Neither temperatures nor Cardinals can derail Panthers’ pursuit of district championship

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The Monroe City football team poses with the Class 1 District 6 championship plaque after Friday night's 52-18 victory over South Shelby at Lankford Field in Monroe City, Mo. | Don O'Brien photo

MONROE CITY, Mo. — Monroe City senior Ceaton Pennewell channeled his inner Luke Kuechly on Friday night. 

With temperatures in the high 20s and a wind chill in the teens, Pennewell wasn’t about to let South Shelby think he was cold. While some of his teammates were a little more dressed for the conditions, Pennewell, who plays linebacker and fullback, had no need for sleeves or any other cold-weather gear.

“My favorite player is Luke Kuechly,” Pennewell said of the former Carolina Panthers star. “He never wore sleeves in high school, college or the NFL.

“If you can mentally beat them, you’re halfway there. Coming out here and showing them the cold didn’t bother us, that definitely helps.”

The Panthers also made sure to physically beat their Clarence Cannon Conference rivals. Pennewell was part of a three-headed monster in the backfield, while the Monroe City defense shut down the top offensive player in the CCC en route to a 52-18 victory in Class 1 District 6 championship game at Lankford Field. 

The reward for the top-ranked Panthers (12-0) is a home date against Lincoln in a Class 1 state quarterfinal game at 1 p.m. next Saturday. Lincoln (11-1) captured a district title on Friday with a 38-20 victory over Cole Camp.

The Panthers were looking for a season sweep of the Cardinals (8-4) and left little doubt one play into the game they meant business. Junior Waylon DeGrave took the opening handoff and raced 67 yards for a touchdown.

“They blocked it perfectly,” DeGrave said of his offensive line. “I don’t think I even got touched. The line did a great job on that play.”

That play was the start of a first half where the Panthers ran roughshod over the Cardinals. Pennewell scored on a 1-yard plunge on the Panthers’ second possession. Monroe City’s third possession lasted all of two plays as senior Cameron Jones broke loose for a 73-yard touchdown run for a 22-0 Monroe City lead late in the first quarter.

The lead ballooned to 30-0 a little more than two minutes into the second quarter as DeGrave scored on a 19-yard scamper. On the second play of South Shelby’s ensuing drive, the Cardinals fumbled, Pennewell grabbed it and rumbled 30 yards for a touchdown and a 38-0 lead.

“I was just in the right place at the right time,” said Pennewell, the CCC Defensive Player of the Year. “It couldn’t have happened better.”

By the time Monroe City went to the halftime locker room, it had rushed for 331 yards and held a 38-6 lead.

“Our offensive line created a new line of scrimmage, created some lanes and we were able to capitalize on that,” Monroe City coach David Kirby said.

The Monroe City defense did its best to stymie South Shelby senior quarterback Trey Countryman, the CCC Offensive Player of the Year. Countryman completed just 13 of 31 passes for 114 yards. He did connect with P.J. Schmidt on a 12-yard touchdown pass on a fourth-down play late in the first half for the Cardinals’ only first-half score. 

South Shelby milked nearly seven minutes off the clock to start the third quarter on a drive capped by a 19-yard scoring run by Kendal Hammond. 

DeGrave added two more TD runs — 3 and 50 yards — to cap an impressive night. In the first meeting between the teams, a 46-8 Monroe City win, DeGrave managed just 14 yards rushing. He finished with 222 yards rushing and four touchdowns on just 13 carries in the rematch.

“I definitely wanted to get my revenge,” he said. “I didn’t get to run the ball that many times against them last time. Getting this revenge was pretty nice.”

Jones finished with 100 yards on six attempts, while Pennewell just missed a 100-game of his own, finishing with 91 yards on 10 carries. Overall, Monroe City finished with 446 yards on 35 carries, an average of 12.7 yards per carry.

“Our goal was to push the issue, be physical at the point of attack and create new lines of scrimmage,” Kirby said. “Defensively we wanted to fly around and get a lot of people around the ball. I thought that we were able to do it.”

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