By Clint Dye | Leader Reporter
In my opinion, high school football is the best and purest form of the sport there is. There is nothing better than playing side-by-side with the guys you grew up with, nothing quite like playing for your teammates and representing your school under the lights every Friday night.
Having covered high school for over a decade, and now in two different states, I’ve had the opportunity to cover many memorable games. I’ve seen triple-overtime thrillers, last second victories and rivalry shootouts. If you can name a type of game, I’ve most likely covered it.
With that in mind, and today being the last week of the regular season in most states playing football this year, I think this is the perfect time to look back at some of the most memorable games I have had the privilege of covering.
So today, I present to you my very first high school football retrospective, and there is no better place to start than the game between the East Buchanan Bulldogs and Hamilton Hornets during the 2014 season – a night where a conference title hung in the balance.
The Hamilton (or Penney as some refer to them) Hornets joined the KCI Conference in 2012 and ran roughshod on their way to not only a conference championship but an eventual State Championship.
That year, in their first year in the KCI, they defeated East Buchanan 54-14. The following year, neither the Hornets nor the Bulldogs earned a KCI title, as it was split between Lathrop and Lawson.
Hamilton defeated East Buchanan during the 2013 regular season 56-18 before defeating them again in the Missouri Class 1 District 8 Championship, 40-34.
Entering the 2014 season both teams were considered favorites to win the KCI crown and as fate would have it, the KCI Championship would be on the line when the two met in the regular season finale.
East Buchanan dominated their way through the regular season, highlighted by a 50-36 shootout with West Platte and 40-0 drubbing at Lawson.
Hamilton lost a tight contest to West Platte 32-28, but handled their business everywhere else including a narrow 29-26 win over Lawson.
So, the stage was set, if Hamilton was able to go into Gower and defeat East Buchanan the two would share the KCI title (West Platte losing to Plattsburg the week before kept it from possibly being a three-way tie) but if East Buchanan emerged victorious, they would be unanimous KCI Conference Champions for the first time since 2004.
Now that we’ve covered the backstory to this contest lets meet the players, and I tell you, this game had some marquee high school football players in it.
If the KCI Conference had a Heisman Trophy award, the two front runners during the 2014 season would have been East Buchanan quarterback Colby Rapp and Hamilton running back Kellen Overstreet.
Rapp in his years as East Buchanan’s leader was an All-State quarterback who threw for well over 3,000 yards each year he was at the helm of the Bulldog offense.
Overstreet had one of the greatest high school football careers as the Hornets primary running back. He set multiple Missouri rushing records and finished the 2014 season one touchdown shy (70) of the national single season record.
As good as they were on the field, both were even better off, representing their teams and schools with class and respect.
Rapp and Overstreet weren’t the only playmakers in this contest. Both teams had a plethora of players who could make you pay when given the chance.
East Buchanan had the likes of running backs Ryan Kilgore, Austin Potter and Jason Daugherity along with “Dynamic Duo” receivers Nate Griffin and Zac Johnson.
Hamilton had quarterback Drew Finch, fullback Keithan Litton along with TC East and LaTroy Harper, the latter two eventually led the Hornets’ to another State Title in 2016.
Leading the Charge
I can’t discuss this contest without mentioning the two men leading each team on the sidelines.
Both coaches in this grudge match personified their football programs.
Dave Fairchild is a Missouri High School Football Hall of Fame coach who led the Hornets to three State Championships. He established a program that has continued to thrive, and he did it with class.
Kevin Bryan took East Buchanan to two semifinal appearances and led the Bulldogs to multiple KCI Conference Championships. His toughness and resilience, especially in his battle with cancer, carried over to his teams and It won’t be long until he joins Fairchild in the Missouri High School Football Hall of Fame.
There was that rare big fight feel when walking into the East Buchanan stadium that night. You could feel that both teams were focused on one thing, walking out KCI Conference Champions.
It was a chilly Friday night, nothing like their bitterly cold District Title game a year earlier, but there was a slight chill in the air.
Hamilton struck first when TC East scored on a three-yard touchdown run giving the Hornets an early 7-0 lead.
East Buchanan responded quickly when Jason Daugherity scored on a 27-yard touchdown run. The Bulldogs’ failed on the ensuing two-point conversion attempt. Something that, despite how great both teams were, they both struggled on this night.
