After a 0-3 start for the 2012 season, the Boonville Pirates football team may have finally found the right gear heading into Friday night’s game against the Kirksville Tigers.
Although both teams enter the game with identical records at 2-3 overall, they appear to be going in opposite directions with Boonville winning its last-two games by a combined score of 61-13 while the Tigers have dropped their last-three by a combined score of 98-0.
Nonetheless, Boonville Pirates football coach Devin Brown said he feels like Kirksville will be ready to play and give them everything they have for four quarters.
Of course the Pirates weren’t too shabby during their Homecoming last week against the Mexico Bulldogs while putting up a season-high 450 yards in total offense en route to a 26-0 victory.
As for the Tigers, they were shutout by the Hannibal Pirates last week 48-0 and trailed by that same score after just two quarters.
Kirksville first-year coach Jeff Jacques said it was a good learning experience for his team.
“We had to overcome not only a good opponent but also some tough officiating and I thought our kids handled the adversity pretty well,” Jacques said. “I thought our linebackers still played pretty well in that game and I thought our receiving core caught the ball and threw well even though our stats don’t necessarily show that since we had a lot called back.”
While putting up 136 yards in total offense last week against Hannibal, 66 of those yards came by the hand of senior quarterback Mitch Kriegshauser, who completed 5 of 15 passes. Senior Austin Carlisle, meanwhile, was the leading receiver for the Tigers last week with two catches for 30 yards while senior Gunner Western hauled in two passes for 27 yards.
Kirksville was limited on the ground against the Pirates while totalling just 70 yards. Junior running back Blake Riley was the leading rusher for the Tigers with five carries for 38 yards.
Meanwhile, on the defensive side of the ball against Hannibal, sophomore linebacker Makenna Cook led Kirksville with two solo stops, five assisted tackles and one fumble recovery.
Of course what was once a promising start to the season after back-to-back wins over Southern Boone of Ashland 51-22 and Chillicothe 26-6 has quickly dissipated after three straight losses against Moberly 31-0, Marshall 19-0 and last week against Hannibal.
Jacques said his team was clicking on all cylinders early and were healthy at that point. But since, he said the Tigers have had to overcome a lot of injuries and adversities up front at the skilled positions.
“I am hoping by this Friday we will be 100 percent and back with our starting lineup as we started the season off,” Jacques said. “I told my players that this is the second season now. We need to finish strong and finish just like we started.”
As for the last-three opponents, Jacques said the Tigers have played some pretty good teams. “I think our last-three opponents have a combined record of 13-1 overall, so we knew this was going to be a tough part of our season,” Jacques said. “We play in a tough conference and anytime you play a NCMC team it’s going to be a dogfight from the first kick off to the last. I think our kids have handled the losses well. We’ve played well and continue to improve both offensively and defensively and from a new coaching staff that is all you can ask for.”
With seven starters back on offense and five back on defense to start the season, Jacques said he knew it would take his team time to learn the system along with the philosophy and the terminology. He commented even further that while the players have game experience, they really don’t have experience within the system.
Needless to say, the Tigers have still managed to put up some pretty good numbers this season. While Kriegshauser has completed 24 of 67 passes for 333 yards with three touchdowns and four interceptions, senior tailback Scott Schwend has rushed for 475 yards on 90 carries and four touchdowns.
Kirksville also has a group of receivers with 50 yards or more. Senior Jonathan Broce and Western each have 82 yards receiving for the Tigers while fullback Parker Osborn has four catches for 71 yards.
For the season, Kirksville has 352 yards passing and 948 yards rushing for a total of 1,300 yards in total offense.
The Tigers have also been stingy on defense at times this season. Through five games, Cook leads the team in tackles with 20 solo stops, 38 assisted tackles, three fumble recoveries, one sack and one blocked field goal. Junior defensive back Blake Riley also has double digit tackles for the season with 13 solo stops along with 21 assisted tackles, one interception and one fumble recovery.
