EAST PRAIRIE - The East Prairie Eagles and the Portageville Bulldogs will meet for the 68th time on the gridiron Friday night in a SEMO South Conference matchup at 7 p.m. in East Prairie.
Portageville has an overall lead in the series matchup that began back in 1926 with a 14-0 Bulldog home victory over the Eagles. The Bulldogs lead the series 46-19-3, but East Prairie has gotten the better of the games recently, riding a 3-game winning streak heading into Friday's game.
The Eagles won last year over Portageville 44-20.
East Prairie (2-3) hung on to defeat the Chaffee Red Devils last week 30-26, while Portageville had a week of rest with a bye. The teams have one common opponent this year in the Scott City Rams. The Eagles defeated the Rams 26
-20, while the Bulldogs lost 36-6.
The Bulldogs are winless through their first five games of the season with their offense struggling much of the year.
Portageville began the season behind the 8-ball as projected starting quarterback senior Trey Mosby (5-11, 150) went down with a season-ending broken arm in the jamboree scrimmage and never played an official game for the Bulldogs.
Junior Cody Cook (5-10, 170) was rushed into the starting role at quarterback for Portageville and the offense has struggled to get on track.
Through five games the Bulldogs have scored a paltry 20 points and has given up 185 points the defensive side of the ball.
Portageville is led on the ground by bruising back Leonard Boyd (5-9, 235) who has rushed for 300 yards on 60 carries. Junior Aaron Kershaw (5-8, 180) is the second leading rusher for the Bulldogs with 42 carries for 195 yards with a touchdown on the year.
Freshman Kony Ealy (6-5, 205) is becoming a bigger part of the Bulldog offense with increased carries out of the backfield. Ealy has 34 yards on 15 carries and has a pass completion for 30 yards. Ealy also has three receptions for 18 yards for Portageville.
"Portageville has a good group of running backs with Boyd, Kershaw and Ealy," said East Prairie head coach Corey Adkisson. "They are some pretty good athletes and they can do some damage. Portageville runs the wish bone primarily and they like to pound it right at you. We are going to have to stay disciplined on defense and load the box."
East Prairie is led on defense by sophomore linebacker Riley Hadenfelt (5-11, 205) who is averaging seven tackles per game. Defensive end Tony Jones (6
-2, 180) is extremely quick coming off the edge and will be a load for the Bulldog line to contain. Jones has racked up four sacks in five games for the Eagles.
"Tony is just a beast out on the field," said Adkisson. "Teams are just running away from the side that he is on. Our defense is starting to come around and we have put Zach Secoy (5-9, 150) closer to the line more at linebacker than his usual defensive back position."
Adkisson described Portageville's defense as quick and athletic, but young. Boyd is the Bulldogs' leading tackler from his middle linebacker position.
"They are very athletic with the Ealy kid on the line," said Adkisson. "He is only a freshman but he definitely plays like he is older. They like to load up the box and dare you to throw the football."
The Eagles have the second leading rusher in the area in sophomore M.C. Williams (5-5, 170).
Williams has rushed for 803 yards with six touchdowns.
A new addition to the East Prairie backfield is Hadenfelt who rushed for 77 yards in last week's win over Chaffee. Hadenfelt had been on the offensive line for the Eagles.
"We felt that Riley would work out best for us at fullback," said Adkisson. "He is a good blocker; a real bruiser back there. He ran pretty well for us last week and adds another element to our power running attack."
Junior quarterback Cameron Woodward (6-2, 170) passed for 139 yards last week on three completions and for the season has passed for 354 yards on 16 completions and has three touchdowns passes.
"Cameron is doing okay considering it is his first year of football since junior high," said Adkisson. "He does make some poor decisions at times on the field, but I was impressed in how he threw the deep ball last week."
If East Prairie hopes to make it four straight over the Bulldogs, Adkisson believes the Eagles need to be solid on defense.
"We have to stop their run and force Portageville to pass," said Adkisson. "I don't believe they are comfortable with their passing attack. On offense, we need to establish the running game and keep the chains moving. If we can win the time of possession battle, I think we will be okay."