The Boonville Pirates football team will face an undaunting task Friday night in the semifinal round of the Class 3 District 7 playoffs.
Having won last week at home against the Oak Grove Panthers in a No. 4 versus No. 5 matchup 47-26, the Pirates will now face the No. 1 seed in the district and No. 2 ranked team in the state Friday night in the Odessa Bulldogs.
Like the Pirates, Odessa won easily last week against No. 8 Clinton 76-8. The Bulldogs, 10-0 on the season, have pretty much cake-walked through the regular season by outscoring their opponents 532-70 for an average of 53 points per game. Opponents, meanwhile, are averaging only 7 points per game against Odessa.
The winner of Friday night’s game will play the winner of No. 2 Center or No. 3 Southern Boone in the championship game on Friday, Nov. 15.
Here are five things to know going into Friday night’s game against Odessa:
1. Can Boonville stop the Bulldogs high-powered offense?
If the Pirates are going to succeed Friday night, they will no doubt have to do a better job in stopping the run.
While giving up over 900 yards on the ground alone in the last-four games, Boonville will get another dose of run first, pass second against the Bulldogs.
Expect Coach Mark Thomas’ teams also to be big and physical.
Boonville football coach Greg Hough said offensively the Bulldogs are going to run a lot of power concepts. “They are going to have guards pulling and they have like a sniffer back,” Hough said. “He’s really good. It’s a lot of stuff very similar to what we do. They also have some really good tight ends, who are big and physical. They don’t throw the ball necessarily a whole lot but can do it. They’re just a really solid team that has had some success the last couple of years.”
2. Can Hough match wits against two former Boonville coaches?
It’s going to be tough no doubt. Thomas has proven that he can win the big game, having won three state titles (1 at Boonville in 1998 and 2 at Kearney). The Bulldogs are also 22-1 the last two years under Thomas and assistant coach Barry Blank, who coached at Boonville from 2015-2017.
Hough is in his second year at Boonville and is currently 13-7 overall.
The Pirates will no doubt be underdogs against the Bulldogs, who are home and playing to make it back to the quarterfinals.
3. How important is it to get off to a good start against Odessa?
Very important. The Bulldogs are not a team you want to play from behind against, especially at home. If Boonville can keep it close for three quarters, who knows.
Hough said his team has to make things happen. “I don’t think we have to be perfect by no means but if we get an opportunity to do something, we have to make things happen,” Hough said. “I felt like we matched a team last week that was just as physical. Again, we will just keep riding that wave of that success and just see what happens.”
4. Will special teams play a important part of the game?
If it does, the Pirates clearly have the edge with their return game. Boonville punt and kick off teams have also been solid this season.
However, the Pirates will have to be aware of the onside kick by the Bulldogs. Hough said it seems like Odessa does the onside kick at least once or twice a game. He said their return teams are also very, very good even though they are not real deep.
“Coach keeps his best players out there pretty much on every unit and pretty much the whole game no matter what the score is,” Hough said. “We just have to tackle and play physical with Odessa.”
5. How important will clock management be in this game?
Against a team that likes to put a lot of points on the board, clock management means everything.
Of course the Pirates are no slouch when it comes to scoring points. Although they have three losses on the season, Boonville has scored a total of 355 points for an average of 35.5 points. However the big difference is that opponents have put up 218 points against the Pirates for an average of 21.8 points per game.
That will be the key. Can the Pirates stop a big, physical team in Odessa? Only time will tell if Boonville has what it takes to go head to head with one of the top teams in the state in Class 3.