826-2422, or on Twitter @FultonSunSports.