The Boonville Pirates will face yet another daunting task Friday night when they host the state-ranked Mexico Bulldogs at Gene Reagan field.
While the Bulldogs fell last week at home against the Hannibal Pirates 20-18, they still remained at No. 9 in Class 3 in the high school football polls with a record of 2-2. Of course both of Mexico’s losses this season have come against bigger schools, as the Bulldogs fell in Week 1 against Battle 35-13 and last week against Class 4 Hannibal.
As for the Pirates, they picked up their first win of the season last week against the Father Tolton Blazers 35-27. Boonville also snapped a nine-game road losing streak last Friday in Columbia. The Pirates last win on the road came back on Friday, Oct. 10th  against the Moberly Spartans by a score of 7-6.
As for the series between Boonville and Mexico since 2008, the two teams are tied with four wins each. However, the Bulldogs have won the last-two meetings by the scores of 35-12 in 2014 and 47-0 last year. But prior to the 2014 game, Boonville won three straight by beating Mexico 18-12 in overtime in 2011, 26-0 in 2012 and 12-6 in 2013.
Current standings also favor this Bulldogs this year 2-2 overall and 1-1 in the NCMC. The Pirates, meanwhile, are 1-3 overall and 0-1 in the conference.
Entering his third year at Mexico with a record of 19-5 overall, head coach Steve Haag said he thought his team hurt themselves last week against Hannibal.
While leading at one point by a score of 13-0, Haag said the game turned into a big field position game.
“We were inside our 10-yard line on three possessions in the first half and we didn’t step up and play really good special teams,” Haag said. “We were up 13-0 and then we punt and of course they have a good returner in Shamar Griffth and we let him return it for a touchdown to make it 13-7 at the half. Then, we go up 19-7 in the third quarter and we allow them to run the kick off back to the 2-yard line and they end up scoring to make it 19-13. And then they end up scoring late in the fourth quarter and we just couldn’t get a drive going.
“It wasn’t typical Mexico football. We hurt ourselves with mistakes and anytime Mexico beats Mexico you are not going to win any ballgames. Hannibal has a good team but we did enough to ourselves to give that ballgame away so you live and learn. Like I said before the pity party is over so you have to get back to work and get ready for another good NCMC opponent”
Graduation also hit the Bulldogs hard after the 2015 season. While finishing 10-2, Haag said he likes where his team is defensively but at times don’t step up to the challenge on offense or special teams.
Mexico returns just four starters back on offense while returning six back on defense.
In the game last week against Hannibal, junior quarterback Deion Wayman completed 4 of 10 passes for 32 yards with two interceptions. Junior running back Cameron Holman, meanwhile, led the rushing attack with five carries for 84 yards and two touchdowns. On the defensive side of the ball, which seems to be the Bulldogs strength this season, senior inside linebacker Brit Wilson led the team with nine solo tackles for a total of 13. Junior middle linebacker Kellen Kern also hit double digits in tackles last week with 10.
Boonville Pirates football coach Barry Blank, who is still riding an emotional high from last week’s win against Father Tolton, said the Bulldogs run a double wing and will run unbalanced, double tight or tigh end/split end combinations. He said junior running back Cameron Holman is their go-to back.
“He is a very explosive runner and Coach Haag will run power and sweeps with him,” Blank said. “Their quarterback is also good. He is the leading rusher and likes to keep the ball on option plays. The tight end and the right side of their line are really good blockers as well. They are about as good as they come. The key for us is that we have to put them in second and long and third and long situations because they do a good job of grinding the ball.”
On the defensive side of the ball, Blank said the Bulldogs will run a 3-5-3 but will pack the box and have everybody 8 yards from the football.
“They want you to throw the ball and will bring pressure from everywhere.”
As for players to watch on defense for Mexico, Blank said junior middle inside linebacker Kellen Ekern is a physical downhill player and has a great nose for the football. He said junior defensive lineman Aaron Terrse also has a great motor.  “He can play nose and defensive end,” Blank said. “It’s hard to gameplan where he will be because they constantly move him around. We will have to be really balanced and block well up front.”
Blank said the win over Father Tolton was also a good momentun builder for the Pirates. He said statisically he didn’t like their production, especially in the second half.
“The two things that we really liked is how our defense played, especially in the fourth quarter,” Blank said. “I also thought our special teams were huge the whole game.”
To give you a better understanding of just how close the two teams are this season, the Pirates have 490 yards passing and another 453 rushing for a total of 943 while the Bulldogs have 301 yards passing and 981 rushing for a total of 1,282. Mexico has also outscored its opponents 113-72 in four games while Boonville has scored a total of 74 points and given up 117.
One statistic that is dead even this season is opponents records. Although the Bulldogs have played one Class 4 and one Class 5 team this season with just one loss, their two wins have come against teams with a combined record of 1-7. As for the Pirates, they have played four teams with a combined record of 8-8.
Blank said he thinks the game on Friday will come down to starting fast. “When we create our own momentum early, we play much better,” Blank said. “I think special teams is going to be huge as well. We also have to win the turnover battle. We have to create turnovers and not turn the ball over to Mexico.”
Blank also has one disadvantage this week of trying to keep the players focused on the task at hand instead of all the Homecoming activities.
“I think it’s good for the kids,” Blank said. “I told them to enjoy it during school but from 3-5:45 p.m. the focus has to be on football. I think this game is going to be huge for both teams because it lays a foundation on how you play in the conference for the rest of the season.”
Haag said his team has to come out and play physical and don’t hurt themselves.
“That’s the biggest key,” Haag said. “If Mexico doesn’t hurt themselves Mexico will be in the ball and we have a good chance of winning the ballgame. However if we hurt ourselves, anything can happen. I know Boonville is going to come after us. I told our team yesterday that we play Hannibal and we play Hannibal a close game and we are disappointed. It’s like someone died.
“Boonville plays Hannibal a close game and they are excited because that’s where everybody wants to be in the conference. They kind of gauge themselves against a Hannibal. The big thing is that we’ve got to make sure we get our level back up because if we don’t, we may find ourselves in the same spot this week.”