When Robert Steeples took over as the head coach at DeSmet before the 2017 season, he was inheriting a program that had compiled a record of four wins and 27 losses in the previous three seasons.
In Steeples’ first season at the helm, the Spartans had a record of 1-9. What followed the next two seasons at DeSmet was nothing short of remarkable. Things turned around quickly last season as the Spartans finished 9-3 and advanced to a Class 6 district championship game, where they lost to a powerful CBC teams.
The turnaround at DeSmet was completed this season last Saturday as the Spartans defeated Joplin 35-20 to win the Class 6 state championship to put the finishing touches on a perfect 14-0 season. It was the second state championship in football in the school’s history. The first state title came in 2005 when Steeples was a starting defensive back on a talented Spartans team that defeated Hazelwood Central at the TWA Dome in St. Louis.
DeSmet was able to accomplish the ultimate prize with what has worked for them all season; its powerful running game and stout defense. The Spartans rushed for 331 yards and their defense forced five Joplin turnovers. Joplin had committed only four turnovers in their previous 13 games all season.
Junior running back Rico Barfield rushed for 116 yards and two touchdowns. Senior quarterback Michael Wheeler continued his postseason excellence by completing 17 of 25 passes for 206 yards and two touchdowns. Wheeler also rushed for 66 yards and another score. Junior receiver Ra’Shod Smith-Harvey caught both of Wheeler’s two touchdown passes while fellow junior Jakailin Johnson had two interceptions.
With the state championship in hand, don’t expect things to slow down anytime soon at DeSmet. The Spartans will return several key players for next season as they prepare for another run at a state title.
Lutheran North goes to Class 2 state title
The Lutheran North Crusaders won their last state championship in football in 1999 with an exciting 28-21 victory over Kansas City St. Pius X in the Dome. On the 20th anniversary of that victory, the Crusaders will have another opportunity to win another state championship when they take on Ava on Saturday in the Class 2 Show-Me Bowl at Faurot Field on the campus of the University of Missouri. Kick-off is scheduled for 3 p.m.
Both teams are undefeated coming into Saturday’s state championship showdown. Lutheran North is currently 13-0 while Ava comes in with a 14-0 record. Lutheran North advanced to the title game with a 38-20 victory over Lathrop in another battle of undefeated teams.
The Crusaders are loaded with talent and experience on both sides of the ball, but the young man who came through big last Saturday sophomore quarterback Brian Brown, who passed for 163 yards and three touchdowns against Lathrop. Brown also rushed for 108 yards and another score.
St. Mary’s is on the rise
The St. Mary’s Dragons advanced to the Class 4 semifinals, where their season ended with a narrow 15-14 loss to Platte County. The Dragons finished the season with an 11-3 record, but things are just getting started as St. Mary’s was one of the youngest teams in the state playoffs.
St. Mary’s will graduate some excellent players such as quarterback Cam’ron McCoy and two-way standout Timmy Muxo, but returning will be several key players who were in prime time roles as freshmen and sophomores. Sophomore Kevin Coleman is one of the most dynamic young prospects in the state. He had 1,512 yards receiving and 24 touchdowns on offense and eight interceptions on defense. Sophomore running back DeShawn Fuller rushed for 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns. He had 80 tackles on defense. Freshman receiver Chase Hendricks also had six touchdowns.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Dragons featured Coleman, Fuller, freshman linebacker Kaliel Boyd and sophomore linebacker Achille Kpeya Jr. Head coach Corey Bethany is building a powerhouse program on the South Side.
State Champions to collide next season
The St. Louis metro area is the home to two Class 6 state champions as DeSmet won the Missouri state championship while East St. Louis brought home the Illinois Class 6A state title.
What can be better than that? How about those two teams meeting on the field at the beginning of next season? That will be the case next year as DeSmet and East St. Louis will meet during Week 2 at the Gateway Scholars Classic in East St. Louis. Expect a capacity crowd at Clyde C. Jordan Stadium for that one.
Can we get another appearance from ESPN for that one?