JOPLIN, Mo– Thanksgiving day traditionally includes the three f’s: Family, Food and Football.
On Thursday, local high school football teams hit the gridiron to practice for their state playoff games, including the Joplin Eagles as they prepare for their most important game in recent memory.
Joplin plays for the class six state title Saturday against De Smet in Columbia. This is the first appearance in a title game for a Joplin area school since Parkwood made it in 1984.
Both squads are 13-0 in coming into the championship game, and had standout semifinal games. The eagles defeated Ft. Zumwalt West 41-20 last Saturday while the Spartans shut out Raymore-Peculiar 37-0 in their semifinal.
Both teams have prolific offenses as well, scoring north of 45 points per game, and with everything on the line, Joplin is ready for the challenge.
“We have a lot of heart, and our coaches talk about it all the time how you can measure size but you can’t measure heart, and when a team plays with heart, it just pushes them to that next level,” said Joplin Senior Blake Tash.
“We play with energy at practice and on the field on game-day. So that is what we are going to do on Saturday. We’re going to play with heart. We are going to play with effort.”
“We’re just going to keep doing what we’ve been doing,” said Joplin Senior Zach Westmoreland. “We’re going to stick with what we’ve been doing because it is working. I mean as long as we stick to that and know our jobs, and nobody tries to do anything special, I think we’re going to be pretty good.”
Head Coach Curtis Jasper said, “De smet is obviously a very good opponent but we’re going to keep our process the same because we believe in it. We trust it, and we also know we’re a good team so it’s going to be a fun game on Saturday.”
Game time Saturday is set for 3:00 p.m. at Faurot Field in Columbia.
ALUMNI VISIT PRACTICE
The Joplin Football team invited football alumni from Joplin High School, Memorial High School, and Parkwood High school to their Thanksgiving practice. Some of the former players in attendance won or played in a state championship game during their high school playing days, and the alumni are proud of the Eagles 2019 State run.
“Well it’s really neat,” said Parkwood High School Alum Bill Williams. “These kids have been very impressive this year… It has brought a lot of excitement to the town.”
Williams continued, “We’ve got to thank coach Jasper. He’s big into family and creates a family atmosphere, and it’s kind of neat that he brings the old players in. I’ve seen guys that looked like they played in the 70’s, and 80’s, 90’s and 2000’s. And there is a nice representation of different players here to today.”