BRENTWOOD, Mo. — Cole Shoemaker was at his best in drive mode, charging forward from close range.
Shoemaker's sweetest move, though, came when he took a step back, happily conceding a yard when he kneeled down in the victory formation to cap off a championship.
South Callaway's senior quarterback punched in five short touchdown runs and the No. 2 seed Bulldogs secured the Class 1 District 6 title with a 35-20 win against the top-seeded Brentwood Eagles on Friday night.
"Man, it was great — we just came out here and played probably the best game of the season," Shoemaker said. "All of the power to everybody else, they did it. I'm just the pretty boy who gets all the credit.
"All of the power to them — I couldn't do it without them. I know we all trust each other to make the right decision on everything. We were taking what they were giving us and we were just going from there, just playing our brand of football."
South Callaway (6-6) — weathering an 0-3 start and two losses before the start of district play — has put together three consecutive wins for the first time this season. The Bulldogs also collected their first district championship since finishing as Class 2 state runners-up in 2014.
South Callaway now moves on to the Class 1 quarterfinals and will host the seventh-ranked Marceline Tigers (11-1) at 1 p.m. Saturday. Marceline advanced by downing Sweet Springs 23-14 for the District 5 title Friday night.
"This is very fulfilling," Bulldogs coach Zack Hess said. "It's more about the players, right? It's just about how hard they worked, they didn't give up, they kept fighting, they kept getting better throughout the season.
"They didn't get down on the losses and even this game kind of embodies their mental toughness."
South Callaway's defense subdued a Brentwood offense that averaged 42 points in its two district wins, limiting the Eagles (6-6) to 200 total yards while forcing three turnovers. The Bulldogs ultimately converted two of those takeaways into points that swung the momentum of the game.
"I can't say enough about the guys up front," Hess said of his defensive line. "The guys up front played super physical. Our alignments were very hard to diagnose based on their formations.
"I thought we ID'd the formations really well, we aligned well and we got off blocks and we made plays. With a type of offense like that, it's so challenging to get off the field and we did that."
Brentwood was still able to make it a one-score game at 28-20 when senior quarterback Reggie Jeffery connected with senior wide receiver Jaylon Shields on a 41-yard touchdown pass with 7:58 to play.
Directed by Shoemaker, South Callaway countered with an 11-play, 80-yard scoring drive that consumed more than 5 minutes to seal its title triumph. Shoemaker punctuated the possession on a 2-yard touchdown run with 2:24 left.
Shoemaker's first score came on a 1-yard run with 4:13 to go in the first quarter and his 3-yard touchdown run helped put the Bulldogs in front 14-8 at the 8:19 mark of the second quarter. Shoemaker followed with a 4-yard touchdown run with 4:12 remaining in the third quarter and he scored again from 1 yard out to put South Callaway on top 28-14 with 8:52 to play in the game.
Shoemaker finished with 87 yards rushing on 18 carries as the Bulldogs piled up 396 yards on the ground.
"I think Cole led us tonight, he was extraordinary," Hess said. "He had (option) reads that he executed so well and he pulled the ball when he needed to pull it, he got tough yards when we needed them, big first downs.
"He played his tail off tonight."
South Callaway's defense produced its first pivotal takeaway early in the third quarter with the game tied at 14. A 21-yard gain by Brentwood senior running back Jon Danfort was followed by a personal foul penalty against the Bulldogs for a horse-collar tackle, giving the Eagles the ball at the South Callaway 25-yard line.
However, Brentwood sophomore running back Cole Gino was stripped of the ball after a 5-yard loss on the next play and Bulldogs sophomore linebacker Jasper Rees jumped on the fumble at the South Callaway 30.
The Bulldogs responded with a 10-play, 70-yard drive to break the stalemate, going in front on Shoemaker's 4-yard scoring run.
The Eagles were set up at the South Callaway 11 on their ensuing series when a 35-yard burst by Danfort was extended again by another horse-collar penalty against the Bulldogs. However, on fourth-and-goal, South Callaway sophomore linebacker Sam Buckner picked off a Jeffery pass at the Bulldogs' 2.
South Callaway then delivered with a 10-play drive that covered 98 yards and was consummated by Shoemaker's 1-yard touchdown plunge. That gave the Bulldogs a 14-point edge with less than 9 minutes left in the contest.
"That's the mental toughness that I'm referring to," Hess said. "You give up a big play, it looks very bleak like they're getting ready to go into score, and then you come up with a big takeaway.
"That's huge in a game like this."
South Callaway can now shift its attention to its quarterfinal clash with Marceline.
"I've only played on a Saturday (in the state playoffs) one other time," Hess said. "I really wanted to play on a Saturday — it's just really a neat atmosphere playing in the day.
"Marceline's going to be a tough challenge, but we're excited to get to host that game. To prepare another week and to get to spend another week with these guys is worth it. It'll be a lot of fun."