Boonville Pirates football coach Barry Blank used the words “big challenge” when referring to the Moberly Spartans Friday night at Gene Reagan field.
While the Pirates had to rally from behind last week on the road to beat the Fulton Hornets 28-24, the Spartans were also winning at home against Class 4 powerhouse Hannibal in a epic battle by a score of 18-13.
With that win, the Spartans still remain as the only beaten team in the conference at 4-0. They are currently 5-2 overall with five straight wins. In fact, the last time Moberly dropped a game was back on August 25th against the Pleasant Hill Rooster 17-14. The Spartans also fell in the season opener against Sedalia Smith-Cotton 7-6.
“We just need to win by one,” Blank said jokingly. “They’re good. I think the team that can play consistently and be physical for four quarters will win the ballgame. However we just have to be within striking distance. But like any game it will come down to winning the turnover battle and I think special teams always plays a big part.”
Of course the Pirates will also have something to play for on Friday with it being Senior-Parents Night. Boonville is also currently No. 5 in their district with just two weeks remaining in the regular season.
“It’s a huge game against a team in the driver’s seat for our conference,” Blank said. “I think our kids are really excited being Senior-Parents Night because it’s their last guaranteed game at home and they want to put on a good effort.”
As far as what they do offensively, Blank said Moberly will run the spread but also like to do a lot of option. But make no mistake, Blank said it all starts up front for the Spartans with an average weight of 260.
“Moberly’s offensive line might be the best we have played to date,” Blank said, “but their quarterback is a good runner and a good decision maker, and then their tailback is a very strong powerful runner. They also have a good runner at fullback. He’s probably not as good as the tailback but I would say with the two together they are probably the best tandem we have seen all year. They have similar styles.”
The quarterback Coach Blank is referring to is senior Nick Gelina, who combined for over 120 total yards last week against Hannibal while completing 4 of 11 passes for 81 yards and one interception while rushing for another 48 yards.
Junior tailback Chance Richards, meanwhile, finished the game with nine carries for 37 yards while senior Ben Heimann had 20 yards rushing and 19 receiving. As for receiving yards, junior Toshaun Davis led the Spartans in the game last week against Hannibal with two catches for 44 yards.
Blank said the Pirates will have to match Moberly on every option play.
“We have to do a great job of rallying to the football and getting a lot of hats on the football,” Blank said. “If we are making a lot of one on one tackles, it’s going to be a long night.”
As for what the Spartans do on defense, Blank said they will lineup in a 4-4 and do a good job of running to the football.
He said Richards and Heimann are again their two best players on defense. Richards plays defensive end for the Spartans while Heimann lines up at inside linebacker.
“Their secondary plays loose and dares you to throw the ball underneath in front of them because they are very good tacklers,” Blank said. “For us to be successful, we have to get a minimum of 4 yards per play on the run and we have to do a great job of staying on our blocks and finishing blocks. We also have to complete our 5-6 yard routes whether they are slants or stops. They are just a complete football team. They are also solid on special teams. They do a good job in their coverage and in their blocking so that always poses an issue in trying to get something there but they are just well coached.”
In the game last week at Fulton, Blank said there were two positives that his team can take from that game. He said the first positive was how the Pirates started the game in the first quarter. The second positive, he said, was how his team finished the game in the fourth quarter and being down by 10.
“I also liked how we finished on defense once we took the lead,” Blank said. “I thought Kole Ficken played really well at quarterback and did a good job of reading the option and then Malik Brazil stepping in at tailback and doing a really good job there.”
The Pirates can also feel good about being 3-0 on the road this season and 3-0 in Homecoming games. Blank said it all starts with the evolution of the team. He said in 2015 the team wasn’t even competitive on the road. Then last year, he said he thought the Pirates were very competitive with the close loss at Hannibal (28-20) and Moberly (28-25).
“I think it shows with the maturity of the football team,” Blank said. “I think every week you see the growth in our football team. Our kids don’t play with a lot of egos. They just want to have some success. Another thing I think that has helped is our offensive turnovers are down tremendously from last year. Our kicking game has been very good along with our coverage on special teams, and on defensively it seems like when we are in positions of adversity the kids seem to rise up to the challenge.”
As for changes this week in the lineup, Blank said junior Malik Brazil will get the start at tailback. Meanwhile, on defense, Blank said sophomore Josh Polk will move over from outside linebacker to inside linebacker in place of senior Ben Eichelberger, who is out two games. Junior Andrew Pefferman will slide in at Polk’s spot at outside linebacker. Sophomore Tramell Coleman will also return at free safety on Friday after sitting out a game.
As for stats through seven games, senior quarterback Kole Ficken has completed 20 of 39 passes for 281 yards with three touchdowns. He is also the current leader in rushing yards for active players with 70 carries for 267 yards and six touchdowns.
Sophomore running back Avian Thomas is the leading rusher this season for Boonville with 89 carries for 519 yards and six touchdowns.
As for receiving yards, junior tight end Brandon Johnson has 10 catches for 182 yards.
On defense, senior linebacker Ben Eichelberger leads the Pirates with 88 total tackles while Johnson has 70 and Polk with 61.