COLUMBIA, Mo. — Just when East Buchanan was getting everything it needed from its run game, Dan Ritter's defense did its part again.
A trio of rushing touchdowns from the backfield duo of Cru Conaway and Trevor Klein, who finished with over 200 scrimmage yards, and a stifling defensive effort propelled East Buchanan to a 21-7 victory over Marceline in the MSHSAA Class 1 State Championship on Saturday at Faurot Field, giving the Bulldogs their first football state title in program history.
It's been since the 2005 Cameron Dragons that a team from northwest Missouri other than Maryville or Hamilton has won an 11-man state championship. Ritter, the second-year head coach of East Buchanan (14-1), feels lucky to be counted among the great teams of the past, which also includes KCI foe Lawson in '07.
"Just to be in the same conversation with all of those teams, what a blessing," he said. "We're really proud of these guys and the tradition we're setting here at East Buchanan and hopefully it can go on for years to come, and these seniors laid the groundwork."
Senior offensive lineman Caleb McCartney thought back to a speech that former head coach-turned-assistant Ron Musser gave to the team last offseason.
"Coach Musser said in the summer that we were better than his 2004 team that went to that state title, and I did not believe him at all," McCartney said. "But the amount of trust and hard work that we put in to this program and Coach Ritter and the staff, there's no other people that deserve this than the town of Gower."
The Bulldogs made a statement from the outset, locking up Marceline (12-2) on their first drive and forcing a quick punt before going on a methodical seven-minute drive that they finished with a 5-yard run from Klein on third-and-goal.
"That had to be a backbreaker for the other team," Ritter said.
They repeated the process in the next pair of possessions. Linebacker Jack Archdekin laid a crushing hit on Tigers fullback Hunter Nelson on fourth-and-1 to force a turnover on downs for the Bulldogs, and they continued to hammer away on the ground before finishing the drive with a 2-yard run from senior Cru Conaway. East Buchanan led 14-0 just a minute into the second quarter.