(Photo by Josh Mills, Staff)
NEW MADRID -- Coming into Saturday afternoon's quarterfinal matchup with the Cardinal Ritter Lions on the gridiron, the New Madrid County Central Eagles are prepared for whatever they may encounter. The Eagles have seen just about every type of offense this season from the run-and-gun to the spread offense that few teams possess, but head coach Arlen Pixley believes Saturday's game will be more interesting than most.
"It's one of those matchups that is similar but dissimilar to last week (Ste. Genevieve) in the fact that it's going to be a game of two defenses that are up the field pressure-type defenses against two offenses that are very, very good at running the football," Pixley said.
The Ste. Genevieve sectional contest went in favor of the Eagles as they defeated the Dragons 72-52 in front of the Ste. Genevieve local crowd. Both offenses were up to par, but Pixley believes that his defense just didn't key in on the signals that the Dragons were throwing out on several plays.
"We had a bunch of their (Ste. Genevieve) receivers in our arms and missed a bunch of tackles," said Pixley. "We were leaving our feet a little too early and we've addressed that issue this week in practice and hopefully we'll be better at it on Saturday. It's one of those games where we have to tackle better than we did last week."
Cardinal Ritter brings to the table a very similar offensive style to that of NMCC. Pixley said that the Lions' key offensive players will be quarterback Calvin Mooney, running backs Trey Perry, Maurice Taylor and Steven Griffin and wide receiver Kirk Pruitt. Despite having three backs listed, Pixley said that Cardinal Ritter typically runs just a one-back system.
"They've got a quarterback (Mooney) that's a good runner and they've got a running back (Taylor) that's their sole running back," he said. "They're a one-back offense. Their true running back (Taylor), the one that's in the backfield with the quarterback, he's a slasher-type. They've got two guys on each side that are just tremendous outside sweep runners that do an excellent job for them and they've got excellent receivers."
Mooney is 44-for-101 on the season passing with 904 yards and 14 touchdowns and has been picked off 11 times. Taylor has compiled 792 rushing yards on 66 carries and has 13 TDs on the ground. He has also caught 20 passes for 286 yards and six touchdowns.
Pixley said that the defensive side of the ball will look quite different when the Eagles lineup on offense Saturday as the Lions bring a bigger challenge than what they've encountered earlier in the week against Ste. Genevieve where they finished with 625 yards of offense.
"They present us a challenge on defense and present us a challenge whenever we're on offense," said Pixley. "They've got two defensive ends that are 6-3 and 6-4 that are very active players, they run a 3-3 stack defense and they've got inside linebackers that are good blitzers. They're a solid ball club."
The Eagles will give Cardinal Ritter all that they can bargain for while NMCC is on offense as the four backs that the green and gold provide have put up solid yardage all year long. G'Darius Stevenson and Bryan Waters were a major force in the attack in Monday's victory as Stevenson had 16 carries for 252 yards and three TDs while Waters rushed 16 times for 101 yards and had a receiving touchdown on a total of 39 yards on two receptions. Rodney Anderson had five carries for 33 yards and quarterback Dontre Jenkins rushed 12 times for 109 yards and three touchdowns in the victory while passing for 92 yards and two touchdowns on 4-of-5 completions. All four will have a deciding factor in the quarterfinal Saturday afternoon.
"I think it's a good matchup," he added. "They're a quarterfinal team just like us. People haven't given them as much credit as much as they did Ste. Genevieve at the sectional game, but then again, they're (Cardinal Ritter) in the quarterfinals just like us. Every team that's in it right now deserves to be where they're at.
The Lions have compiled a 11-1 record with their only loss coming to Miller Career Academy on Oct. 17. NMCC comes into Saturday's quarterfinal contest with a 10-2 record with losses to Potosi and Poplar Bluff. The Eagles are also fresh off of their highest scoring game of the season, Monday's victory over Ste. Genevieve.
Pixley said that the keys to victory this weekend will be to protect the football, commit zero turnovers, limit the Lions' opportunities on offense and to force the Cardinal Ritter squad to go three downs and out.
"We need to get some negative yardage plays on first down to force their offense to do some things they're not used to doing and that's throwing the football," said Pixley. "They haven't been asked to throw very much this year."
As for who is favored to win the contest, only the game will decide.
"Winning answers everything," said Pixley. "Teams that make the fewer mistakes will be the teams that advance."
Kickoff is set for 1:30 p.m. in New Madrid.
District championships: 9 (1986-90-91-94-95-98-2001-05-08)
Top-4 Finishes: 1 (2005)
State titles: 0
Key Players: QB Calvin Mooney, 5-9, 165 sr. (904 yards passing with 14 TDs, 237 yards rushing with 4 TDs); RB Trey Perry, 6-0, 195 so. (1,078 yards rushing with 12 TDs); RB Maurice Taylor, 5-9, 165 sr. (792 yards rushing with 13 TDs); LB Dominique Newton, 5-9, 160 sr. (95 tackles and six sacks); LB John Edwards, 5-9, 165 so. (74 tackles and six sacks)
|Aug. 29||at St. Dominic||W 40-13|
|Sept. 5||DuBourg||W 52-6|
|Sept. 12||at Trinity||W 40-2|
|Sept. 19||Lutheran SC||W 21-12|
|Sept. 26||at Kennedy||W 51-0|
|Oct. 4||at Westminster||W 40-3|
|Oct. 10||St. Mary's||W 42-0|
|Oct. 17||Miller Career||L 34-40|
|Oct. 24||Imagine College Prep||W 62-0|
|Oct. 31||Soldan||W 52-0|
|Nov. 5||Herculaneum||W 34-28|
|Nov. 10||Priory||W 22-17|