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De Smet holds off Fox in Class 6 semifinal defensive slugfest

De Smet holds off Fox in Class 6 semifinal defensive slugfest

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11/20/2020 - Football - C6 State Semifinal - Fox at De Smet

De Smet Spartans senior Mekhi Wingo (58) celebrates the teams with with De Smet Spartans junior Jordan Coleman (21) during Class 6 State Semifinal game played on Friday November 20, 2020 at De Smet High School in Creve Coeur, Mo. Rick Ulreich, Special to STLhighschoolsports.com

CREVE COEUR — The De Smet football team didn't expect sympathy.

The defending Class 6 champions entered their semifinal game against Fox down several players, including Baylor recruit Dakote Doyle-Robinson, Jacobi Jackson, Carter Edwards and Mac Markway.

Instead of making excuses, the Spartans got to work.

“It was the young guys,” senior Donovan Whitfield said. “The young guys did what they're supposed to do, and we stepped up as a team.”

Whitfield and Missouri recruit Mekhi Wingo led a dominating defensive effort, and the offense did just enough to power host De Smet to a 13-0 win over Fox on Friday night. De Smet (6-0) will seek its second successive, and third overall, state title against either Raymore-Peculiar or Liberty North at 1 p.m. Nov. 28 at Jefferson City High.

“We don't hang our hat on our talent,” De Smet coach Robert Steeples said.

Seth Marcione and Taj Butts scored touchdown runs for De Smet. Butts finished with 115 yards rushing and Rico Barfield added 90 more on the ground.

The Spartans defense shut out a Fox offense that averaged more than 33 points a game, holding the Warriors to 179 total yards from scrimmage. De Smet forced four turnovers.

“We take pride in our defense,” Steeples said. “We knew we had our hands full with the type of challenge that they presented us, and we were looking forward to that challenge, and that's exactly what we got. We had a lot of respect for them. Nobody was taken lightly.”

Butts’ 1-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter gave De Smet a 13-0 lead.

Fox (10-2) tried to mount a comeback on its next drive, but Whitfield recovered a fumble to thwart the comeback and swing the momentum back to the Spartans.

“It was a big momentum switch,” Whitfield said. “We just play fast and physical and do what we’re supposed to do as a defense and as a team.”

Fox was playing in just its second semifinal and first since 2008. The Warriors won 10 games and a district title for the first time this season.

“It's going to boil down to four turnovers,” Fox coach Brent Tinker said. “And we knew coming in, that we couldn't do that. It was a very physical game, and they didn't put the ball on the ground, not much. So, hats off to them. I love these kids and it hurts tonight.”

Marcione’s 11-yard touchdown run late in the second quarter proved to be the lone score of the first half.

A Kaleb Purdy interception gave the Spartans the ball on their 47-yard line. Strong runs by Barfield and Butts set up a first-and-goal from the Fox 10.

On third down, Marcione escaped the grasp of a pair of Warrior defenders bidding for a sack and found the end zone to give De Smet a 7-0 lead.

“Credit my guys,” Marcione said. “It was a broken play, but my guys get stuff done, they pushed them out the way and opened the line for me and made it easy.”

The rest of the first half was a defensive slugfest.

Three of De Smet’s first four drives ended on failed fourth-down attempts. Fox’s Luke Pisoni blew up the second drive, stopping Butts for no gain on fourth-and-2 and Marcione was stopped for no gain on the third fourth-down try.

Fox didn’t fare much better, gaining just 70 yards from scrimmage in the first half. Wingo made himself a fixture in the Warriors’ backfield and the Spartans forced a pair of turnovers.

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“We are trying to grow as a program,” Tinker said. “We're trying to play the heavyweights of the world and we just made a few too many mistakes tonight, but we did a lot to be proud of tonight.”

Fox attempted to respond after the Marcione touchdown. Behind Pisoni’s legs, the Warriors moved the ball to the De Smet 18, but Jahaud Thompson was stopped by De Smet’s Whitfield for no gain on fourth-and-2, ending the threat and the half.

Steeples was effusive when asked about the status of his injured players. Either way, he knows De Smet will have a challenge whoever the opponent is.

“This is a new team and a new opportunity and no ghosts from last year are going to come on the field and help us get the ‘W,’ ” Steeples said. “We’ve got to get this team as prepared as possible to get ready for a pretty challenging opponent from the Kansas City area.”

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