The Eagles (3-3) are coming off a tough loss to the Charleston Bluejays last week 47-26, while Malden (2-4-1) shutout the Chaffee Red Devils 36-0.
Malden has a commanding lead in the overall series winning 41 of 54 games played between the two schools with two ties. The first game was played back in 1947 with East Prairie getting the victory over the Green Wave 20-12.
In more recent games, Malden has continued the dominance winning the last 10 games against the Eagles. East Prairie last won in 1994; 14-0. That year East Prairie went 11-2 and lost to Monroe City 37-0 in the Class 2A semifinals. Last season, Malden defeated East Prairie 40-14.
The first game in district action is always a crucial game and Friday night will be no different as District 2 is up in the air on which team will come away with the championship.
"Malden is a tough team," said East Prairie head coach Corey Adkisson. "They have got a lot of their injured players back who didn't play early in the season. They have a ton of athletes and their record is deceiving."
Coach Gary Blaylock of the Green Wave is excited about his team's chances heading into districts.
"This is going to be a big game on Friday night," said Blaylock. "We have a lot of our players coming back for the first time this week, so for the first time since week one we should be a full strength."
East Prairie is led by the running back combo of Dez Johnson (5-7, 144) and Paris Tipler (5-9, 190) who together through six games have a total of 1,800 rushing yards with 21 touchdowns.
Individually, Tipler is second in the region in rushing with 1,286 yards and first in rushing touchdowns with 16. Tipler leads the area in scoring with 113 points. The next closest person is 15 points away from his total.
Johnson is having a solid year after some injury problems early in the season and has 514 yards rushing with five touchdowns.
"They (Tipler and Johnson) are our showcase backs," said Adkisson. "Each want to be on the field and make a big play for us and you can't drag them off the field."
Senior quarterback Mitchell Winchester (5-9, 157) is coming off a tough game last week against Charleston as he threw two interceptions. On the season, Winchester has 13 completions for 317 yards and five touchdowns.
Tipler leads the Eagles in receptions with five and receiving yards which he has 132 with one touchdown. Sophomore wideout Tony Jones (6-1, 172) has two receptions for 78 yards with two touchdowns.
The offensive line for East Prairie will be key for any hope of running success for the Eagles. Against the Bluejays, the O-line allowed too much penetration which made the rushing game for East Prairie inconsistent. RC Strand (6-2, 194) and David Stalker (5-8, 218) will be counted on by the Eagles to open some holes for the running backs to run through.
"We worked on some things with our offensive line this week to correct some flaws in the blocking scheme," said Adkisson. "Malden 's defensive line is big and they get after it. We are going to have to have a solid game from our offensive line."
On defense, Malden is led by junior linebacker Jimmy DeBerry (5-10, 170) who leads the team in tackles with over 100 according to Blaylock. Trey Porter (5-10, 190) and Kaleum Reid (5-7, 150) will help out DeBerry at linebacker positions using their speed and quickness to make tackles.
Senior Jacky Jones (6-0, 315) leads the defensive line as his size allows him to occupy offensive linemen and lets the linebackers roam free. Freshmen Ryan Cain (5-10, 200) has been consistent on the D-line for Malden and will be counted on to stuff the run.
East Prairie hopes to improve their defense form last week and will count on freshmen linebacker Riley Hadenfelt (5-9, 189) and defensive linemen Strand to shore up the defense.
"For us to win the game on Friday night we have got to improve our defensive play," said Adkisson. "That is one of the biggest keys in the game for us is to improve our defense as far as tackling and getting some penetration in Malden's backfield."
Tipler and Johnson will be expected to make some tackles from their linebacker positions and to track down the running backs for Malden.
The Green Wave will feature a diamond set on offense with running backs Ryan Criglar (5-10, 165), Porter and Reid taking the bulk of the carries for Malden.
Criglar leads the team in carries with 72 and rushing yards 622 and has also scored eight touchdowns. Porter is second on the team in yards with 349 and has scored three touchdowns.
The X-factor for Malden on offense will be Porter. Last season, Porter had well over 1,000 yards rushing. This year, Porter has been hampered by a nagging ankle injury and has carried only 36 times for 130 yards.
However, according to Blaylock, Porter is ready to take more of a proactive role in the offense for Malden.
"He (Porter) might get some carries for the first time since Week 1," said Blaylock. "If he does see time on offense, we will not play him on defense. We want to make sure he is fresh and ready to go."
Senior quarterback John Henfling (6-3, 160) did not play last week against Chaffee due to injury but is expected to play against the Eagles. For the season, Henfling has completed 15 passes for 301 yards and three touchdowns.
The main receiving target for the Green Wave is Criglar who is in the top 10 in receiving yards in the area with 315 yards. Criglar has 14 receptions and scored three touchdowns.
The O-line for Malden features three sophomores, a junior and one senior in Jones whose leadership will be counted on heavily for the Green Wave.
"Malden has a trio of good running backs," said Adkisson. "We are going to have to step up on defense if we hope to stop their rushing attack."
Of some concern for the Eagles is the injury situation coming into Friday night's contest.
"We have some banged up kids," said Adkisson. "Everyone should play but some of our injuries are just ankle problems while some could be serious but I expect everyone to be ready to play on Friday."
Coach Blaylock is excited to see a full lineup for the first time since opening night but his mood is tempered by what East Prairie can do and is not overconfident heading into the contest.
"East Prairie is going good," said Blaylock. "We hope to somehow contain Tipler and Johnson and to give them a good game. We haven't beat a winning team this year so we hope we can stay close and maybe pull out a victory."
Adkisson believes that their are three keys to victory for his East Prairie Eagles.
"We have to limit our penalties," said Adkisson. "We had only one last game which is a definite improvement. We have to play better defense and if we can consistently move the football on offense, we should be okay."
It should be an exciting contest and as in all football games the team that doesn't turn the football over and make costly penalties or mistakes will walk away victorious on Friday night.