The Boonville Pirates football team made great strides in 2018 under first-year coach Greg Hough.
Now are the Pirates satisfied with finishing 6-4 overall and 5-2 in the Tri-County Conference in 2018? For Hough that question is simple: no.
However after starting the season at 1-2 with losses to Pleasant Hill 42-0 and Blair Oaks 31-0 and a 49-14 win over Holden, Boonville went on a tear by winning its next five games against California 43-0, Osage 41-7, Versailles 42-14, Eldon 34-21 and Hallsville 31-12. The only problem is that the Pirates couldn’t sustain the momentum for the rest of the season while dropping their final two games against Southern Boone 43-27 and Hogan Prep 32-14.
Needless to say, the 2019 season looks promising with seven starters returning on the offensive side of the football for Boonville and five back on defense.
Here is a question and answer with Coach Hough on the 2018 season:
Q: What are your thoughts on the 2018 season?
A: I think there were a lot of positives. Like I have said before I felt like the buy in to the summer program to the start of the season was really good, and then some of the excitement of a new coach and some new philosophy things offensively and defensively so the kids did a good job there. I really couldn’t ask for anymore for our summer and I hope that we continue to build on our summer and get it going and continue that each year. We opened with Pleasant Hill in Week 1 and took a big piece of humble pie, but I thought our kids rebounded well the next week against Holden and got a good win against a team that as the season has progressed has been a team that has been pretty successful. Blair Oaks is obviously who we want to be, one that is always a conference contender every year and state playoff bound so that’s kind of a measuring stick for us. Then we rattled off some games there and got some wins. The wins looking back we were winning and being successful but we were still growing and still had a lot of things to work on. Probably the biggest thing that I need to learn as a coach and the kids need to learn is just because you are winning on the scoreboard doesn’t mean your football team is necessarily getting better. The goal should be to improve each week and when it comes time to playoff football at the end of the year, you should be where you are playing your best football. We won some games through the year but I still felt like we kind of struggled with some things and then the last two weeks of the season against Southern Boone, that game still kind of bothers me a little bit just because I felt like we were the better team. We didn’t perform that way that night and that hangover went over to the following weekend in the first round of the playoffs against Hogan Prep. That is just how it works. This team was a talented team and had a good regular season if you look at it being 6-3. A 6-3 record in most districts would put us as a No. 2 or No. 3 seed and then as a higher seeded team you are predicted to win a game maybe even two games in the district. Unfortunately, we were in a district that we were in and matched up against a really good team and our season came to an end. Looking at who is still playing in our conference, everybody is still playing except us, Hallsville and California. Hallsville almost beat the No. 2 seed and went for two to win the game at the end. California got beat by Blair Oaks. Could’ve, would’ve, should’ve but it is what it is.
Q: Did you feel like it was a good season, though, considering it was your first year here and the kids had to get acclimated to your program?
A: I think so. When you look at records and I have said it before the scoreboards and things sometimes don’t reflect what you’ve done or what you haven’t done. I will be honest I am a little disappointed in the 6-4 record because I think we are better than that. We should have won the Southern Boone game. I think we probably should have showed up and played a little bit better against Hogan Prep, but probably that team is better than us. Pleasant Hill is better than us. Blair Oaks is better than us. We probably did what we were supposed to do all except for maybe Week 9 and I am a very competitive person and I don’t like to feel like I let one slip and that’s probably what is bothering me the most. I felt like Week 9 is a game that we let slip by us that we should have won, but the scoreboard and records don’t reflect or indicate what we have done as a program-wise. I felt like we have kids bought into our training and the preparation of things, but we are still looking for that statement win. If we could get into a game where we fall behind and comeback or something like that, that is what this program needs more than anything just to get the complete buy in. I can preach it and say it but until we do it, it’s still something we are looking for.
Q: What was the conference like as a whole this year. You had Blair Oaks at the top and then Boonville and Southern Boone tied for second?
A: No offense to anybody but obviously California was one of the teams on the bottom. I felt like Hallsville had some talented athletes that when they put it all together they were pretty darn good, but they just weren’t consistent enough. I thought Eldon was a good team, they just battle some injuries to some very key players. Southern Boone was a solid team, well coached and very fundamental.  I could tell that when they played us that their preparation was very, very good. Osage, we kind of caught them when they were going through a little bit of a struggle. Blair Oaks is Blair Oaks with great tradition and great coach. Their preparation is off the charts, too. We follow them every week and see what they do in scout prep and how they almost just pick on team’s weaknesses is incredible. Overall, I thought the conference was pretty even. Versailles beat Southern Boone is still playing in the district. I think with the conference there are a lot of teams that are kind of on the rise a little bit. Some teams are starting to get a little more stability in their coaching realms and that helps. I wouldn’t say it’s better than the NCMC, though. I am not going to be one to toot the horn of finishing second in this conference and say it’s better than the NCMC, but I think it’s a good football conference for us. I think year in and year out it’s going to be very competitive. I think each team over time hopes to catch Blair Oaks. I think we have some talent returning next year that I would like to say after another year of acclimation and another year of work that we are one of those teams that can compete for the title.
Q: What do you feel like it’s going to take to get this team to where you want it to be on offense, defense and special teams?
A: Some of the stuff that we are missing are things we can control. There weren’t a whole lot of games that we were in this year that were real tight games or games that got away from us. There were moments in a game where you look at, the Southern Boone game for example, where we got within seven. Even if you look at the Hogan Prep game, where coming out at halftime and we score real quick and actually had a little momentum going into the half, but we just never could make the stop on defense or make the play on offense to turn the corner. There are some kids you talk to that believe in it but thinking it and doing it are two different things.
