CARUTHERSVILLE - The Charleston Bluejays and the Caruthersville Tigers will both be looking for their first win of the season on Friday night at Caruthersville High School.
Both the SEMO Central teams have started out 0-2 on the season.
The two teams do have on common opponent already in Kennett. Charleston lost to the Indians 21-7 in Week 1 while Caruthersville lost 40-27 last week.
While Charleston is traditionally one of the fastest teams in the area, Bluejay head coach Brent Anderson says his team won't have that edge this week.
"They've got a ton of speed and they're a lot better than they've been in the past," said Anderson. "They've got great skill kids and they've got more team speed than anyone we've seen so far. It's going to be a real challenge."
Leading the charge for the Tigers this year are senior running back Chris Springer and junior speedster Jimmy Jackson.
"They're both great skill players and they're explosive as they can be," said Anderson. "They can both run with the football and they can catch. That to me is going to be the key. If we can contain those two then it will make them a little bit more predictable."
Springer rushed for 900 yards as a sophomore but struggled last year. So far this year he is back to his sophomore form, rushing for 176 yards while receiving 125 yards on six catches. He leads the team with four touchdowns.
Jackson, after bursting onto the season with more than 900 yards last year, leads the team with 282 yards rushing, including a 32-carry, 214-yard effort against Kennett last week.
"So far they're both having outstanding seasons," said Caruthersville head coach Jackie Johnson. "They worked hard in the offseason and they're doing a good job for me right now."
The Tigers are young on the offensive line with three sophomores starting.
"We're going to have to play great defense Friday night to stay in the ballgame with them," said Anderson. "They're very explosive on offense and they can pretty much score from anywhere on the field."
Rogers VanAusdall is the team's signal caller for the second year in a row. He has completed 10 passes out of 28 attempts for 192 yards. He's been intercepted twice but he has thrown three TD tosses.
"He's a very smart young man," said Johnson. "He can control the football game, he's more of a passer than an option-type quarterback. We've thrown the ball a little more this year."
The Bluejays have had trouble putting points on the scoreboard this year. With 13 fumbles in two games and several costly penalties, Charleston has been its own worst enemy.
"It's the little things that are getting us beat the first two weeks," said Anderson. "The kids have seen on tape what they've done wrong. They know the adjustments they need to make. I think they're ready to take the next step. I'm not as worried about Caruthersville as I am about Charleston. We've got to take care of ourselves and then we'll worry about Caruthersville."
The Bluejays have been led offensively by senior Orrice Stanback. He is one of the area leaders in rushing with 329 yards on 58 attempts.
"When you play against an individual such as Orrice, you've got to key on him," said Johnson. "He's a load. He's right around 200 pounds, he's a very good sprinter and an excellent ballplayer. We have to focus on him, but we have to keep an eye on the rest of the weapons that they possibly could have."
Quarterback A.H. Marshall has thrown the ball adequately, completing 10 passes out of 21 attempts for 150 yards. He was picked off once last week but he also had a TD toss.
Deshaundray Hamilton has caught four passes for 92 yards with the lone TD reception.
The Bluejays are also huge and experienced up front, where they might have an edge on the youthful Tigers.
"They've got a big offensive line and they'll be hard to stop," said Johnson. "I think defensively we're going to have to play a real heads up football game."
Anderson says until his team can limit the big play, something they have yet to do, then wins will be hard to come by.
"We took a step Friday night to getting better," said Anderson. "We've played good team defense the first two ballgames but we gave up the big play. We gave up three big plays to Kennett and three big plays to Sikeston, but those plays lost us two games. Hopefully we can get that corrected soon."