It’s no secret that tonight’s game against the Father Tolton Blazers is a critical game for the Boonville Pirates heading into the rest of the season.
With both teams at 1-2 after three games, Boonville Pirates football coach Barry Blank said a win Friday night on Homecoming would put the Pirates at .500 and springboard them into the NCMC.
“It’s definitely a big game,” Blank said. “After tonight’s game from here on out it’s all-conference games,” Blank said, “so it’s important for us to have confidence going into our conference season. Even though we are at 1-2 we look at the progression of our football team and I think for the most part we have seen improvement on offense and defense.”
While the Pirates fell to Hannibal last week in the conference opener 26-7, Blank said he thought his team beat itself, especially early in the first quarter. While the Pirates led 20-0 at the half, Boonville was driving on its opening series but fumbled the ball going into the end zone for a touchback. The Pirates also fumbled again while driving the ball in the first half.
Boonville finished the game with three turnovers and one interception, which led to 20 of Hannibal’s 26 points.
“I thought defensively we played well,” Blank said. “We did a good job of defending the run and forced them to throw at times. Unfortunately, they had success at it. We felt like we were able to move the football. However, I did like how our kids competed.”
Friday night’s game also culminates a week of festivities for the players and student body to what is better known as Spirit Week. While the Pirates took it on the chin last year against Mexico 28-7, Blank said it’s still an exciting week for the school district.
Since 1950, Boonville is 41-26 in Homecoming games.
“We want the kids to enjoy the festivities but when it comes to practice we want them to focus for 2 1/2 hours because at the end of the week the climax of Homecoming is the football game and our players have to be prepared to perform,” Blank said.
As for Father Tolton, they took a different route to victory last week against Fulton.
While dropping their first-two games of the season against South Callaway 25-19 and Lutheran (St. Peters) 22-2, the Blazers came back last week to hold off the Hornets for a 21-14 victory.
Blank said the Blazers are a spread team and so far they have thrown the ball 60 percent of the time.
“They have been running two quarterbacks but they have settled in on junior Robert Hunter,” Blank said. “He’s a big kid at 6’-5”, 185 pounds. He throws a really good deep ball and sees down the field well. Of course his favorite target is junior Luke Guinn. And when they do run, they like to get the ball to two running backs in senior Patrick Edwards and junior Ben Breitwiser. Both are pretty shifty runners and see the hole well and let their blocks develop in front of them. We have to get a pass rush on their quarterback. It’s going to be important for us to force him to get the ball out quick. As for our secondary, the one thing we have to do is not allow them to get yards after the catch.”
The Blazers also lineup in a different type of defense than the Pirates are used to seeing. Blank said for the first-three games Father Tolton has lined up in a 4-2-5 defense with five defensive backs, two linebackers and four down linemen.
“I assume they will modify that for us because we will be the first team they play with a true tight end,” Blank said. “Their defensive ends are probably their best two players up front. Seniors Zac Schachtner and Eyob Teklesenbet do a really good job of containing the edge and getting up field on pass rush. Meanwhile, in their secondary, senior Nick Beckett has a real nose for the football not just in the run game but also the passing game. We have to be able to finish drives with points on offense. I think we will have a good opportunity to run the ball and set it up with play action pass.”
Blank said Father Tolton also likes to do some different things on special teams. He said in the game last week against Fulton, the Blazers had a fake point after attempt and threw it for a two-point conversion.
“They have some kickers that can kick but they also like to do some things so we’ll have to watch for that,” Blank said.
As for the overall key to the game, Blank said the Pirates have to not allow Father Tolton to get big plays. He said they also have to force them to drive the field. “Offensively, we have to eliminate turnovers and be able to control the clock,” Blank said.
For the season, the Pirates have thrown for 189 yards in three games and rushed for another 469 for a total of 658. As for opponents, they have rushed for 606 yards and passed for 437 for a total of 1,043. Opponents also have 48 first downs in three games compared to 30 for Boonville.
On a individual note, junior Malik Brazil has completed 14 of 27 passes for 176 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions while Kole Ficken is 1 of 3 passing for 13 yards.
Of course it’s no secret that the Pirates like to run the ball. While more of a 60-40 balance, sophomore Avian Thomas is the one player Coach Blank likes to call on a run play while toting the ball 45 times for 297 yards and three touchdowns. Brazil also has 22 carries for 64 yards and one score while Ficken has 18 carries for 61 yards and Ben Eichelberger with 16 carries for 49 yards.
As for receiving yards, junior tight end Brandon Johnson looks to be Brazil’s main target while hauling in four passes for 76 yards. Eichelberger has three catches for 52 yards and one touchdown while Thomas has five receptions for 32 yards and Tramell Coleman with three catches for 29 yards.
On the defensive side of the football, where the Pirates have been stingy at times this season, Eichelberger is the leading tackler so far after three games with 41 tackles. Sophomore Josh Polk, who has been a pleasant surprise this season at the outside linebacker position, is second at 37 tackles. Johnson is a close third with 34 tackles, followed by Thomas with 16, Gabe Rumbaoa and Coleman each with 14 and Andrew Pefferman with 13.
Rumbaoa and Polk are also tied for tackles for losses on the season with four while Johnson and Ficken each have three TFL.
In three games, the Pirates also have just one sack which was registered by Polk. Carson Campbell and Johnson are tied for interceptions on the season with one while Jaylen Butner, Thomas, Polk, Ficken and Ben Horst each have one fumble recovery.