The storylines are plentiful for a Halloween night slate of high school football tomorrow in the Ozarks.
While the first round featured mostly blowouts and favorites advancing, the second round features a coach facing his former team, toss-up matches between some of the top teams in the region, and some intriguing interconference games between the Ozark Conference and Central Ozark Conference.
In a Class 5 playoff game at Nixa, Kickapoo coach Joel Wells will face his former team, the Eagles, for the second time in his two seasons with the Chiefs.
Wells coached at Nixa for seven years, with current Nixa coach Rich Rehagen serving as his defensive coordinator.
“We’ll be familiar with each other and there will certainly be no secrets,” Wells said Monday.
The teams met last year, with Nixa winning 37-7.
In Class 2, Strafford has been rolling through the competition without much resistance.
Coach Tim Hester’s Indians have outscored opponents 479-67 in their 10 wins, with nearly half of those points allowed coming in a 41-32 win against Skyline.
Tomorrow, Mountain View-Birch Tree Liberty comes to town to try and end the season of the Mid-Lakes Conference champions. The Eagles have advanced to the state quarterfinal in each of the past two seasons.
Liberty last lost to a Mid-Lakes foe in the 2009 state playoffs, falling to Caleb Schaffitzel and Fair Grove 33-23 in sectional play.
Meanwhile, lately, COC vs. OC battles have gone the way of the Central Ozark Conference. The league has the ultimate trump card in Webb City, and it’s generally believed to be the better league as of late.
However, the rise of Springfield football has given more credibility to the Ozark Conference in statewide perception, as Parkview and Hillcrest each spent time in the Top 10 rankings, along with conference mates Lebanon and Camdenton.
But perception only gets you so far.
This week, Willard is at Parkview, Kickapoo is at Nixa and Carthage is at Hillcrest in battles between the conferences.
Since 2009, the COC has beaten the OC in four out of five head-to-head meetings with the only Ozark Conference victory coming last week when winless Neosho fell at Kickapoo.
Those results suggest that maybe the distance between 7-2 Parkview and 4-6 Willard may not be wide.
That perception is not lost on Parkview senior running back Cole Jenkins, and neither is the memory of last season’s 22-8 loss to Willard.
“They beat us last year, so we just want to come out and beat them really bad because we remember what happened last year,” Jenkins said. “It’s a whole different season, and anybody can be beat. It’s a wake-up moment, and we just have to play even harder.”
Parkview also has never won a playoff game since the school opened in 1956. It could be the latest “first” for a program that has had a historic season under second-year coach Anthony Hays.
“It fuels us, definitely,” Jenkins said. “We want to go out there, and not win one playoff game, but we want to go all the way. Just like any other team.”