This is the way it should be.
Two powerful teams, with a short but memorable history, will face off on Friday night with a trip to the state championship on the line.
The 11-1 Tri-County Rebels, led by longtime Washington School Coach Phillip Wasson, are coming to Greenville Friday night to take on the 9-1 St. Joseph Fighting Irish in the semifinals of the MAIS Class 4A state playoffs.
The Fighting Irish are the top seed in the state tournament, but both head coaches believe the teams on paper look evenly matched, although each team gets the job done in a different way.
The Irish have a 3-0 all-time record against Tri-County, with the biggest victory coming in the 2017 state championship game.
The Rebels are coming to town with no secrets. Their goal is to give the ball to running back Trace Dearman as often possible. Dearman is a 6-foot, 205 pound senior who coach Wasson calls the heart and soul of his team.
Said St. Joseh coach John Baker, “The Dearman kid is a warhorse. He is one of the best around.”
Along with Dearman, the Rebels are loaded with many other experienced players. Six of these players, in fact, were starters on the 2019 team that lot in the 2019 Class 4A state championship game to Riverfield.
These Rebels also feature a steady hand at quarterback in senior Rouse Boyce. Boyce, a senior, has thrown for more than 1,000 yards this year, and he is especially effective, said his coach, when defenses try to stack the box to stop Dearman.
Tri-County features a defense that has allowed only 105 points all season.
On the other end of the sidelines on Friday will be a St. Joseph team that has enjoyed an equal amount of success. On offense, the Irish’s strength is their talent at the skill positions. With a unique talent of escaping from the pocket, Irish quarterback C.J. Moore has been making plays all season. Moore’s biggest target this season has been Jerrian ‘Stank’ King, who has turned himself into one of the biggest big play threats in all of MAIS.
Along side Moore in the backfield, the Irish feature running back Kye Nelson has amassed 980 rushing yards in 2021 with 13 TDs.
“This is going to be a big test for us,” Coach Baker said. “We are used to teams trying to run the ball on us, but this is going to be a whole new level.”
Coach Baker and Coach Wasson have a friendship with each other that goes back to 2001 when Baker was the head coach at Greenville Christian and Wasson was his assistant.
Wasson previously coached at St. Joseph for three years before spending 11 years at Washington School, where he led the Generals to state championships in 2011 and 2015.
Baker has led the Irish to three state championships in his tenure at the school.
“Coach Wasson and I both know each other well, and we respect each other as football coaches,” Coach Baker said.
Said Wasson, “I still talk to him yearly. I think we both have gotten a lot better as football coaches.”