Moberly football coach Jason Ambroson wouldn't go out on a limb to say that this year's team is the best team he has ever coached in his 13 years.
But if you go by the Spartans 7-0 record and last week's thumping of the Hannibal Pirates 56-36, it very well could be one of the best teams that Moberly has put on the field in this decade.
While returning five starters on both sides of the ball from last year's team, which finished 9-3 overall and 5-1 in the NCMC, the Spartans are on pace to surpass that mark and capture their first conference title since 2007.
In the game last week against Hannibal, the Spartans jumped out to a 21-14 halftime lead against what coach Ambroson called a very tradition rich Hannibal team and were able to carry that momentum into the second half.
Of course while amassing over 500 yards in total offense against Hannibal, the Spartans also had five different players score in the game, led by senior quarterback Justin Connaway with three touchdowns, senior running back Dimaja Smith with two scores and running back Gregg Bain and receivers Blake Joiner and Scott Mason each with one touchdown.
Connaway, a two-year starter for Moberly, also completed 5 of 10 passes in the game for 123 yards and one touchdown. As for the running game, Bain had nine carries for 131 yards and one touchdown while Smith added eight carries for 125 yards and two scores and Connaway with 13 carries for 111 yards and three scores.
On the receiving end, Mason had two catches for 112 yards and one touchdown to lead the Spartans.
As for the defense, Joiner led the Spartans with seven solo stops and seven assisted tackles for a total of 14. Senior tackle Colton Tremain had eight solos and five assisted for a total of 13 while Jeff Kinder, another senior tackle, finished the game with seven solo stops and six assisted tackles for a total of 13 tackles.
Although the Spartans had its biggest offensive output of the season with 56 points and over 500 yards in total offense, they also surrendered the most points this season in a single game with 36.
Nonetheless, Ambroson said he thought the defense played very well.
"It had a lot to do with Hannibal doing a good job of running the football," Ambroson said. "We wanted them to use up as much clock as they could in trying to get down field and us not trying to give up a cheap one and let them back in the game. Their offensive line and running backs do a tremendous job together and they just kept churning out yards and putting points on the board."
Of course the Spartans weren't bad offensively, either. In six possessions in the second half, Moberly hit paydirt on five of those possessions.
Page 2 of 4 - Boonville Pirates football coach Devin Brown said offensively the Spartans have really good athletes.
"The running back is good and the quarterback is really good," Brown said. "He has good feet and a good arm. The receivers can also catch but what makes them tick is up front. Their line is pretty good size-wise and strength-wise. They are just solid. They are also balanced so they will run it and throw it, so we will have to be able to tackle."
As for Moberly's defense, which has given up 93 points this season, 61 in the conference, Brown said the Spartans will get in and out of a 3-3 and 4-2.
"They will try to mess with our blocking schemes on the offensive line," Brown said. "They are big up front and quick and the linebackers are solid. However, the guys in the secondary are what helps them because they can tackle and they have speed so they are not giving up big plays. It's just a solid team all the way around."
With the Spartans winning at home last week, the Boonville Pirates also had a thrilling victory on the road against the Fulton Hornets.
While trailing 39-36 with 33 seconds left in the game, the Pirates drove down to the Fulton 36 with 4.5 seconds left and then scored the winning touchdown on a Hail Mary pass from quarterback Jacob Francis to Austin Hulbert as time expired for a 42-39 victory.
Brown said it wasn't a complete game because the defense gave up the first score of the game on a long pass.
"We gave up some plays that we didn't need to give up," Brown said. "Offensively, we did some good things but special teams and our kick off teams gave up too much yardage. We are giving up field position too much and in tough games and good battles field position is huge. We will make some changes on that and change what we are doing and see if that doesn't help us a little bit."
Brown also knows that while putting up over 500 yards in total offense last week against Fulton, the Spartans' defense won't be that giving.
