STANDARD DEMOCRAT GAME OF THE WEEK
SCOTT CITY - In most rivalries, there are always upsets.
Whenever Portageville and Scott City meet on the football field, the old saying, "throw the records out" doesn't apply.
Mainly because there is rarely an upset between the two. Most of the time, the favored team wins.
Scott City will try to prove that theory wrong on Friday night when they host the Bulldogs in a 7:30 matchup.
Portageville controls the series historically and recently, winning nine of the last 12 games.
The Bulldogs have put out playoff teams the last two years while the Rams have been under .500.
Only when Scott City had a three-year stretch of solid football teams, including two playoff squads in 1998 and 1999, were the Rams able to defeat the Bulldogs.
The Rams, who are under their fifth different head coach in six years, appeared to be spiraling downward with an 11th hour coaching change in August, just days before the first practice.
But new head coach Jackie Johnson was able to get things organized enough to defeat rival Malden 27-14 in Week 1, a victory that most would consider an upset.
Meanwhile Portageville was busy healing injuries and scouting the Rams during their open date.
"I think with them getting to play in the first week and us not, that works in their favor," said Portageville head coach Jim McKay. "But our kids are looking forward to getting the season started and getting to play. We were able to scout them and see what they were doing because they changed coaches and changed offense and defense and everything. That gave us a week to kind of prepare for what changes they made."
The Bulldogs are once again picked to win their third straight district championship.
But Johnson, previously at Caruthersville, accepts the challenge of playing the Bulldogs early on the schedule.
"I think it's good for us," said Johnson. "I want to see how the kids respond in certain situations. I think last week against Malden we responded the way I wanted us to. Playing tough opponents up front can do nothing but make you better come district time."
The Rams, traditionally a power football team, opened things up with the pass against the Green Wave last Friday, something that concerns McKay.
"They run that spread offense," said McKay. "We're pretty young in some places and it takes a while to get used to seeing that. It's going to be new for Scott City because they've always played power football too. Now they're spreading out everywhere."
Rams quarterback Luke McClellan threw for 129 yards, completed 10-of-17 passes.
But the Rams ran the ball effectively too with Matt Schaeffer gaining 135 yards on 22 carries.
"We're going to do what we do best and that's try to hit them where we can," said Johnson. "Portageville's defense is so tough I don't know if we'll find any holes there. But we're going to do the same stuff I've done the past three or four years."
McKay said the Bulldogs will continue with the same offensive philosophy, power football and controlling the clock.
"Everybody knows what Coach McKay is going to do but you've just got to stop it," said Johnson. "They're so physically strong and well-coached. That's a major concern of mine."
The Bulldogs return leading rusher Antonio Scott, who had 952 yards on 150 carries with 12 touchdowns as a sophomore last season.
Junior Jordan Penn will take over the quarterback position, where he started the first four games last year for his injured brother Lance.
"We say it every year, but we think we're going to have to pass a little more than what we have in the past," said McKay. "We'd like to balance the game a little bit to keep them from putting so many people up there in the box."
Johnson is hoping last week's win against Malden is the sign of good things to come for a program that needs a spark.
"The kids have gone through a lot this summer," said Johnson. "They didn't let anything faze them. They kept their heads and this bunch is hungry. They want to win. They've been down the last couple years and they're wanting to win."