NEW MADRID - An inexperienced New Madrid County Central team faces a daunting task in its first-ever meeting with perennial Class 4 power North County on Friday.
"They're well-coached, well-seasoned and used to winning," said NMCC coach Arlen Pixley.
New Madrid, with only one starter returning from its Class 3 district championship team of a year ago, struggled at times against Farmington in a 38-18 season-opening loss last week.
But, the Eagles were in the game with Farmington, trailing only 17-12 before a third-quarter meltdown.
Two blocked punts and poor coverage on a squib kick led to a 21-0 run by Farmington.
"That turned things around for us real quick," said Pixley. "We had them in third-and-long six times in the game and they converted four of those because of mental breakdowns; missed tackles and poor positioning. Being young and inexperienced, we're going to make those kind of mistakes, but these are things that can and will be corrected."
Opposing coach Steve AuBuchon hopes NMCC doesn't get things corrected too quickly.
He said, "I've seen them on tape and I've seen some good players. I just hope they don't put it together against us, because I know they'll be a good team before the season's over."
On the bright side, offensively, NMCC displayed an ability to move the ball and strike quickly. Returner Jeffrey McFarland ran a kickoff back 91 yards for a TD.
Receivers Eugene Cooper and Joseph Howell each had only one catch, but both were for big plays of 48 and 50 yards, respectively.
The running game, led by Antonio McIntosh (3-for-66 including a 37-yard run), Printice Willis (5-for-69 and two rushing TDs) and Terrance Smith (leading rusher with 75 yards on 10 carries), rang up 248 yards on 24 carries, slightly more than 10 yards per touch.
The quarterback play of senior starter Sherman Newsome (4-of-10, 98 yards passing) was also effective.
"He was solid…no turnovers, no stupid mistakes," said Pixley, of Newsome. "He didn't do one thing that hurt us in the ballgame. When the offense sputtered, he kept things in focus for us. You couldn't ask for more from your quarterback. He did some great things for us."
To be competitive against North County, Pixley said his Eagles must get better line play and simply tackle better.
He said, "When we evaluated the film, we had a bunch of kids that were really giving a great effort to get to the football and, offensively, we were a block here and a block there away on several plays, but our effort was great for four quarters."
North County of Bonne Terre, Mo., defeated Oakville, a Class 6 team, 24-10 on Friday. The defending Mineral Area Conference champion went 10-2 in '03 and won its sectional with a victory over Cape Central. They lost to Ladue in the quarterfinals.
The Raiders, with first-year coach AuBuchon at the helm replacing highly successful veteran coach Matt Haug, return five offensive and six defensive starters.
Coincidentally, Haug, who took over at Potosi, was Pixley's high school coach at Dexter.
Top performers for the Raiders are seniors A. J. Haase, a 6-4, 228-pound tight end/linebacker/placekicker, who has committed to Iowa State, and Rick Quevreaux, a 5-11, 210-pound running back/linebacker, who led the conference in sacks last season.
Juniors Joe Skaggs, a 6-1, 300-pound offensive guard/defensive tackle, and Jake Goforth, a 6-4, 265-pound offensive tackle/defensive end, anchor a hefty front four on both sides of the ball.
Junior running back Nick Neely crossed the goal line three times against Oakville, including two huge plays, a 95-yard kickoff return and a 64-yard jaunt from scrimmage.
"He's a guy that's just been waiting in the wings for his chance," said Pixley. "That kickoff return broke the game open for them."
Kickoff is Friday at 7 p.m. at New Madrid High School.