You don’t have to ask Boonville Pirates football coach Devin Brown or Marshall coach Jon Stockman to find out just how big Friday night’s game is to closeout the regular season.
With the district playoffs starting up the following week, Brown and Stockman would love nothing more than to go into the playoffs with a little momentum.
Of course there are other reasons for both teams wanting to win the game. With Hannibal wrapping up the NCMC title last week with a 28-8 win over the Owls and Moberly all but securing second place, the winner of Friday night’s game will emerge as the third place finisher in the conference. As of right now Boonville and Moberly are tied for third at 3-2.
Brown said it’s more about getting better than they did last week and getting everybody back in. “Honestly if you end up third or fourth it doesn’t really matter what happens because districts starts the following week, so we just want to play better football and more on to districts.”
Coach Stockman on the other hand said his kids know what it as stake and all the district points.
“We are just stressing to the kids that we want to be 1-0 after Friday night,” Stockman said.
In the game last week at home against Hannibal, Stockman said he thoughts his kids came out and played awful hard in the first half while playing the Pirates to a 8-8 tie. However in the second half, he said Hannibal just wore his team down up front a little bit late in the third quarter and early in the fourth quarter and that was the difference.
According to Marshall Sports Editor Chris Allen, the Owls held a slight edge in offensive plays (31-26), first downs (8-7) and time of possession (24:09-23:51). And even after putting up 20 unanswered points in the second half, Allen said the Pirates were held to its lowest point total of the season.
Of course Hannibal may have had a little incentive as well in the game while capturing its 14th conference championship.
Junior linebacker Tyler Cott also had a big game for the Owls on defense while finishing with 10 stops.
Brown said the Owls will run like four different formations on offense. He said they will run a little bit of veer, counter and trap and then they will go four wide at times.
“They have size up front and then they have speed in the backfield,” Brown said. “The quarterback is a salty player and both running backs are good players. Their receiver is also good. They are a much improved football team from last year. The key for us defensively is that we have to be able to tackle. They run a little bit of option like us so we have to be assignment competent and know who we are tackling and who we got at all times. We have to be able to fight up front and matchup up front and not make any mistakes.”
Page 2 of 4 - As for the Owls defensively, Brown said they will be in a 4-4 but that it looks like a 6-2 because they walk up their outside linebackers.
“Defensively, they are sound,” Brown said. “Same guys are playing just like us and everybody else. They are a lot better than they were last year. With the defense they are running they are a lot more sound so we will have to keep it away from them on offense and be able to pound the clock a little bit. We can’t have penalties and have some setbacks like we did a couple of weeks ago, and we have to keep momentum going forward.”
In the game last week against Moberly, the Pirates played the first 24 minutes without five starters and trailed the Spartans 17-0 at the half. Meanwhile, with five starters coming back in the second half, Boonville out-played Moberly despite being outscored 7-6.
The Spartans wound up winning the game 24-6 but not without getting a good fight from the Pirates, who also had their leading rusher on the sidelines after being suspended and their starting quarterback who was injured in the second quarter.
“We came out and played Moberly in the second half and our kids never quit fighting,” Brown said. “They played the whole game so that was good. They could have hung their heads and said forget it but they played the whole game and got after it.”
Stockman said Boonville has a lot of talent inspite of its 4-4 record.
“They played three really good football teams to start the season,” Stockman said. “They are pretty good up front offensively and they have some speed, so they can hurt us in a number of ways. They can hurt us with their inside veer and then they can hurt us with their option game if they get to the edge. We are going to have to be real sound defensively to have a chance. We are just going to have to improve on our tackling and not let Boonville get outside. And then when they drop back to pass our defensive line is going to have to do a better job of making that guy hurry up and throw it or getting him sacked.”
On the defensive side of the ball, Stockman said the Pirates are very aggressive and lineup in a 4-4 most of the time. He also stated that the linebackers for Boonville will come from all over the place while the defensive line gets off the ball and like to move and twist and stunt.
“I told our guys up front on the offensive line that we have to take our steps, be sharp and stay with those linebackers and create running lanes for our backs,” Stockman said. “We also have to move the chains on the ground. That’s what we like to do and that is what I feel we are best at, which is running the football, getting first downs and moving the chains. If we can do those things it should be a good ballgame.”
Page 3 of 4 - Moving the chains or getting first downs was something the Owls struggled with last year while finishing 0-10 overall and 0-6 in the NCMC.
But with Stockman taking over as head coach this year, Marshall has gone from conference dweller to one of the most improved teams in the NCMC this season.
Just a quick rehash of last year. The Owls gave up 40 or more points in seven out of 10 games in 2011, one of which came at the hands of the Boonville Pirates by a score of 41-0. Although the Pirates wound up with 328 yards in total offense in that game, they only led by a score of 16-0 at the half and 28-0 after three quarters. Boonville senior Jay Barnhart also had one of his best games last year against Marshall while finishing with a total of 12 tackles.
The Pirates have also owned Marshall the last-four years while holding a 132-32 scoring edge since joining the conference in 2008.
Stockman, however, said his team has improved a ton since August.
“Playing a Class 4 team who is No. 4 in the state and playing them pretty well for three quarters the other night shows that our kids play hard and didn’t quit until it was over,” Stockman said. “I don’t know if we could have done that in August. We are trying to get better every day and that is the main thing.”
Also keep in mind that Marshall has also lost to three pretty good football teams in St. Joseph Lafayette (33-14), Moberly (41-12) and Hannibal (28-8). Those three teams combined are a collective 21-3.
Of course the Pirates have also lost to four pretty good football teams this season. With losses to California, Higginsville and Hannibal to start the season, those three teams are still undefeated and currently ranked in the top 10 in state in their respective classes. The Spartans are no slouch, either. They are currently 6-2. Add it up and Boonville’s four losses have come against teams who are a combined 30-2.
Brown said the biggest turnaround has been the improvement of the offense.
“I think it has improved obviously,” Brown said. “Last week was a little bit of a setback with so many people out but I think we have gotten better each week. The Wildcat has helped us some, but anytime you can get big plays it is a positive thing.”
The defense has also been stingy at times this season. During the four-game winning streak against Knob Noster, Mexico, Kirksville and Fulton, the Pirates’ defense gave up a total of 60 points for an average of 15 points per game.
Brown said the defense has been able to get the offense field position and not let the opponents score.
Page 4 of 4 - But Brown also knows that Coach Stockman will do everything he can to get his team ready to play Friday night. “I’m sure Coach Stockman has preached to his kids that Marshall hasn’t beaten Boonville the last four years,” Brown said. “That’s what coaches do. We find things to use. We just have to come out Friday because it’s going to be a fight. It’s going to be a good game and we will have to play four quarters and not just two. We have to play hard until the whistle blows in the fourth quarter.”
Stockman said he doesn’t know if his team can get in a shootout with Boonville after scoring only eight points last week. “Eight points is not going to beat anybody,” Stockman said. “We have to be better at the fundamentals and be better at taking care of the football. I don’t see anything but a close game. If we can contain Boonville’s speed it should be a heck of a football game.”
On an individual note, senior Kelsey Callaway currently has 736 yards and 12 rushing touchdowns on the season despite missing last week’s game against Moberly. Senior Jared Oser, meanwhile, has 233 yards passing on the season on 16 of 31 attempts while junior Jacob Francis has 226 yards on 21 of 53 attempts with two touchdowns. Senior Damario Walker is the go-to guy in passing downs for the Pirates while hauling in 23 catches for 370 yards and two touchdowns. On defense, senior linebacker Jalen Poindexter leads Boonville with a total of 118 tackles with 73 solo stops and 45 assisted tackles.