Brown said the Pirates are very familiar with the Tigers offense because it is stuff they have already seen.
“Coach Parsons is running the offense so we kind of know what they are going to run,” Brown said. “They are still trying to find a little bit of identity because they have had guys shuffled in and out of each of their games obviously with injuries. However with this being their Homecoming, you can’t count anything out because they will be ready to play I am sure. We have tackled a lot better the last couple of weeks and we have to continue to do that. Just getting lined up and not letting big plays happen will be the key for us. The big thing is getting aligned right and react and get off the ball and tackle.”
As for Kirksville’s defense, Brown said the Tigers have switched from a 4-4 cover three to a 4-3 cover two and will blitz a little bit here and there with their linebackers. He said the Tigers have also been noted to change their coverage a little bit and walk their safety up.
“It’s pretty basic,” Brown said. “They just want to get off the ball. Their middle linebacker, who is just a sophomore, is real athletic but they also have some big guys at defensive tackle that we have to be able to control and handle. We just need to continue to do what we are doing. We just have to be assignment competent and know who we are blocking when we are blocking and be able to get movement and get off the ball. We also have to keep the penalties and turnovers away like we have been doing.”
In the game last week against Mexico, the Bulldogs did both with no penalties and no turnovers in the game. The Pirates also recorded their first shutout of the season.
But even with the shutout, Brown said he thought there were times where he thought the offense could do a little bit more.
“We had long drives so I will take that as well,” Brown said of two 13 play drives in the game against Mexico. I will take that anytime because we are keeping it away from them and wearing them down. People have asked me wouldn’t I rather win 40-0 and I say no because as long as we are moving the ball we are usually playing well. Defensively, I thought we gave up a couple of big plays last week and there were a couple of times that I thought we should have had some interceptions so we have to make those plays especially in tight ballgames. But overall I thought we had a pretty good Homecoming.”
As far as Boonville, Jacques said the Pirates season started like the Tigers season has been finishing. He said the last-three games the Tigers haven’t been able to move the ball very well and put the ball in the end zone, whereas, Boonville has been clicking on all cylinders.
“They give you a tough scheme up front with the mid-line and the veer and then they sprinkle in the pass when they have to,” Jacques said of Boonville. “They have it clicking up front now so it’s going to be a tough game for us. The key for us is that we have to execute and be gap oriented. We play a gap assignment-style defense and we have to control our gaps and play within our system.”
As for the Pirates’ defense, Jacques said they will lineup in a 4-4 cover three and like to fly around and get after the ball.
“Jalen Poindexter is a stud as far as linebacker so we are going to have to account for him in the box,” Jacques said. “We are just going to have to execute and make plays on offense. Like any game you play in the NCMC, you have to control the trenches. Whoever controls the line of scrimmage is going to be victorious on Friday.”
Of course neither Brown or Jacques would say whether it would be a high or low scoring game. Brown said he wouldn’t know until he got into the game. As for Jacques, he said he really doesn’t see it either way. He said it just depends on which side of the ball is clicking and hopefully the Tigers’ offense will be clicking and Boonville’s isn’t and hopefully Kirksville’s defense is clicking and the Pirates isn’t.
“I just think it’s going to be a good football game,” Jacques said. “Even though we are coming off three straight losses I think our spirits are high. We did a lot of nice things against Hannibal, we just couldn’t punch it in. Our kids are warriors and they will be ready to play on Friday.”
For the season, senior running back Kelsey Callaway continues to lead the team in rushing with 84 carries for 498 yards and five touchdowns. Junior quarterback Jacob Francis, meanwhile, has completed 19 of 43 passes for 216 yards with two touchdowns and four interceptions. Senior Damario Walker also has a team-leading 15 catches for 227 yards and one touchdown. Meanwhile, on the defensive side of the ball, senior linebacker Jalen Poindexter has 43 solo stops along with 27 assisted tackles, two forced fumbles and one blocked field goal.