EAST PRAIRIE - The East Prairie Eagles football team will open up the 2006 season for the 11th straight time against the Class 1 Hayti Indians on the road Friday night.
Hayti won last year's game 36-32 over the Eagles and the Indians have won seven straight in the series. Overall, the Indians hold a 40-28 advantage over the Eagles. East Prairie and Hayti first met back in 1929 when the Eagles downed the Indians 18-7.
This season, East Prairie will have to game plan a little different from last year because head coach Shawn Jackson has left Hayti and David Gilmore has taken over the reins.
Success has followed Gilmore in his five years of coaching, first at Hayti, then to Caruthersville and now back at Hayti. For East Prairie head coach Corey Adkisson, he has a pretty good idea what to expect from a Gilmore-coached team.
"We are not totally in the dark on what we think Hayti will try to accomplish on the field Friday night," said Adkisson. "We have looked at some film from when Gilmore coached and we can expect for their athletes to have the football in their hands at every opportunity on offense. They will run a spread attack with a lot of bubble screens that just killed us last year."
Gilmore admits that watching the Indians play from the bleachers last season was tough for him.
"I took over the principal position last year at Hayti and watching from the sidelines was very difficult," said Gilmore. "This year after Shawn left, the board had the confidence in me that I could both be the principal and the head coach. I give all the credit to my coaching staff who have made the transition smooth. They start the practices and by the time I am through with my other duties and get out to the field, my assistant coaches have everything up and running and it is very easy for me to get right in there."
The focal point of the Eagle offense will be senior running back Paris Tipler (5-9, 195). Tipler ran for over 1,700 yards last season and had over 200 yards receiving. Tipler scored 31 touchdowns for the Eagles last season.
"We have got to keep Paris off the field," said Gilmore. "Last year there was not a lot of defense played in the game. If that is the situation this year, we will be in trouble. We have got to control the football and keep their offense off the field."
The Eagles will trot out first-year starter Cameron Woodward (6-2, 170) at quarterback. M.C. Williams (5-5, 170) will be featured at the tailback position in his sophomore year.
East Prairie will return its top three receivers from a season ago in Tipler, junior Tony Jones (6-2, 180) and senior Caleb Hatton (5-10, 170).
Three starters return on the offensive line for the Eagles in seniors Charles O'Dell (5-6, 180), David Stalker (5-10, 230) and sophomore Ian Penrod (5-9, 285). Senior Tyler Branam (6-2, 235) is playing for the first time for East Prairie and sophomore Riley Hadenfeldt (5-11, 205) will switch from his fullback position for a year ago to offensive guard this year.
"I guess I can say that I am pleased with the way our offense has been running in practice," said Adkisson. "It is not great by any means, but we should be okay on Friday night."
Hayti's defensive line will average 265 pounds in the Indians' 4-2-5 scheme and will feature speed and size at linebacker and in the secondary.
Senior Tremayne Pickens (5-9, 195) will be the featured backer on defense for the Indians after a stellar junior season. At 6-foot-2, 200 pounds, junior Michael Vaughn will be a big force for Hayti at linebacker.
"We will be much improved on defense from last year," said Gilmore. "We didn't participate in a jamboree so we are a little green.
"We are looking forward to the live action on Friday night and we need to get settled in early because if we don't, it is going to be a long night."
According to Gilmore, the Indians will try and be more balanced on offense this season. Hayti will feature a four-wide spread offense instilled by former Sikeston assistant coach now offensive coordinator for the Indians Jackie Johnson.
Junior quarterback K.C. Gilmer (6-0, 185) is playing football for the first time since junior high according to Gilmore.
"K.C. is athletic with a good arm," said Gilmore. "He is starting to become a leader on our team and he works extremely hard on the field. I am pleased with K.C.'s progress so far."
The Indians will feature a single-back set with Pickens at running back after spending last year solely on defense.
Two seasons ago, Pickens rushed for over 1,000 yards.
"Tremayne might be the most underrated back this year," said Gilmore. "He is a hard-nosed north to south runner who will give you everything he has on the field."
Like the D-line, Hayti's offensive line will be massive led by juniors William Cooper (6-5, 265) and William Norris (5-10, 265).
"We need some time to gel on the offensive line," said Gilmore. "We haven't played that much together as a unit but if we get some effort out of them we could be scary. We have three starters that bench over 300 pounds and we have some depth."
The Indians return some experience at the receiver position led by junior Shawn Jones (6-1, 185) who had 18 receptions for 300 yards last year. Vaughn had 10 catches for 148 yards and senior Josh Gilyard (6-0, 185) caught seven passes for 110 yards a season ago.
"Hayti has some fast, good athletes on the offensive side of the ball," said Adkisson. "We are going to have to tackle better than we did last year and wrap up. That Cooper kid is a dominant force on the O-line and we have got to get off their blocks. If we work as a team I think we will be okay."
East Prairie will have back its top three tacklers from a year ago on defense. Hadenfeldt led the Eagles with over 80 tackles from his linebacker position. Jones is quick and powerful from his defensive end position and recorded over 60 tackles last season.
In the defensive secondary, senior Zach Secoy (5-11, 150) is the leader recording over 60 tackles last year and is primed for another successful season.
"It is going to be a difficult first game," said Gilmore. "Coach Adkisson does a nice job over there and I know he will have a great game plan for us. The key to the game is to get our quarterback to settle down early in the game. We have got to get our offensive moving and keep Paris off the field."
Adkisson agrees that it will be a tough test in Week 1 and feels the team that makes fewer mistakes will win.
"Coach Gilmore will have his team ready on Friday night and our guys have to respond," said Adkisson. "Our defense will be on the hot seat and our guys have to tackle and wrap up. Last year they killed us on the screen play and we have got to be mentally and physically ready on Friday. It should be a good show for the fans."