Q: What do you feel like the highlight of the season was this year?
A: The five game winning streak was pretty good. One of the highlights to me was the California game. It was Homecoming and we honored the state championship team, but to come out and execute like we did and take the opening kick off back and score on the first play on offense and just to pitch a shutout that night in front of the home crowd was huge, especially after rebounding after the Blair Oaks game. I thought that was a big game for us, and then we went on the road and played some pretty good football.
Q: What did you feel like the low point of the season was this year?
A: Probably the lowest point was the first quarter of the Pleasant Hill game just because there was so much excitement and it just felt like nothing was working for us. That wasn’t very fun, and then the Southern Boone game just all the adversity we faced in that game.  Our goal was to stop their quarterback and that’s all we focused on all week and not to be able to do that was disappointing. Again, I want to take this program to the next level, I want to win a playoff game, I want to be a top team in the conference and I want to be recognized in the state for having a good football team and that Southern Boone game was it. I really think if we win that game, it doesn’t effect our districts, but I think we finish second in the conference and I think we have a good chance of being one of the top 10 teams in the state. Honestly, the Hogan Prep game in the first quarter was disappointing to me because I knew our kids could play with them and again I felt like something between our ears effected us from coming out and playing with those kids. I think we were intimidated not only by the athlete but by the atmosphere and the environment. We just have to find out what we have to do to become better as football players. I don’t think it has anything to do with strength and conditioning or has to do with Xs and Os, it really comes down to making sure our jimmy and joes are strong between the ears. That is our biggest weakness. You just hope that is something you can fix.
Q: You finish the season with 3,377 yards on offense this season. How did you feel about the offense?
A: We had some really, really good skill kids obviously. Tramell Coleman is probably one of the best wide receivers in the area. Avian Thomas has the ability to tough the ball and get out. Even when we moved Tramell to the backfield he has one play potential. Our offensive line was a group that lacked consistency at times but when they were clicking, they were really good. I thought for the most part what we did offensively was ok. I thought we left things on the field, though. I know Nick Ferrari threw for 297 yards one week against Hallsville and the record is 314 or something and I know he made two bad reads. Realistically we should be sitting here talking about Nick being a record holder for a single game. Avian rushed 313 against Versailles and was within 30 yards of the single game rushing record and he dropped an option pitch, which would have given him 40 more yards. For the first year in a completely new everything I thought the kids did ok. This offense definitely had big play potential and a lot of that has to do with how we prepare and being multiple in formations and being multiple with personnel groups. We could manipulate defenses to give us what we consider easy looks or touchdown plays. As a coach if you don’t have the kids that can do stuff it doesn’t matter what your Xs and Os are. Again, over 3,000 yards is the right direction. When our offensive line played well we played really well. We return three of those kids next year so that is exciting and then you look at our skill kids and we return three that saw a lot of time. We will return some good talent. I think the kids should be excited in what we do offensively because we try to throw the ball, we try to run the ball and within all of the RPO action and stuff like that.
Q: Do you think the offense will be better next year?
A: Our offense can be one of the best around I believe. The self-inflicted wounds is what killed us all year. If we play our football and can establish the run game and be a chunk-style offense with the run game and the big play threat and it we don’t turn the ball over, that probably holds me back from saying, yeah, I am really happy with how our offense did. Chasing records next year with the talent that we have coming back, with the kids understanding the system, we are going to chase some of those single game records and maybe even season records. That’s my goal everywhere I go. I did it at Carrollton, I did it at Marceline and that’s what I want to do at Boonville. I think we can put up some good productive numbers next year but we have to eliminate the self-inflicted wounds with the turnovers and if we can play ball control football we are going to be pretty tough.
Q: What about the defense this year. It seemed to be a bend but don’t break team at times?
A: I think our defense was probably a lot better than what a lot of people give us credit for just because some of the scores that you saw. The over 40 against Pleasant Hill, the 31 to Blair Oaks, over 40 to Southern Boone and then last week to Hogan Prep. A lot of those scores were because of our self-inflicted wounds by our offense. Blair Oaks and Southern Boone probably were the only two teams that could sustain long 60 plus drives against us, where we couldn’t get off the field. Our goal was to give up less than 10 points a game and I think if you wanted to break it down where the opponents started the drive and was our JV in the game when they scored, I would say it was pretty darn close to our goal. I also thought the defense was physical. When we went through that streak of winning ballgames there were some teams that didn’t want to play Boonville. Everything we did this year was a collective group effort and I thought the kids responded well to everything we ask of them.
Q: What about the 2019 season. You have quite a few players returning on both sides of the ball. How good can this team be next year?
A: The kids can be as good as they want to be. Obviously we are going to put a plan in front of them with a good, solid offseason program. We are going to work hard in the summer in the weight room, we are going to compete in some 7 on 7 and we would like to venture out and go to a team camp. The kids will have every opportunity to be successful. We should be able to compete each week we play. I want to be the team to beat next year in the conference. I want to be the team with a bull’s-eye on our back. I want to be the team that everybody knows they will have to bring their best effort to beat us. but with that being said that changes the mindset of our kids, too. Our kids mindset is going to have to realize that everybody is coming to beat you next year and everybody knows you return talent. How our kids respond to that I don’t know yet.
Q: Are there going to be any changes next year offensively or defensively?
A: As the winter goes on and the spring goes on we will evaluate who we have coming back. One thing I pride myself on is trying to put our kids in the best situation to succeed. If we are a team that is better at lining up in the I-formation and pounding the football than we will do that. I am not really set in my ways, I am going to do what is best for our kids and I feel like I have the ability to coach that way and I am also not scared to work and if it’s something I need to go out and learn I will go out and learn it and bring it back.