For the third consecutive week, the Monett Cubs football team will battle a team ranked in the Top 10 by the Missouri Sportswriters and Sportscaster.
Two weeks ago, it was the Class 3 number one, Logan-Rogersville. Last week, it was the 10th-ranked Nixa Eagles in Class 5 and this Friday the Cubs will face the fourth-ranked Class 2 Lamar Tigers.
The Tigers enter the contest riding a wave of confidence boasting a 3-0 record with all three victories coming over Big 8 Conference foes.
In week one, the Tigers silenced the Bulldogs of Carl Junction 34-6. In week two, Lamar topped the Aurora Houn' Dawgs 40-19, and last week, Lamar dismantled Mt. Vernon 52-0.
"We have 14 starters that have started two or more seasons for us," said Lamar head coach Scott Bailey. "Our seniors have set the tone for our program. They lead by example and are very focused."
Even though Lamar is numerically the smallest school in the Big 8 Conference, they are used to playing under media and fan scrutiny spotlight.
|"We don't dwell on things that are out of our control," said Bailey. "We simply try to play the best game we can possibly play and let our onfield actions speak for them selves.|
Lamar has made two deep playoff runs in each of the two previous seasons with each ending in losses in the semi-finals.
Bailey credits the grueling play of the Big 8 for his team's preparation.
"Each and every week during conference play we play up," said Bailey. "We have faced Monett, Cassville, Seneca and East Newton when they were all playoff bound. What has hurt us in the past is injuries. This season, we have avoided losing any players and that has helped with us gain momentum."
Lamar boasts one of the biggest offensive and defensive lines in the conference, averaging six foot, three inches and 235 pounds. By comparison, Monett averages six foot and 204 pounds.
The Tigers come into the game with a very vanilla game plan.
"We want to run the ball," said Bailey. "We are a run-first team. I think if you ask our players, they would say we are a run first, second and third team. When it comes to throwing the ball, we want to pass when we want to, not when we have to."
Lamar brings a four-headed monster into the game in running backs Markell White, Jared Beshore, Zakk Yokley and quarterback Brett Campbell to run its double wing, double tight sets.
The four horsemen from Lamar accounted for 2905 rushing yards on 460 attempts or 6.3 yards per carry and 44 touchdowns last season.
Lamar averaged scoring 33 points per game last year and has raised that average to 42 points per game this year. Defensively, the Tigers yielded 17.8 points per game last season and have lowered that total to 8.3 points per contest.
Despite a mountain of evidence and reasons to dismiss the Cubs as an easy victory, Bailey has concerns about facing the Cubs.
"They are fast," said Bailey. "Monett is a lot better than their record indicates. Coach Depeť, Coach Holt and Coach Uhl and I go back a long way. I know that when the lights come on, they will be ready to go."
For Lamar, limiting Monett's big plays will be key.
"When you watch tape of the Cubs, you can see the speed," said Bailey. "We have to limit them in the running game and force them to beat us in the air. Monett is capable of putting points on the board in a hurry. Rogersville and Nixa can attest to that. We can't let up."
For Lamar, sustaining drives will be key. They don't want to give Monett a short field and force them to drive 80-plus yards.
The Cubs, on the other hand are looking forward to a little home cooking.
"I am confident that the kids will come out and fight hard on Friday," said Depeť. "It is our homecoming game, we anticipate a large crowd and we are going to put forth our best effort."
Even though Monett has stumbled through a rough two-game road stretch, Coach Depeť remains upbeat about facing a talented Lamar team.
"We are focused on Monett football and getting better each week," said Depeť. "Lamar is a great team. We are going to have to play big up front and limit Lamar in the run game. We are an improving football, team and we are looking to take the next step.
"Our kids have battled hard. No less than our best effort will do on Friday," Depeť added.
Monett's plan for victory Friday night lies on the ground.
Look for the Cubs to spread the Tigers' defense sideline to sideline to create some running lanes for Aaron Hall and Kurran Blamey.
Monett attempted 25 passes at Nixa. Depeť wants a 60 percent run to 40 percent pass ratio. If the Cubs want to win the time of possession battle, the 60 to 40 ratio will be key.
A player to keep an eye on for Monett is tight end Matt Schiffner. He emerged at Nixa as one of quarterback Kyle Woods' favorite targets, hauling in three passes for 42 yards. If Schiffner continues to develop as a viable third receiving option for Woods the Cubs' offense becomes really hard to defend.
On defense, look for the Cubs to stack eight in the box to stop the misdirection running attack of the Tigers. If Monett can force Lamar to throw the ball, it could be a sweet homecoming.
"In order for us to be successful Friday night," said Depeť, "we need to make Lamar answer our scores. We want to make them chase us all night long."
Kick off for the homecoming game is set for 7 p.m. at Burl Fowler Stadium.