PORTAGEVILLE - The second week of district play in high school football will start this Friday night and in Class 2, District 2 action, the Portageville Bulldogs will entertain the East Prairie Eagles.
Portageville (3-5, 0-1 district) lost its first game in district last Friday to Caruthersville 60-6 while East Prairie (4-3, 1-0 district) won its first contest by defeating Malden, 26-6.
Portageville and East Prairie first began their series back in 1926. In that game, the Bulldogs defeated the Eagles 14-0. Overall in the series, Portageville leads 47-17-3 over East Prairie. The Eagles have won the last two meetings. Last year the Eagles won 28-17 over the Bulldogs.
Coach Ashley Swims of the Bulldogs still believes that the district race can still be won by Portageville.
"We have gotten back to fundamentals," said Swims. "We have had some good practices this week and the kids still believe. No team has won district yet so in our mind we have a chance to win it."
While coach Swims looks for the silver lining, coach Corey Adkisson of the Eagles looks for his team to come out with the same intensity they showed against Malden.
"We can't afford to take anybody lightly," said Adkisson. "We took Fredericktown lightly and they took it to us. Everybody is still in the playoffs and we have to come out on Friday night and play with some intensity and come away with a win."
Asked if East Prairie was looking past Portageville and ahead to a potential district championship matchup against Caruthersville, Adkisson was direct and to the point.
"We play one game at a time," said Adkisson.
Portageville will feature a run-first mentality on offense led by senior running back C.J. Medley (5-8, 142). On the season, Medley has rushed for 590 yards and scored five touchdowns. Fullback Leonard Boyd (5-8, 241) is second on the team in rushing yards with 325 and has scored a touchdown.
Senior Casey Ash (5-8, 160) has had a nice season with 236 yards and a touchdown. Speedster Trey Mosby (5-11, 149) has rushed for 139 yards on 22 carries with two touchdowns.
"Portageville has run-first athletes," said Adkisson. "They will pound right at you and we have to stop the run if we hope to have some success."
Quarterback Tyler Fowler (6-0, 150) had a nice night last week for the Bulldogs throwing for 75 yards with a touchdown toss. On the year, Fowler has passed for 374 yards with six touchdowns and four interceptions.
Fowler's main target in the air will be Mosby who had two catches last week for 57 yards and a touchdown reception. Mosby has eight receptions for 195 yards and three touchdowns on the year. Ash and Medley are options out of the backfield for Portageville as Ash has five receptions for 39 yards and a touchdown while Medley has eight receptions for 48 yards.
Swims stressed that his offensive line needs to have a good ballgame on Friday night for his team to be successful.
"We have got to control the football," said Swims. "They have some solid linebackers and we need to make some blocks at point of attack. We need a solid game from our O-line. We are going to run right at them and hopefully have some long drives that will take some time off the clock."
East Prairie will feature a defense led by defensive lineman R.C. Strand (6-2, 194). Against Malden, Strand racked up 15 tackles and looked unblockable. David Stalker (5-8, 218) will help out Strand on the D-line. Linebackers Tony Jones (6-1, 172) a sophomore and Riley Hadenfelt (5-9, 189) a freshmen, will be counted on to hound the runners for Portageville all night. Against Malden, Jones made 11 tackles, good for second on the team last week.
"East Prairie has some good defensive ends," said Swims. "Strand is a good player and we have to know where he is at all times."
Adkisson said his defense has been concentrating on the little things this week.
"We have to clean up some mistakes," said Adkisson. "Been working with the D-line to read and understand blocking. We have been working on just playing fundamental football and making some tackles."
The Eagles feature a running back duo that might be the best in Southeast Missouri. Dez Johnson (5-7, 144) and Paris Tipler (5-9, 190) have a combined 2,120 rushing yards on the year with 25 touchdowns. Last week, Johnson ran for 185 yards and Tipler ran for 135 yards against Malden.
For the year, Tipler is second in the area in rushing with 1,421 yards.
Despite playing one less game and 50 less carries, Tipler is 57 yards behind area leader Kendrickus Reed of Caruthersville. Tipler does lead the area in total touchdowns with 21 and total points with 131.
Johnson has rushed for 699 yards and scored six touchdowns. Johnson is ranked 8th in the area with his rushing yards total.
Senior Mitchell Winchester (5-9, 157) has passed for 349 yards on 17 completions with five touchdowns and five interceptions.
Tipler has six receptions for 145 yards and a touchdown while Jones from his tight end position has four receptions for 94 yards and two touchdowns.
"East Prairie runs a wing-T offense that centers around their running backs," said Swims. "If we can shut down their backs, we can shut down their offense."
Portageville will try and stop the vaunted Eagles rushing attack with a linebacking corps that has been the backbone of the Bulldogs defense. Seniors Jared Brands (6-1, 225) and Medley make the big stops for Portageville. Brands leads the team in tackles on the season.
Boyd will make the big hits from his linebacker position while Ash and Mosby will come up from their defensive backs position to help out on the run. Defensive tackle Kyle Turley (6-4, 232) will anchor a D-line that is a bit undersized.
"Portageville runs a base 4-4 defense," said Adkisson. "They keep a lot of guys in the box and we are going to have to try and put a body on them to open up some running lanes for our backs."
While everyone from East Prairie is saying the right things about not losing focus and concentrating on Portageville, don't be surprised if the Bulldogs give the Eagles a game on Friday night. Portageville will have nothing to lose and look for the entire Bulldog playbook to be used.