You can throw season records right out the window tonight as the Monett Cubs and Cassville Wildcats football teams clash for Barry County bragging rights and a lead in the district playoff race.
"We are 0-0 right now," said Monett head coach Chad Depeť. "District play is what we have been preparing for all season long. It is these games that decide your playoff fate. Right now is when we need to be playing our best football."
This will be the fourth consecutive year that the longtime rivals have played with one of the teams carrying the number one ranking in Missouri Class 3 football.
"Even if we didn't have that ranking, we would still have a target on our back," said Cassville coach David Large. "Any time Monett and Cassville are playing each other it is going to be a battle."
Monett is coming off a 26-6 win over Mt. Vernon. Cassville, sporting an unblemished 7-0 record, handled Carl Junction 24-10.
"The Bulldogs played us really tough last week," said Large. "We helped them out with three turnovers, but you can't take anything away from the effort Carl Junction played with."
The Wildcats own a three-game winning streak against Monett and see a team that could give them trouble this year.
"Monett is fast, really fast," said Large. "Kurran Blamey is quick and a threat to score every time he touches the ball. Aaron Hall is a hard-nosed, blue collar running back that is tough to bring down. Hall is the type of running back I want our guys to become. He doesn't fall to the ground on first contact."
Monett sees a team with few vulnerabilities.
"They are a solid club, no doubt about it," said Depeť. "Fundamentally, they can run, block and tackle well. They have the ability on special teams to flip field position and score. We will have to play near perfect to win."
Cassville's keys to the game are:
* Hold on to the ball. Turnovers hurt them last week and ball security has been a focal point in practice this week.
* Cassville wants to dictate tempo. Getting the entire offense involved early will be key. If quarterback Ricky Nichols can find open space to operate, the Wildcats will have a lot of success.
* Limit Monett's big play ability. Cassville wants to keep everything in front of them.
Monett's keys to the game are:
* Run the ball, and then run it some more. Monett has to establish the running game and stay ahead of the chains. Last week, against Mt. Vernon, Monett rushed for 253 yards, a repeat for the Cubs this week, would help.
* Get off to a quick start. McDonald County, in week one, is the only game this season in which Monett scored first. The Cubs cannot afford to fall behind and spot the Wildcats any points.
* Keep Cassville off-balanced. Monett will try to mix in some play action passes to keep the Wildcats from loading the box with eight players.
Kickoff at Burl Fowler Stadium is set for 7 p.m.