NEW MADRID -- Battered and bruised, the New Madrid County Central Eagles (1-3) face powerhouse Caruthersville (4-0) in a SEMO Central Conference matchup on Friday.
NMCC is coming off a 38-6 loss to Charleston, while Caruthersville drubbed Hayti 48-0 last week.
Five offensive starters, three of whom double on the defensive side, are among the wounded Eagles. Quarterback Jordan Kimball, running backs Printice Willis, Terrance Smith and Jeffery McFarland and noseguard Delanio Taylor are all out or questionable for Friday's contest.
"When we went into the season, we thought it would be probably about week five or six that we would see some of these young guys adapt to our system and get some playing time," said NMCC head coach Arlen Pixley, "but due to injuries, it's happened a week or so before we expected it.
"We're going to go with what we have and take it from there."
Freshman Dylan Harris, fourth on the NMCC depth chart at tailback at the start of the season, draws his first starting assignment.
Harris and his teammates must contend with a Caruthersville defense that has shut out three of four opponents.
NMCC junior fullback Antonio McIntosh will likely get the bulk of the carries, as he did against Charleston with 16 for 111 yards.
Replacement quarterback Sherman Newsome, a better runner than passer, will also have to contribute to the NMCC ground attack.
For his team to have any chance against the Caruthersville juggernaut, Pixley believes it must start up front. "Their line is what really sets them apart from everybody else this year," he said. "They've got five guys up front that are tremendous players. They're all about the same height and same weight and can run.
"If you can somehow disrupt those guys, I think you can have a chance."
Added Pixley, "They're a lot more athletic than we are, but, scheme-wise, I think what we do with our line is a little bit more intricate and may cause some disruption to their blocking schemes and, hopefully, give our defense enough time to get to the football."
This one has all the markings of a major mismatch, but Pixley remains optimistic.
"We've got some fresh faces in there, it's homecoming week and we're excited," he said.
Caruthersville, the top ranked team in Class 2, has been, literally, unstoppable.
The Tigers, under second-year head coach David Gilmore, average 53 points per game and boast a defensive unit that has allowed a mere six points all season.
Offensive balance, a diversified blend of rushing and passing, and explosiveness make the Tigers a threat to score on each possession.
Although there are productive athletes on both sides of the ball, the system seems to overshadow any individuality.
For instance, when first-string running back Kendrickus Reed went down with injury, his backup Adam Cecil stepped in and the ground game didn't miss a beat.
Cecil (561 yards, 8 TDs) and Reed (482 yards, 6 TDs), both rank in the top five for area rushers.
Signal caller Keith Creekmore is third in the area with 650 yards and 13 TDs, and the Tigers' leading receiver Plessie Ellitt has 15 catches for 300 yards and 4 TDs.