ST. LOUIS -- New Madrid County Central rode its big-play offense to the state championship this year, putting up 39 points per game.
Now they get to face a defense that has given up just 70 points all season. In a battle for the 3A title, NMCC and undefeated Platte County meet Friday at the TWA Dome in St. Louis.
Kickoff is set for 3:15 p.m.
"They've got about seven state champion wrestlers on their team," said NMCC coach Steve Rogers. "It's going to be their toughness and physical play against our speed and athleticism. It's something our kids will never forget."
Platte County (13-0) is no stranger to games of this magnitude. The Pirates have a strong tradition, and have been at the top of Missouri 3A for several years.
"They haven't been ranked No. 1 all year for nothing," said Rogers. "They are a good, good football team. Their special teams are excellent, their defense is tough and their offense is diversified. I'm real proud of the job our guys and our coaching staff have done. We're going up there to do the best we can and let the chips fall where they may. Stranger things have happened."
NMCC (12-1) qualified for the championship by defeating Salem 43-23, while Platte County beat Carl Junction 36-6.
"The kids have worked hard all the way through," said Platte County coach Chip Sherman. "We're just anxious to play in a state championship game again and see how we do."
The opposition is averaging just 76 yards of offense against Platte County's defense. Noseguard Aaron Bernard (5-10, 215) leads the team in tackles with 86, recording six sacks and two fumble recoveries.
Defensive end Travis Frogge (6-2, 240) is the top pass rusher, making 13 sacks with 83 tackles. End Tyler Warner (6-2, 230) is nearly as productive on the other side, recording 10 sacks with 67 tackles.
"Their defense looks pretty stout to me," said Rogers. "It's a big challenge for our kids, but they're ready for it."
And Platte County has an outstanding offense as well. Quarterback Rob Campbell (6-0, 170) is also the team's punter, although he has been used in that capacity just 14 times this year.
The Pirates have outscored their 13 opponents 528 to 70.
"We're balanced," said Sherman. "We throw the ball as much as we run it. We take what people give us. That's been our M.O. the last 10 years or so. If you throw a bunch of guys up in a box, we're going to wing it up over your head or something else."
Offensively the Pirates are led by running back Zach Sherman (5-8, 190), who has gained 2,691 yards on 328 carries with 18 touchdowns. He averages 8.2 yards per carry and 207 per game.
"(Sherman) is a very good running back," said Rogers. "He's a pretty good sized kid and he runs the ball hard."
Sherman has been starting for his father's team since he was a freshman, and is currently No. 2 in Missouri career rushing with over 7,000 yards.
"He's had a wonderful career," said Sherman. "He's played with a lot of great players. We have enough speed that we're quick, and we have enough strength that we're a strong team. But we don't have enough strength to be a pure-power team, and we don't have enough quickness to be a pure-speed team. We're somewhere in the middle."
Running back Matt Prout (6-0, 220) has carried the ball 57 times this year for 468 yards. At quarterback Campbell has thrown for 1,272 yards on 80-of-141 passing. He has 22 touchdowns with just three interceptions.
The receiving corps in balanced.
David Poolman (6-0, 185) leads the way with 555 yards and nine TDs on 24 catches. Chase Verdoorn (6-0, 195) has 25 receptions for 483 with eight TDs, and Cory Williams (6-0, 205) has 10 for 102 with three scores.
"They run a little bit of everything," said Rogers. "Their basic set is an I-formation, but they'll come out with no backs or with a double slot. They threw it 17 times against Carl Junction. They've got a good quarterback, two good wide receivers and a big tight end. They've got a very good offense and a formidable defense. It makes for a real good ball team."
Up front, Platte County's offensive line averages 219 pounds. The starting unit includes tackles Nathan Daniels (6-1, 220) and Charles Grotzmacher (6-1, 230), guards Tyler Warner (6-2, 230) and Travis Frogge (6-2, 204) and center Joe Bullock (6-0, 210).
"Our offensive line plays very well," said Sherman. "Our receivers are good players, and our quarterback does a good job of audibling and getting us in the right situation. It's a team game, and that's the way we play it. There are no egos. We spread the ball around and we take what other teams give us."
The Pirates also have a proficient kicking game with Nick Jaros (5-10, 170), who has kicked 5-of-7 field goals with a long of 39. He is 60-of-66 on PATs.
"We've got nothing to lose," said Rogers. "We're going up against the No. 1 ranked team, the pressure is on them. We pose some different problems than what they've seen in the past. Like I've said about every team we've played in the playoffs so far, I don't think they've seen our speed and athleticism."
Running back Dereke Tipler (5-10, 185) leads the charge for New Madrid County Central, having rushed for 2,090 yards. He has caught 13 passes for 262 yards, and has 36 TDs all together.
Desmond Sims (6-3, 195) has also been effective as a runner and receiver, with 620 yards on the ground and 508 through the air. Trigger man Brian Murph (6-1, 175) has been on a tear in the playoffs, turning in his best games of the season.
He has thrown for 1,163 yards and rushed for 700.
"We've got to stop the big play," said Sherman. "They're awesome athletes. They've got tremendous speed and they're tremendous athletically. We're going to have to be very smart when we play them. They're the fastest team we've played, there's no doubt about that. We are very aware of their quarterback, the running back and their receivers. We're going to have to know where those guys are at all times, because they are just one play away from taking it to the house at all times."
Although one might think playing the game on AstroTurf would be a huge advantage for the speedy Eagles, Rogers doesn't think so.
"I think it's more of an advantage for (Platte County) because they played on it last year, and a lot of those guys are back," said Rogers. "They've got eight defensive starters from last year. We're going to have turf shoes, and we've also got tennis shoes. Are we going to be any faster on it? I really don't know. We're faster than them, but we're not as big as them. We're not used to the big games like they are, because they've had to play some big games the last couple of years and they're used to winning. Even though we're used to winning, it's a little bit different. It's two very good football teams, the two best in 3A."
NMCC has 2,000 tickets available, which can be purchased at the high school for $8 each.
"We try to just stay consistent and do things right," said Sherman. "Tradition breeds tradition. It sounds like a cliche, but we do believe that. Look at New Madrid in basketball. They're just taking that success and transferring it over."