Roses are red, violets are blue, two Rams lock horns for the pride of Ladue.
1.3 miles separates the two campus with a drive that is about five minutes if you abide by the speed limit and have to wait for cars to go by at the four-way intersection at Conway or face a red light at Warson and Ladue. Other times it's just a minute drive if you're in a hurry. It's quite a nice walk down Warson Road, while you can look at the beautiful, big houses, and trees. It's all part of the posh town that is Ladue. However, there won't be anything posh or pleasant about what will go down on Friday night. The venue won't even take place in Ladue; it's in Oakland at SLUH.
How They Got Here
The #1 seeded Ladue Rams have enjoyed an expected 10-1 season through their eyes, but for the outside world it's been more of a surprise, yet it isn't so much that they find themselves in this position. It's something like a riddle. Ladue dropped down in Class 4 because of the new MSHSAA district alignment, and the Rams 1300+ enrollment was just enough to come back down. Class 4 is where they had been for years until 2014, but with enrollment going up and the school under renovation to expand, we can expect to see them in Class 5 in two years. However, for now, and the next season they are here and quite a force.
Their strength of schedule is a key to their success so far in the playoffs. Four of their nine opponents were Class 5 or above there was a couple more Class 4 teams that were competitive. The Rams have beaten Fort Zumwalt North, Parkway Central, Parkway West, and Fort Zumwalt South. All four of those teams are playing for district champions on Friday night. The Rams upset Zumwalt North 24-21 in the week 1, which seemed to launch their season off into a high impact exploration and solidify that they will be a contending team. Ladue remains to be the only the team that has toppled the Panthers. They kept it up with another close win on the road at Webster Groves, 28-20 and then pounded Parkway Central 43-21. The Rams are the last team to defeat the Colts. In week 6, Parkway West gave them a fine test, but Ladue ended up 52-22 winners. That's the last time the Rams in blue have been challenged through more than three quarters.
On the other hand, the red Rams have been thoroughly challenged every single week. They're like James Bond at the poker table. It looks like he can't outmatch his opponents hand, but does by keeping his head and outwitting them. MICDS has done that this season, but it wasn't totally all coy and classy.
The offense was non-existent in the first two weeks. 23 points in two weeks and 10 of it was generated by the offense in their 14-10 loss to Park Hills Central, which has turned to be a not so bad result, given where Central is now. With a motivated Lutheran South looming, it looked like MICDS would finally fall short and end the 35-game winning streak. However, they hit their stride. They built up an early two-score lead and hung on for a 28-20 win, and they've been pinning their ears back ever since.
They followed that up by toppling the high-powered Lutheran North Crusaders 27-14, but then defeated Priory, who would end up winless, 27-13 when it was much closer than that. The next week, they beat their arch-rivals, John Burroughs 26-24, yet they had a 24-0 lead in the first half, but once again held on and claimed the Metro League conference championship for the first time since 2011, which was incidentally the previous time they took down the Bombers. Two weeks later on a senior day, they outlasted and knocked St. Dominic from the ranks of the unbeaten when they were mostly outplayed, but succeeded when it mattered most. They were ranked #10 in the state leading up to the game. However, one can assume that's when everyone sat up and listened. Their most impressive result was a 38-22 handling of Hillsboro on the road when they trailed 14-0 with just over three minutes to play in the first half. They scored 10 points in less than two minutes and ended up outscoring Hillsboro 28-8 in the second half.
Both schools took care of their first round opponents with relative ease. Ladue didn't even play Jordan Jackson, supposedly nursing his sore throwing arm and still won 61-0 over DuBourg. MICDS disposed of Affton 62-17. Round two is what separates these teams based on form so to speak if you will.
The explosive St. Mary's offense went toe-to-toe with Ladue for most of the first half in a shootout, which was tied at 20 apiece. After Jackson made it 27-20 on a 1-yard keeper, the Rams finally got another stop on the Dragons and proceeded to score two touchdowns in under two and a half minutes to up their lead to 41-20 and essentially clip the Dragons wings in the process. Ladue added on two more end zone visits and kept a clean sheet in the second half for a 55-20 emphatic victory. Chino Davis, Andrew Hunt, and Jackson each ran for over 100 yards and the offense racked up over 500 yards of total offense on the night.
It was a much different scenario for the other Rams the next day as they hosted Gateway STEM.
The Jaguars led 12-0, but once again MICDS found a way. Harry Wellford caught a 35-yard touchdown pass as time expired in the first half and the Rams turned up their offense in the third quarter and outscored the Jags 21-0, which was all part of a 27-0 run. The Rams were fortunate that Gateway wasn't more clinical on two-point conversions. If they converted on half of them, then MICDS may have lost 28-27. Another stat was that the Jags obtained their most total offense production of their season at 492.
In 2010 the Rams met each other at Ladue High School, and it was all blue boys in that encounter. Led by Kortland Webb, and their array of running backs and receivers including Jehu Chesson, Ladue won 49-14. MICDS ended up not making it out of the district and Ladue made it to the quarterfinals.
The next year, the tables were turned. The red Rams boasted future Mizzou linebacker Michael Scheer, Dartmouth quarterback Thomas Millitello, a well-rounded wide receiver corps and offensive line. Ladue boasted a good offense themselves with Deavin Edwards and Chesson back. The two teams met in the first game of district at MICDS and it turned into one of the best games in recent St. Louis high school football history. MICDS outlasted Ladue in a 56-55 shootout. Edwards ran for 368 yards and six touchdowns, including a 91-yard touchdown run to put his team up by 13 with under three minutes to play. Millitello guided MICDS through two fourth down conversions and hit Foster Bundy in the end zone to get within a score. Then the red Rams successfully recovered an onside kick and Millitello connected with Bundy again with 21 seconds left kicked the game-winning extra point.
