BONNE TERRE - On Friday night, the New Madrid County Central Eagles' football team travels north to meet the No. 8 team in Class 4, the North County Raiders.
Last week, NMCC lost to Farmington 52-21 and North County fell to Oakville 31-7. This will mark the second time the two will face each other as the Raiders defeated the Eagles 41-6 last season.
Coach Arlen Pixley of the Eagles understands that beating North County on its home field will be a big task.
"We will have to strap it up tight on Friday night," said Pixley. "It is going to be a physical battle and we have to be prepared for that."
The loss last week by North County could be deceiving as coach Steve AuBuchon sat out a number of starters due to disciplinary problems.
"We had some problems on the bus on the way to the game," said AuBuchon, "Those problems have been addressed and we will be at full speed for the game on Friday."
Coming off an outstanding performance last week for the Eagles was senior quarterback, Jordan Kimball, as he passed for 203 yards with three touchdowns.
Kimball's main target was Tommy Rowe (5-11, 175) who caught four passes for 86 yards and two touchdowns.
On the running side, Antonio McIntosh led the Eagles last week with 10 carries for 73 yards. McIntosh had a rushing long of 53 yards against Farmington. In addition, senior, Printice Willis (6-2, 210), will be a load for the Raiders to corral as he rushed four times for 22 yards.
Concern for Pixley on the offensive side of the ball is his offensive line. Only one senior, Joe Kirby (6-1, 255), starts with three sophomores and one junior.
"Our offensive line is young and inexperienced. Farmington blitzed us a lot and we worked all week long on picking up the blitzes," said Pixley.
A bright spot on the line will be the return of all-conference player, Brad Colbert. Colbert anchors the offensive line starting at center.
For North County's defense, coach AuBuchon is not sure what he has yet.
"A lot of starters didn't play last week, so we should get a good look at what we have this week," said AuBuchon. "We should have some good speed with the ability to run some people down."
Of 11 starters on defense, eight also play on the offensive side of the football. The Raiders will be led by all-staters Joe Skaggs and Jake Goforth on the defensive line.
North County will feature a freshman at quarterback this game as Derek Gibson will run the Raiders' attack.
The Raiders will run a multiple offense according to AuBuchon and watch for North County's running backs and wide receivers to make big plays for them.
At one running back position is senior, Nick Neely. Last year, Neely ran for over 1,000 yards and is a big threat for the Raiders.
At the other running back is senior, Dan Harris. According to AuBuchon, Harris played quarterback last season but because of a shoulder injury, he has been playing at running back.
Coach AuBuchon is confident in both of his running backs.
"Neely and Harris are both all-conference running backs and they can come up with some big plays for us," said AuBuchon.
At the receiver positions, Dustin Hahn (5-11, 175) and Brandon Vickery (5
-11, 160) will be the main targets for Gibson.
On the offensive line, the Raiders are big and nasty led by Goforth (6-4, 280) and Skaggs (6-1, 305). The offensive linemen weigh 305, 282, 280, 270 and 215 pounds for North County.
NMCC will be led of defensive by defensive tackle Colbert (6-1, 235). Last week, McIntosh (5-11, 215) led the Eagles in tackles with 15 from his line backing position.
"Our linebackers are solid and they got straight-line speed and size," said Pixley, "But our front four need to play better this week."
Last week against Farmington, coach Pixley stated that his defense did not play physical and made some critical mistakes. NMCC gave up 52 points to Farmington which is the most points allowed by an Eagles team since 1981.
However, Pixley did indicate that during this week's practice, his defense has been improving and working on eliminating mistakes which cost them against Farmington.
Coach AuBuchon was impressed with NMCC's offense against Farmington.
"They looked good on offense and they spread the field which could be a problem for us," said AuBuchon.
Some concerns for coach Pixley are the inside run game of the Raiders and the up front size of their offensive and defensive linemen.
"We need to pick up their blitz concepts on offense and stop the run on defense," said Pixley. "Nick Neely is a big concern for us and we need to try and limit him as much as possible."
The Eagles will have to put the football in the air to try and use their athletes at wideout.
The biggest obstacle for the Eagles will be the size difference on the offensive and defensive lines. NMCC will be giving up an average of 40 pounds down in the trenches.
Look for North County to take advantage of their size against the Eagles and eventually wear them down.
NMCC will put up a fight, however, and the game should be entertaining.