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Editor’s note: Over the coming days, we will honor the best and brightest individual performers from the 2021 Missouri high school football season, culminating with the unveiling of the inaugural SBLive all-state team on Monday, January 24.

By Cody Thorn | Photo by Cheap Seats Photography

Cody Simoncic’s final game for Smithville was one he won’t soon forget. 

The 6-foot-2, 205-pound linebacker racked up 11 tackles and snagged a key interception in the Class 4 championship game.

The Warriors won 31-0 over Hannibal to secure the school’s first state championship, and he even recorded a touchdown running the ball on a quarterback keeper in a Wildcat set.

Simoncic came up with big plays throughout the season, which led to him being named the SBLive Missouri Defensive Player of the Year.

The Warriors' defense pitched their fourth shutout of the season in the state championship game, and it was the ninth time the team allowed 10 or fewer points.

“It was a storybook-type of ending,” said Simoncic, who led the Warriors in tackles (93), interceptions (five) and fumble recoveries (two) and tied for the lead in forced fumbles (five).

His numbers probably would’ve been more impressive but many games the team held comfortable leads, and the defensive starters weren’t needed in the second half. The varsity defense gave up only 66 points all season.

His interception in the title game was a big one. Smithville was holding a 14-0 lead late in the second quarter, but the Pirates were driving inside the Smithville red zone. Simoncic picked off a pass at the 5-yard line to end the scoring threat.

The Warriors hadn’t given up more than two touchdowns in any game until a 40-36 win against MICDS in the semifinals. The Rams scored more points in one game than the Warriors had given up in three district games.

“We knew we were a better defense than giving up 36 points, and we had it on our mind all week and we wanted to shut them out,” Simoncic said. “I think it was definitely huge. It made us prepare more for the state championship game.”

Simoncic wasn’t alone in the success of the defense, and he is quick to point out the play of defensive linemen Mason Crim and Dawson Strickland, linebackers Gabe Talley, Derek Boyd and Sam Calvert and a ‘lockdown’ secondary.

The success of the defense led to plenty of other postseason awards and Simoncic landed about every prestigious award handed out. He was the conference defensive player of the year and the Missouri Football Coaches Association’s Class 4 defensive player of the year.

He also was named the Bobby Bell Award winner, given to the best small school (Class 1 to 4) linebacker or lineman in the greater Kansas City area in Missouri or Kansas.

He was the first player from Smithville to win that award.

“It is outstanding to get to sit here and talk to Bobby Bell and get a picture with Bobby Bell; what a great experience for him,” Smithville coach Jason Ambroson said. “Cody is a big part of our team and makes great experiences for him and his teammates, and this is a great opportunity to do something not many people get the opportunity to do. And to see him smile ear-to-ear and to see this happen, just a list of experiences that will stay with him forever. I’m excited for him but the beautiful part of it is Cody knows he is here because of his teammates too, and that kind of respect is awesome.”

On Monday, Jan. 17, Simoncic announced his college decision — he will still be wearing green and white.

The all-state linebacker tweeted his pledge to sign with NCAA Division II powerhouse Northwest Missouri State University. Simoncic had offers to play at FCS schools South Dakota State and Southeast Missouri and fellow MIAA schools Pittsburg State, Central Missouri, Washburn, Missouri Western and Fort Hays State.

There was speculation that he might join his brother, Kellen, a redshirt freshman quarterback at Washburn. Instead of playing with his brother, he will be chasing him from across the field in future years.