Big things are beginning to happen for one of Warren County’s strongest-ever collective football recruiting classes.
A trio of prep all-staters from the graduating class of 2018 - Wright City’s Devon Holmes and Warrenton’s Caleb Strauss and Brenden Smith – have all hit early collegiate milestones during their redshirt freshmen campaigns.
Holmes, a 6-foot-2 185-pound wide receiver for NCAA DII Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph, has been the Griffons No. 1 pass-catching option through their first two games.
Holmes connected with senior quarterback Wyatt Steigerwald from 28 yards out for his first career touchdown with 2:02 left in the third quarter in Western’s season opening 45-35 loss versus No.6-ranked Northwest Missouri State University on Sept. 5. Holmes finished with a game-high five catches and 76 yards as the Griffons nearly pulled off the upset, rallying from 28-7 first half deficit to take a 35-31 early fourth quarter lead before Northwest responded with two unanswered touchdowns to pull back ahead.
But the determined Griffons got the upset they were seeking last Thursday as they hit the road to knock off No. 25 and defending MIAA champion Fort Hays State 28-17. Holmes led Western with seven receptions for 70 yards.
Western’s brutal opening stretch continues when it faces a top-25 foe for a third consecutive week, hosting No. 21 University of Central Missouri (2-0) this Saturday at 7 p.m. at Spratt Memorial Stadium.
A win over the Mules and Missouri Western could find itself ranked for the first time under third-year Head Coach Matt Williamson.
“We are scary right now, offensive-wise,” Holmes said to the St. Joseph News-Press. “Last year, teams were loading the box against us. This year, they can’t do that because we have the threat of throwing the ball. It’s really exciting.”
Speaking of exciting, Strauss, a 6-6, 259-pound tight end for Southeastern Missouri State University had his first-ever collegiate reception Saturday night, snagging a five-yard pass down the sideline late in the first quarter from quarterback Daniel Santacaterina on second-and-two from the 50-yard-line for a Redhawks first down.
But what truly made the catch was special was where it happened and whom it happened against – in front of 56,620 people in the 500th game played on Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium in Columbia where SEMO, as expected, was blown out by the host Missouri Tigers 50-0.
“Making my dreams come true on the stage I dreamed of as a kid,” Strauss tweeted about his experience.
After stepping up in class to face FBS Mizzou, SEMO (1-2) and ranked 19th in the Football Championship Subdivision coaches’ poll hosts Division II-member West Virginia State this Saturday at 1 p.m. in Cape Girardeau.
And on same day that Strauss had his first catch for the Redhawks, the quarterback who threw him a majority of his passes at Warrenton, accumulated his first collegiate yardage.
Brenden Smith, a 5-10, 175 pound fleet footed signal caller for NCAA DII Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, got a chance to play in the fourth quarter of the Bearcats 38-3 blowout win over the visiting Central State Marauders and made the most of his opportunity, demonstrating the elusiveness that helped him become Warrenton’s all-time leading rusher.
Smith rattled off a 19-yard gain and finished his brief stint with 49 yards on five carries, notching a game-high 9.8 YPA.
Saturday was Southwest’s Baptist fist victory since 2017 after undergoing a winless campaign last season.
The Bearcats, who dropped their season opener 29-9 at William Jewell College, will look to make it two wins in a row when they hit the road to take on Kentucky Wesleyan College in Owensboro at 3 p.m. Saturday.