COLUMBIA, Mo–The Ava Bears hit the gridiron in Columbia Friday playing for its first ever state football championship.
The Bears were also playing for their first ever state title in any sports.
KOLR 10’s Matt Vereen joins us live from Columbia with more, Matt.
Dan, today here in Columbia marked a big day for Ava football as the Bears made their first state final appearance ever.
But across the field stood a team far more familiar with this stage in Lutheran North.
And this underdog story came without the Cinderella ending.
Both teams entering the day undefeated, but like usual when a rural meets metro – we had a David and Goliath situation at Faurot Field.
Today, though, belonged to the Giants.
Opening drive, Crusaders hand off to senior Jalen Head who takes off 20 plus to the house.
Lutheran North goes up by a touchdown out of the gate.
Bears would go three and out, but the defense gets it to fourth a goal inside the two.
And Ava comes up with a hard nosed stop short of the line to take over on downs.
Unfortunately, they wouldn’t be so lucky on Crusader drive number three.
Lutheran goes to the ground again and to Head again for good reason.
His second long touchdown run of the day puts the St. Louis side up 14-0 after one quarter.
2nd quarter, Bears force another fourth and goal.
But this time the Crusaders go to the air and it’s Jerrell Carter – full extension on the touchdown grab.
Crusaders cruising 22-0.
Meanwhile, Ava had yet to enter opposing territory.
But Nate Swofford changes that in the final minute of the second.
A much needed interception – and the senior goes all the way into Lutheran territory before he’s pushed out.
But with time ticking away, Ava fumbles the snap.
Crusaders recover and the Bears fail to earn a first down all half as Ava finishes runner up in Class 2, falling 49-0 .
“The legacy is they’re the winningest team, winningest class to ever come through Ava high school. They’re the only team to ever make it to the State Championship at Ava High School.
Their legacy is left. It will live a long time. We hope we get back here again. Right now we’ll remember these guys and what they did and how they’ve brought their team and their community together,” said Ava coach Dan Swofford.
So the Ava Bears finish an incredible season with a 14-1 record and a 2nd place finish in class two Missouri football.
But they’re not alone hunting a state championship this weekend.
Webb City will play tonight – plus Cassville and Carthage are in action tomorrow hoping to bring a title back to the Ozarks.
For now though, live from Faurot Field in Columbia – Matt Vereen, Ozarks First.