Brown said against a team like Moberly you may have to do a couple of things but that you don't change a lot.
"You don't want to change what you are doing because that's how we won last Friday, so you want to stay what you are doing but Moberly is also a different team than Fulton. We will have to do a little bit of adjusting on offense and defense."
While the Pirates hold a 4-1 edge against the Spartans since joining the NCMC, Moberly won last year's game in Moberly by a score of 24-6.
Ambroson said the Spartans have yet to win at Boonville.
Page 3 of 4 - "I think it's going to be a hard-hitting, physical football game just like it has always been," Ambroson said. "We are going to a place we have never won at. We are going to play a team that is going to play every snap of everything they got. I am ready for a dogfight. Boonville has been in this league for a long time and we have only beat them once. As for high scoring or low scoring, I don't know yet. I think it could go both ways for several reasons. I think there could be some big plays in the kicking game, I think there could be some big plays on offense and defense, and I also think it could be two teams that can slug it out and any one or two plays could make a difference, too.
"I think it's going to come down to us being prepare. We have seen two different offense in the last two weeks from Boonville so that could pose us some problems. Defensively, we kind of feel like we have an idea of what they are going to do but it could be something totally different. We just have to be ready come out no matter what happens and be prepared for whatever game that shows up on Friday."
Offensively, Ambroson said what he has seen of two games the Pirates run the ball very well. He said he knows Boonville is very balanced on offense and that the quarterback does a good job of throwing the ball, plus moving his feet.
"I think their skill kids are very consistent and developing week by week," Ambroson said. "I saw a great improvement in them from one week to another and I would probably assume judging by the newspaper articles and things that I have heard from early in the year that they have a bunch of young kids that are really learning and getting better every week."
On the defensive side of the ball, Ambroson said he has the Pirates statistically as the second best defense in the league right now.
"I know they are going to play hard and Kyle (Newham) gets them prepared week in and week out and I know they have done a great job preparing them against us so I would not expect anything different from that standpoint. They are always well coaches, they are always physical, they are always tough and they always play from the first snap to the last snap. That's what I am preparing for and that is what we believe them to be."
Of course Ambroson is also proud of his team and what they have accomplished this season. At 7-0 overall and 4-0 in the NCMC, Ambroson said this group of kids have worked very hard. He said they are fixtures in the weight room, they are good kids in the community and the school and they work hard throughout the summer and are very dedicated to what the coaching staff wants them to do and they do things correctly.
Page 4 of 4 - Those things have resulted in seven straight wins and a plethora of yards in the air and on the ground. For the season, Connaway has completed 64 of 123 passes for 941 yards and 10 touchdowns without throwing an interception.
Bain, meanwhile, is the leading rusher on the ground with 90 carries for 747 yards and eight touchdowns while Dupree Alexander leads the team in receiving yards with 18 catches for 345 yards and two touchdowns.
On the defensive side of the ball, Colton Tremain has a total of 74 tackles to lead the team. However, the Spartans also have three other players with over 60 tackles, with Blake Joiner coming in at 69, Devon Cox at 64 and Jeff Kinder at 63.
For the Boonville Pirates, senior quarterback Jacob Francis leads the team in both passing yards and rushing yards. While completing 76 of 141 passes for 943 yards with eight touchdowns and three interceptions, Francis also has 71 carries for 260 yards and two scores.
Junior Austin Hulbert, meanwhile, is the leading receiver on the season with 29 catches for 429 yards and five touchdowns.
Of course nothing has changed on the defensive side of the ball for the Pirates. Senior linebacker Tyler Peterson is a tackling machine, which was stated by an opposing coach, with 91 solo stops and 38 assisted tackles for a total of 129.
Needless to say, Brown said this will be the biggest test of the season for the Pirates.
"You keep going you get big test but this is going to be a heck of a game and we have to play a good game to win," Brown said. "We have to be able to hold on to the ball and sustain drives like we did against Fulton."