GOWER, Mo. — The East Buchanan Bulldogs punched their ticket to their first state semifinal berth since 2017, beating Hamilton 22-12 on Saturday at East Buchanan High School.
It was the same final score as their meeting in Week 4 of the regular season, and the narratives about the importance of physicality remained unchanged as well.
"They're built for this. They've got Tucker Ross, one of the best quarterbacks in the state, and their line is really physical," East Buchanan quarterback Conner Musser said. "Hamilton have had this tradition of going deep into the playoffs. We knew we had a monster we needed to slay here, and we rose to the occasion."
Hamilton (9-4) held East Buchanan (12-1) to under four yards per carry, a rare accomplishment against the formidable backfield duo of Trevor Klein and Cru Conaway. But it was the Bulldog's passing attack that did the majority of the damage early in the game.
Musser hit receiver Carson White in the middle of the field for a 38-yard gain on their opening drive, setting up an 8-yard run by Klein to take an early lead.
The Hornets responded with a 54-yard pass from Ross to tight end Jared Potts that led to a Corbin Henderson touchdown run, then Musser hit senior Luke Webb up the sideline for 39 yards and finished off their second drive with a 17-yard touchdown to Aidan Hensley on a fade route.
"For us, we had to be able to pass the ball to open up the run game," Bulldogs coach Dan Ritter said. "That's what we had to do early, we kind of paid off and had some big strikes early in the passing game."
In reference to his tip-toeing touchdown grab, Hensley said he was focusing on fundamentals.
"I just put one foot down," he said. "Just like Coach Knox always teaches us."
Hamilton finished the half with an impressive drive, picking up a pair of fourth downs before Henderson drove in his second touchdown of the day. Thanks to a pair of failed point after conversions, they still trailed East Buchanan 14-12 entering the third.
In the second half, the Bulldogs defense shined despite numerous fumbles on the offensive end and a disastrous fourth-and-1 mishap in the fourth quarter that resulted in Klein and Conaway colliding in the backfield.