Forget about the previous 10 games. On Wednesday, Oct. 31, which just so happens to be Halloween, the Boonville Pirates football team will play perhaps its biggest game of the season on the road in the semifinal round of the Class 3 District 6 playoffs against the Centralia Panthers starting at 7 p.m.
Although the two teams haven’t met since the 2001 season, which by the way Boonville won that game 32-9, the winner tomorrow night will move on the championship game in the district while the loser will pack it in for the 2012 season.
Of course the Panthers will have the home-field advantage as the No. 2 seed in the district at 9-1 while Boonville comes in as the No. 3 seed at 6-4.
In the only other game in the district, top-seeded California (10-0) will host the Chillicothe Hornets (3-7). The winners of Wednesday’s games will play for the championship on Monday, Nov. 5th.
Boonville Pirates football coach Devin Brown said it makes it fun playing a team you haven’t seen before.
“It’s one thing to know your opponent when you are going in but I think it kind of makes it fun because you haven’t played each other and its looking at something different and playing somewhere different, so it kind of makes it exciting instead of playing the same schools 2-3 times. I also think it gets the kids excited doing a different kind of game plan and practicing a little bit different.”
In the opening round of the district playoffs last week, the Pirates and Panthers definitely set the tone early in their games. For Boonville, they led sixth-seeded Fulton 26-7 at the half and then tacked on 22 more points in the final-two quarters while racking up over 500 yards in total offense.
Boonville senior running back Kelsey Callaway also had a career night against Fulton with 328 yards and six touchdowns.
As for Centralia, they led seventh-seeded Southern Boone 34-6 at the half and 48-6 after three quarters of play.
The Panthers also racked up over 400 yards in total offense, with junior quarterback Zach Etzler rushing for 113 yards and four touchdowns and completing 13 of 15 passes for 173 yards.
Centralia also had three players in double digits in tackles, with seniors Austin Kinkead and Jason Anders tying for the team-high with 13 tackles and senior Jacob Hockman with 12 tackles.
Centralia coach Erle Bennett said his team played pretty well in the game against Southern Boone.
“We gave up a touchdown on their first drive and that accounted for about half of their offense but after that long run we played pretty well offensively,” Bennett said. “We have gradually gotten better. Of course we enter every year where we are senior laden.
Page 2 of 4 - “We had to replace a lot of kids and then we replaced six starters on both sides of the ball, so we struggled a little bit finding who out to be playing and then kind of our identity. We have played pretty well defensively all year and that’s been a real strong point.”
The Panthers have been so good during the season defensively that Bennett didn’t hesitate to throw out some numbers for the season. He said along with giving up only 7.3 points per game, Centralia is allowing only 115 yards rushing and only 47 yards passing per game.
Of course the Panthers aren’t too bad offensively. For the season, Etzler has rushed for 692 yards and thrown for 1,381 yards for a total of 2,073 all-purpose yards. Senior wide receiver Dixon Dollens, meanwhile, has 23 catches for 504 yards.
As for the defense, which appears to be Centralia’s strong suit, Kinkead leads all tacklers for the Panthers with 88.
Bennett said when you get to this point of the year you either perform or you don’t.
“We are not ready to be done with football I can tell you that,” Bennett said. “Our kids are still enjoying practice but it comes down to do or die. You have to show up and play every game because there is no room now for a down game. We are the smallest school in Class 3 so we recognize that every game we may be in the low end of the talent scale. Bigger schools are going to have more athletes than what we have so we will really have to work hard to utilize what we have.”
Brown said offensively the Panthers will run a pistol/gun and spread you out and then they can run the ball and throw it.
“They also run a power game and pull the lineman and they are well coached up front and their quarterback is very solid,” Brown said. “He can throw and he can run it. They have two receivers that have good height and good speed and they are just very solid everywhere on offense.”
On the defensive side of the ball, Brown said the Panthers will give you a different defense. He said they are not set in a four-man front, five-man front or a three-man front.
“It’s going to be kind of a game of adjustments for us,” Brown said. “We have to be able to adjust as we are playing the game. We can’t panic. We have to come out and see what they are in so I expect a four-quarter battle. I think it’s going to come down to who makes the fewer mistakes and who has the least amount of penalties and turnovers. This is a game that you can’t have three turnovers and expect to win.”
Page 3 of 4 - Brown said he also can’t remember playing before on Halloween.
As superstitious as Brown is anyway, he said he doesn’t want to be playing in a hole at Centralia.
“That place will be full of people and we don’t want to be playing from behind, especially against Centralia at their place,” Brown said. “We want to come out and start off well and move the ball successfully and play field position and try to score somewhere in the first quarter.”
Brown said even though California and Centralia are the top-two seeds, anyone can win the district. He said you really don’t know what is going to happen.
“I am not looking that far ahead,” Brown said. “I am just trying to worry about Centralia. I think all four teams are deserving and Chillicothe is a lot better than their 3-7 record.”
Bennett said offensively the Pirates have great speed and they also utilize that speed a number of different ways.
“We watched one game and I think they have played seven different kids at the quarterback position, so they are using a lot of Wildcat stuff to get their speed out in space. I have also been really impressed with the physicality of No. 7 (Jared Oser).
“Defensively, they are very solid as well. They keep everything in front of them and they run to the ball extremely well. I know they have had about 20 sacks on the year, which is a lot. Of course about like any other game, we have to control the line of scrimmage. Typically when you win on the line of scrimmage you will win the football game. We will have to tackle extremely well because the speed that Boonville has, if they get in the second and third level, they will put you away.”
While losing their only game of the regular season against Clark County 20-15, Bennett said the Pirates are comparable in some ways. He said while Clark County is bigger across the line, the Panthers have yet to play a team with Boonville’s speed.
“I look at Boonville and they have talent at every position and they have a lot of depth,” Bennett said. “They are playing I don’t know how many kids on defense. It’s hard for me to keep track of how many go in and out on defense. They have a lot of speed at the skilled spots that they move around so I expect it will be a really good game. We are going to have to be super disciplined if we are going to stay in it just because they are going to have more speed than we have.”
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