Speed, speed, speed.
After New Madrid County Central plays, it seems that's all opposing coaches and fans have talked about this season.
The Eagles have it, the losing teams don't.
While I do agree having blazers scattered all over the field is a huge advantage, I don't think it's what makes them such a dangerous team.
What the Eagles do on the fly is even more devastating. When Brian Murph takes the snap from center, all bets are off. The crowd doesn't know, the defense doesn't know, and sometimes it appears Murph doesn't even know what will transpire from that point.
A perfect example came in Monday's quarterfinal win over Clayton.
The Eagles held a 7-0 lead, but that appeared to be in jeopardy as a scrambling Murph was being hawked down by two defenders deep in NMCC territory.
Things seemed to go from bad to worse when Murph reversed field and took an angle in the wrong direction. If Clayton makes the tackle, it's a whole new ballgame.
Like he's done so many times this season, Murph juked both defenders and ran towards an open patch in the flats. At that point you think things are looking up. He's going to get back to the line of scrimmage, and only a down will be lost.
Then Murph unexpectedly unloads a pass to Desmond Sims, and the 6-foot-3, 190-pound specimen finds his top speed in a split second. The Clayton secondary looks more like deer in headlights as Sims streaks 70 yards for a touchdown along the visitor's sideline.
You can call it sandlot football, Tecmo Bowl or whatever else, but NMCC has made an art of killing teams with busted plays in recent years.
How do you scheme against that?
Expecting Dereke Tipler will run right, do you load the line of scrimmage to the left and hope to catch him on the way back?
The theory has always been that it doesn't work against good teams. But the Eagles are 11-1 right now in the state semifinals.
A very good Salem team comes to town this Saturday. Will it work against them?
If it does, defending state champion Platte County's worst nightmare comes true: the Eagles in tennis shoes on AstroTurf.
But the ticket to the dome runs through Salem. The Tigers have qualified for the playoffs for a fourth straight year and look to take another step after losing in the 3A championship last season.
Running back Joe Harris (6-1, 229) leads the charge, and quarterback Tyler Dillon (6-3, 165) is also a threat.
But Salem isn't 11-1 because of its offense. An outstanding defense is what makes them one of the state's best.
Linebackers Mike Sankovitch (6-1, 190) and Brian Steelman (5-7, 188) are the heart and soul of the team, combining for an incredible 231 tackles.
For the first time all season, NMCC will be the underdog. Personally, I don't buy it. I say pack your bags Eagle fans because this explosive team is taking a trip to the big city.
Final score: NMCC 28, Salem 14
For just this game, why not change Jackson's nickname from the Indians to the Sacrificial Lambs? Don't be fooled by Jackson's incredible run. Class 5A is still too tough for small-town 5A schools.
Hazelwood East is the best team in the state and one of the tops in the nation.
Final score: Hazelwood East 40, Jackson 6