After taking home the Class 2 District 6 title Friday night, the undefeated, number one ranked Palmyra Panthers gear up for the State Quarterfinals.
Palmyra won the district championship with a 26-22 win over rival Monroe City.
"It's awesome you know, we always set high expectations for ourselves and this was our goal from the beginning of the year. So, it's just one more step in our story and we feel like if we just keep on pushing we'll just keep making things happen," Senior Offensive and Defensive Lineman Weston King said.
In their two post season games, Palmyra has five interceptions.
King believes the defense is playing so well because of its unity.
"I think its just the collective effort everybody is doing their job getting that push on the d-line and when that happens it creates pressure and havoc back there and it makes the defensives back lives easier too because the quarterback just has to throw it up there and when they do that our defensive backs are really good and come down with that ball," King said.
And the defensive play has been contagious to the offensive side of the ball as well.
"Those interceptions those turnovers are always momentum boosters and so it always feels good when our defense is putting up turnovers for us and they always puts us in good field position too," Senior quarterback Brody Lehenbauer said.
Lehenbaur went on to talk about the offense.
"We just have so many weapons and keeping the defense on their toes will always put us at the advantage.”
Even though the panthers have a lethal running attack with Ross Arch and Wade Begley, they also have a solid receiver core with Abe Haerr, Hayes Miller and Collin Arch, but that's not what makes this offense excel according to Lehenbaur.
"We’re so selfless, I mean nobody cares who gets the ball or whatever, we just want to win. And we want to win as a team," Lehenbaur said.
He went on to talk about how the uncertainty of the season impacted that selfless mindset
"We didn’t know really if we were going to get to play at all this year, so I really think we’re just not taking anything for granted and just trying to make our team better and better. So, it doesn’t really matter whose getting the ball as long as we’re winning games."
Palmyra's next opponent, is one who they normally don't see until this point in the season, Hallsville.
However, in Week 3 of the season, Palmyra was supposed to host Macon and Macon had to cancel due to COVID-19 concerns. So, Hallsville took their spot in the game against the panthers.
A Game Palmyra won 51-16.
However, the panthers aren't letting that impact their preparation.
"I think you got to throw that game out because we picked them up at 3 o’clock and they didn’t have a chance to prepare. And they just kind of came here and it was a game on a whim and we played really well. And I’m sure they’re going to say they didn’t have a great game," Palmyra Head Coach Kevin Miles said.
Miles would add, "I know they’re going to come here with a great game plan and be prepared to kick our butts. So, we’re going to have to play another great game, probably the best game again, that we’ve played all year long to try and get on top this week."
Senior running back Ross Arch, who ran for multiple touchdowns against Hallsville in Week 3 agrees with his head coach.
"We can't underestimate them, you know, it's playoffs everyone is going to play their best game. So, we need to come in everyone do their jobs and execute," Arch said.
Along with that, Weston King believes in order to move past Hallsville, they need to stay true to themselves.
"Just play our brand of football, I feel like if we come out here play physical, play tough and keep grinding like we always do it’s hard to beat us because we just don’t go away," King said.
Now both teams are used to playing on Friday nights. However, after districts games move to Saturdays.
Ross Arch talked about what the extra day will do for the panthers.
"I think it will be an extra day of individual film just kind of watching and focusing on our job and healing up a little more. So, it’s also kind of a mental break, I think that’s going to be a good thing,” Arch said.
Looking back on what the season could've been, the panthers are just glad to be playing.
"Going into the year it was a pretty scary feeling that it could just been thrown away in just one week. Going into the season, us seniors knew it but we knew we should just put in the work and it would eventually pay off and it really did," Lehenbaur said.
He would add, "It's a really good feeling that all our hard work did pay off and didn't get thrown away due to the situation. It feels good to be 11-0 and just keep trucking."
Coach Miles went further than that and talked about not just their season but the Missouri season as a whole.
I’m ecstatic, if you would’ve told me we’d be 11-0 first off I’d say ‘wow you’re crazy’ but to even say we’d get 11 games in with how the season started. We weren’t sure we would even get to play a home game, we weren’t sure if we’d make it to the Mayor’s Cup, we weren’t sure how far we’d get," Miles said.
He would go on to state,
"When the season started we weren’t sure what was going to happen. So, to tell me now we’re in week 12 and we’re getting into the quarterfinals and it’s actually legit we could get into, whether it’s us or someone else, but get a state championship game in and play in December, it’s going to be crazy. So, I’m super excited for everybody to know that we were able to get this season in and to this point. And no matter what I think somebody is going to play in a state championship game and that’s going to be a great thing for the state of Missouri and for MSHSAA to say ‘we got this done when other states have not been able to do that,’” Miles said.
Palmyra will host Hallsville Saturday Nov. 21 at 1 P.M.