Ladue would get another shot against MICDS as they faced off at SLUH in the 2nd round of the playoffs. Despite Deavin Edwards being out nursing an injury, Ladue gave MICDS fits and even led with under five minutes to go at 21-16, however A.J. Washington scored two rushing touchdowns to escape Ladue. They would go on and lose to Webb City in the state championship game 56-42.
#2 MICDS (9-2) vs #1 Ladue (10-1)
- Both undefeated since Week 2
- Winners of their conferences
Ladue (Suburban Central-American)
MICDS (Metro League)
- Both ranked in the Missouri state poll
- Points scored
Ladue: 490 (44.5 pg)
MICDS: 322 (29.2 pg)
- Points surrendered
Ladue: (13.9 pg)
MICDS: (18.5 pg)
Ladue can run and throw very well. MICDS might have to pick their poison. Jordan Jackson has thrown for 1,772 yards and 20 touchdowns, while he's run for six and 497 yards on the ground. His numbers and in-game decisions make him one of the best quarterbacks in the area this season, and he's only a junior. The Rams receiving corps are loaded with Jarrod Smith (318 yards, 4 TD's), Zach Bush (421 yards, 8 TD's), Dale Chesson (217 yards, 1 TD), and Evan Mack (244 yards 1 TD). They've gotten a boost with Tyler Love (447 yards 4 TD's) being cleared to play after a wrist injury in week 9. When they aren't throwing, Chino Davis carries the load on the ground. He's rushed for 815 yards and 19 touchdowns. The 6'0", 215 pounder moves like a freight train and has been a big reason why the Rams can keep teams honest on offense. Sophomore Andrew Hunt compliments Davis with 332 yards and four touchdowns on the season. He led the team in rushing yards with 137 against St. Mary's last week.
MICDS relies on Graham Bundy at quarterback to make things happen. The scrappy sophomore has thrown for 1,481 yards, 20 touchdowns, and ten interceptions. He also leads the team in rushing yards with 456 and eight touchdowns. The stats imply he's a one man army, but not so. Preston Buchanan and Keiondre Jordan make for an athletic duo in the backfield, which forces defenses to keep an eye or two on them. The Rams have plenty of depth at wide receiver as well. Besides Buchanan and Jordan, Ryan Thompson leads the team in reception yards (519) and touchdowns at seven. He's clearly the go-to guy, but there's also Alexander Feldman and Harry Wellford that have come up big at times.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Ladue has an astute run defense that has allowed under 1400 yards on the season. Cameron Meeks, Jaylen Sykes, Lincoln Grench along with P.J. Hensley, Chino Davis, B.J. Buchanan, and more have caused havoc on teams ground games. MICDS has not been very successful at running the ball. They execute the option a lot, which means they run to the outside and Ladue is usually adequate at closing down gaps. Perhaps MICDS will try to win by torching the Ladue through the air, which worked for St. Mary's in the first half, but the Rams made adjustments, which they're typically good at, and shut the Dragons down. They've done that to numerous teams throughout the season as well. MICDS has always seemed to come through all season long in that department. On the flip side, Ladue has been doing a great of pounding the ball through the trenches, and they will have the height advantage on Friday night. However, MICDS' linemen lack height but make up for it of being always active and making offensive linemen work on every play. Still, they've gotten bossed around by St. Dominic, Hillsboro, and Gateway STEM among others. MICDS may also have trouble limiting the Ladue's passing game, which is the biggest challenged they've faced this season.
Keys To The Game
It's always ideal to score first, but it's a little more imperative for MICDS to do that. Why? Ladue has scored first in every game except in their only loss to SLUH and there's no coincidence to it. They get going and have an edge early on and have always gotten the job done. It's no guarantee that Ladue wins if they score first because it's not like MICDS runs a wing-t offense and has to climb a mountain to get back in it. After all, MICDS has come from behind from two scores down in the past couple of weeks, yet Ladue is a different animal.
MICDS seems to go if Bundy plays well and the stats don't lie. He'll reel off yards, but if Ladue can limit arm by forcing him into tough spaces, then they will be in a right spot. The Ladue secondary is athletic enough to stay with the receivers and MICDS doesn't want to have to win on the ground when it comes down to it.
Simply put, if Ladue plays close to their potential, then they should come out on top. They have so many weapons that are in good form with Jackson at quarterback, Davis in the backfield, and the receivers will get open. This could be a shootout, but we just saw that it's not a good idea to faceoff with Ladue at the gun range. If MICDS can limit Ladue and get timely turnovers that they always seem to find then, they will make it close. It just seems like a lot will have have to fall into MICDS' favor for them to be victorious. Then again, we could see a defensive clinic by Ladue like they did to Fort Zumwalt South or Parkway Central. The one thing that keeps coming to mind is MICDS' never say die attitude and their inordinate ability not to lose. It brings back memories of the 2014 Ladue Rams when they knocked off Cape Central, Pattonville, Webster Groves, and Jackson. If you have enough talent, then you can beat just about anybody given the right mindset and execution. MICDS has that, unfortunately so does the other team to a certain degree.