For a football team, which lost its most dynamic all-around player by way of transfer, the Vashon Wolverines still look pretty decent heading into the Missouri state high school playoffs this weekend.
In fact, the Wolverines weren’t immune from a few turnovers in their regular season finale last Saturday, but still managed to overwhelm the Soldan Tigers 56-0 to claim their third straight Public High League title. But realizing that his club had dominated an outmanned Tigers squad, which had dressed out less than 25 players, first-year head coach Joseph Anderson put the victory in perspective.
“We’ve got to some things,” said Anderson. “We beat a (struggling) team. There were a lot of bright spots. But we have a lot to improve on, too.”
The Wolverines no longer have two-year catalyst, Dierre Hill Jr, around. The runner, receiver, kick return sensation, moved and transferred to Belleville Althoff Catholic in Illinois, where he promptly led the entire Metro area in rushing with 1,483 yards and helped his team to an 8-1 record going into the Class 1 Illinois playoffs. Meanwhile, back in Missouri, Vashon has no shortage of playmakers by committee.
The top returning running Marquis Gleghorn, who had a 47-yard run for a score, is way short of duplicating his near-1,000 yard season from last year. (The club has not been keeping statistics regularly this season, but game by game numbers would suggest he’s a few hundred short.) However, the Wolverines have spread the ball around more, while becoming more diversified in their attack For example, senior Daniel Boyce, more noted as a starting linebacker, is a bruising, inside runner to the offense this season and ran for two scores against the Tigers on Saturday In contrast, Dorian “Miami” Phillips is a break-away outside threat who Soldan defenders had to contend with last Saturday, with little success.
Then there’s Gleghorn’s brother, Janard Gleghorn, who’ a dangerous threat as a receiver and kick returner. Directing the attack is quarterback D.J. Cody, just the latest in a long line of the Cody Family tree in the area, which spans three generations of football, basketball and track and field stars. But it was the unsung Boyce, all 5-11, 215 pounds, who was the biggest surprise in the Wolverines attack last Saturday in a Soldan rout at Gateway.
“This is my first year running the ball this much, after playing linebacker, but it was fun,” said Boyce. “My guys up front did a great job of blocking.”
Vashon offensive coordinator Karon Flenoid, said Boyce’s emergence is no surprise to the staff.
“We knew he had the talent to do the inside running,” said Flenoid. “He’s been around. We’re not surprised. We knew he had it.”
Vashon, 4-3 overall and 3-0 in the PHL, which now has just four teams, beat the winless (0-9) Tigers in every manner, including a late, snatch-and grab 45-yard pick-six interception return by Melvin Jones, who was hyped up celebrating it as he was running it back down the left sidelines, barely touched.
“He ran it like it was a dream,” cracked Coach Anderson.
As playoff bracket pairings would have it, the Wolverines will turn around and play Soldan again in the first round of the Class 4 playoffs this Saturday (Oct. 28) Kickoff is 1 p.m. at Gateway. But looming large down the road for Vashon is the top-seed and heavy favorite in its district Lutheran North, which has already beaten a couple of defending state champions this season. Mindful of the tougher playoff road ahead, Vashon assistant Darren Boone reminded the team afterwards: “It’s crunch time, now.”
In contrast, to Vashon celebrating another league title and bracing for, what it hopes will be an extended run, the Soldan Tigers are likely one-and-done with their rematch against Vashon. Whereas last year, they notched a single victory against Confluence 43-0, this year they have had to settle for ‘moral victories’ within the context of a game.
Soldan defensive back Dennis Taylor had two interceptions, including one at his own 6-yard line to kill one of Vashon’s scoring drive. Teammate Justin Moore, who had a superb game in a losing cause as a lineman-linebacker also came up with a pick.
“I just do my job and play hard, no matter what the score is,” said Moore. “I read the quarterback and I was able to come up with the interception.”
But one thing that Soldan coach Ramon Edwards has not ‘been able’ to do is find enough practice time for his Soldan/Sumner co-op program.
“In years past we only had three or four Sumner players,” he explained. “This year we’re depending on 12 Sumner players. They get out of school at 3:20, we get out out at 2:20. Then we only have about an hour and 20 minutes to practice together. I haven’t found the right algorithm to capitalize on this (schedule) yet.”
For additional information on the Missouri state high school football playoffs, please log on to the state association’s website at mshsaa.org or call the offices at 573-875-4880. Cardinal Ritter, the defending Missouri Class 3 state champion which was bumped up to Class 5 this season, has a bye as the top seed in its bracket and will not play this weekend.
Images below; 1-3. Vashon quarterback DJ Cody (with ball) has guided the Wolverines to another Public High League title in his first year as the starter. Meanwhile, linebacker-turned running star Daniel Lee Boyce (30 ) has brought tough, inside running to the club’s offense, while Dorian Phillips (far right) continues to provide the outside spark. Photos by Brian McDonald