The Boonville Pirates football team had a number of highs and lows throughout the 2019 season.
While finishing 7-4 overall, the Pirates also had a winning record in the Tri-County Conference at 4-3.
But more importantly, Boonville now has back to back win seasons under head coach Greg Hough after finishing 6-4 in 2018 and 7-4 in 2019.
The last time that happened was in 2011 and 2012 when Boonville finished 10-2 and 6-5, respectively.
Boonville also accomplished one of its goals of hosting a district playoff game. The Pirates hosted the Oak Grove Panthers in a No. 4 versus No. 5 matchup at Gene Reagan field.
Boonville won that game 47-26 but lost its next game in the semifinal round last Friday against top-seeded Odessa 55-7.
In a sit down with Boonville Pirates football coach Greg Hough on Wednesday, Hough talked about the 2019 season and the future for the Pirates.
What was your thoughts on the 2019 season?
I think we showed some improvements in some areas that we had some focus on. It's hard to determine what your focus is going to be when the season starts. First you start with personnel and who we have personnel-wise and what we are going to do. We started our season we would do a lot of things with Avian and Tramell in different locations on the field-running back, wide receiver. And then we get thrown a curveball with Wiser going down and getting hurt. Then, you resort back to not being able to do some of the stuff that we really worked on most of the summer. That stuff happens and being able to adapt. As the year goes like I said you just kind of adjust and go with whatever. I felt like our weaknesses really didn't get exposed until late in the year when we faced some of the better teams that we played, so that made it difficult to be kind of play catch up a little bit to get where we needed to be. At the end of the day the teams that we lost to are all really good teams. Obviously three of the four are playing for district championships. The other team, Southern Boone, has kind of had our number the last two years so hopefully we can get on track with those guys and compete with them.
What happened the last four or five games of the year?
We played better football teams and they scored more points than us.
You finished 4-3 in the conference this year but finished 5-2 in 2018. Talk about finishing 4-3 this year?
We lost to Blair Oaks, who I think will be in the state championship. We lost to Southern Boone and gave up three busted plays. Three or four plays in all three games that we lost the game could be different. I said last year after the Hallsville game that there was a lot of talent on that team that returned this year. I just didn't feel like they were doing some of the stuff that they needed to be doing to be successful. They got a new coach in there that obviously has them doing the right thing. I don't think we hang our heads about who we lost to.  We are probably 3-4 plays in everyone of those games to winning those. The only team that actually just dominated us was Odessa.
What about the conference as a whole, how did you see it this year?
Obviously pretty good. Your top half teams are competitive pretty much at all levels. Blair Oaks is still the beast. We were probably the ones that played them the closest and I think that's just because we hit some of our big play opportunities and that was kind of our makeup this year. We were a team that could put drives together successfully. We were a team that had to hit some big plays and take some chances. Obviously Trent Tracy is a really good coach at Southern Boone and he does some things that are really, really good. His in-game adjustments are very clean. Justin Conyers and his staff, their run game offensively and their offensive line play is the best in the conference. And then Blair Oaks has some of the most talent. What those guys do in preparation with their schemes and their system is very good. They definitely find your weakness and attack it. Those three teams are the guys that we have to beat and get better as players and get better as coaches to compete with. That's the goal. Versailles is a team that proved as the year went on they were a team that made it to the district semifinals. They were a pretty good team. California is going to bring everything back so they are going to get better. Eldon and Osage I don't know a lot about them. I think our conference from top to bottom one of the better conference's in the area for football.
What was the highlight of the season this year?
Probably the second half versus Oak Grove. That was the one time this year that our team played to their full potential.
The lack of consistency was probably the lowlight of our season. We just couldn't consistently put together offensively, defensively or special teams to our potential. I felt like in the second half versus Oak Grove is when we did that offensively and defensively, and that was the most fun football that we had and that was the most successful we had. Fourteen to 18 year-old kids, they can be high or they can be low. It's just a roller coaster ride. We just never had that smooth ride really this year even against teams that we were on the scoreboard dominating. We were still struggling to do some things. Again, that's kind of my opinion on things. I expect our kids when we are superior to our opponent we should be the aggressor and take complete advantage of that. I don't feel like we did that when we were the superior. Then, when we were equal or maybe even less talented than some of our opponents, we didn't at times step up to the challenge. Week 1 was good because just again starting a new season. Pleasant Hill was a team that dominated us last year. For us to come out of there with a win with so many question marks of what we are going to do and who we are going to be to come away with a win was good.
You talked about how this team struggled out of the gates early to start games. What did you feel like the problem was?
There are a lot of kids with natural ability and natural ability only takes you so far. That was how this group of kids were kind of wired. If you know a lot of these kids personally, they’ve kind of got that happy go lucky personality and mindset and that can catch up with you sometimes. It's a great thing to be around. There was nothing to high for them or nothing to low for them, but that happy go lucky personality once the whistle blows kind leads to itself a little bit. I still think there is a lot of growing when it comes to 14-18-year-old leadership. Kids need to be able to do things without being led and realize things before it's too late. That's kind of things that we have to work on in the off season.
The last five games Boonville struggled to stop the run and surrendered over 1,200 yards rushing. What happened with the run defense?
Strength of schedule got better towards the end of the year. Hallsville kind of did some things that exposed us to some teams; the better teams late in the year where they could see some things that Hallsville was doing and kind of put it out there for people to see. Against Eldon that's one of those things where it's that respect all fear none mentality. I can say it, the coaches can say but until 14-18-year-old kids buy into it and understand it, we are still going to struggle with that stuff.
Where do you see this program after two years? You are 13-8 after two years. Is next year a rebuilding year?
Are goal is to improve obviously. You don't replace your Brandon Johnsons, your Avian Thomas, your Tramell Coleman, your Big Al and stuff like that. You never replace those kids. Every kid is different. Everybody's skill set is different. You don't replace those kids. You just hope that the kids that you do have, you hope that you elevate their game. So we have some juniors that really need to elevate their game, we have some sophomores and some freshmen that need to elevate their game. For this program to be successful, there has to be buy in from kindergarten through senior year. If you really want to talk about what it's going to take to change this, it's complete buy in. It's for our youth kids to dream and to wish to be Boonville Pirates to have the pride amongst them. Our middle school has to do things and learn discipline and fundamentals of football. For our program to take the next step, we have to improve not only 9-12 grade but also kindergarten through eighth grade of instilling some of the stuff that takes to be successful.
What does 2020 look like. Is this going to be a team that is going to be competitive night in and night out?
I think we will compete against pretty much everybody that we play against. We return quite a big of kids with talent. I foresee a bunch of kids stepping up. It's still a long ways away but I think we will be alright.
What did you feel like this team did well in this year?
When we were good we were good. Again that kind of goes back to what our downfall was. Our downfall was consistency. But when we were good we were good.
What were some of the things where you thought this team struggled with?
Just the consistency. When we had negative faults, at least on the offensive side, is when we hurt ourselves. The turnovers and playing behind the sticks. That's probably the biggest thing.