Before the first quarter ended, all-state running back Kellen Overstreet, extended Hamilton’s lead with a ten-yard touchdown run. The Hornets’ missed the extra point making the score 13-6 heading into the second quarter.
Colby Rapp scored on a two-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter, but once again East Buchanan failed on their two-point conversion attempt bringing the score to 13-12.
Overstreet scored his second of three rushing touchdowns midway through the second quarter on a three-yard touchdown run and after another failed
extra point attempt, Hamilton led 19-12.
In response, Rapp threw his first of two touchdown passes, this one to Grant Minson to bring the score to 19-18. A third failed two-point conversion kept East Buchanan from taking the lead.
Keithan Litton got in on the Hamilton scoring act with a 26-yard touchdown run of his own, but once again Hamilton missed the extra point, keeping
the score 25-18.
East Buchanan’s next possession was highlighted by an electric 57-yard touchdown run by Ryan Kilgore leading to, in my opinion, the biggest play of the game.
Trailing by one and having failed at their three previous two-point conversion attempts, Bulldog head coach Kevin Bryan went with a simple direct snap on try number four.
The call paid off as Austin Potter, East Buchanan's hardest hitting running back, barreled his way through a pile of people across the goal line,
giving East Buchanan the lead 26-25.
The reason this play was so important was because over three and half games against each other, East Buchanan had never held a lead against Hamilton.
East Buchanan’s sideline and crowd erupted, reinforcing how important this moment truly was. With confidence and the momentum on their side, East Buchanan went into the half with a lead they would not surrender.
In the third quarter, Ryan Kilgore extended the East Buchanan lead to 32-25 when he caught a 35-yard touchdown pass from Colby Rapp. Once again, the Bulldogs’ failed on the two-point conversion attempt.
Not one to go quietly into the night, Kellen Overstreet put his team on his back, leading them on a five-minute, 57-yard drive before scoring on a
ten-yard touchdown run. A failed two-point conversion attempt kept the score 32-31.
The ensuing kick-off proved to be the knockout blow for East Buchanan.
Defensive standout Elliott Forney lined up to receive the kick. Fortney caught the ball on the 18-yard line, followed his blockers to the sidelines,
turned it up field and ran until he reached the end zone. However, another failed two-point conversion kept Hamilton within striking distance.
While neither team scored in the fourth quarter it doesn’t mean that quarter was without drama. Hamilton's best chance at tying or even possibly taking the lead came late in the final period inside the East Buchanan red zone.
Facing fourth and four at the East Buchanan five-yard line, the Hornet’s opted not to give the ball to Kellen Overstreet, instead trying to catch
the Bulldogs off guard with a bootleg pass attempt.
East Buchanan defensive lineman JT Rush wasn’t fooled and made the biggest play of his high school playing career, corralling Drew Finch for the momentum-killing sack.
Eventually Hamilton got the ball back with less than a minute left to play but East Buchanan’s defense held strong forcing a turnover on downs to
seal the conference championship victory.
For the game Rapp completed 11 of 25 passes for 204 yards with two touchdowns. His leading receiver was Nate Griffin with three catches for 73 yards. The Bulldog running game showed its potency with Ryan Kilgore carrying the ball 10 times for 104 yards with a rushing and receiving touchdown. Austin Potter carried the ball 16 times for 98 yards and Jason Daugherity carried the ball 12 times for 86 yards.
Kellen Overstreet had a mountain of a game, carrying the ball an astounding 51 times for 306 yards and three touchdowns. His fullback Keithan Litton carried the ball ten times for 67 yards and quarterback Drew Finch completed four of nine passes for 48 yards.
After this contest both teams went on to win district championships. East Buchanan emerged as the top team in the Missouri Class 2 District 8 (still a shame East Buchanan had to play up in Class 2 during the 2014-2015 seasons, but that’s a story for another day) while Hamilton cruised through
the Missouri Class 1, District 8 tournament.
Both teams' seasons ended late in the postseason. East Buchanan fell to South Calloway in the quarterfinals while Hamilton bowed out in the semifinals after losing to Westran.
This was the second of three consecutive instant classics between the two teams. The district title game of 2013 being the first and the 2015 epic comeback by East Buchanan to clinch the conference title once again, being the last. The rivalry continues to evolve as one of the KCI Conference’s best and this game in 2014 is the standard bearer of how great it can be.
Join me for my next high school football game retrospective when I look back at the 2018 Missouri Class 2 semifinals between Lathrop and Lamar. Destiny vs Dynasty!