Both the Monett Cubs and Pierce City Eagles open football play tonight on the road. The Cubs travel to Mt. Vernon for an early season tussle with a long-time conference and now a district opponent.
"We want to come out and be physical," said Monett coach Chad Depeť. "Last week at the jamboree we learned we have some kids that can step up and give our starters a lift."
Mt. Vernon enters the game with a new head coach in Ozzie Riley and a new attitude.
The Mountaineers run an option style offense and return their entire offensive line from a year ago. All-Conference running back Shane Williams returns for another season and is always a load for any defense.
"They are a year better," said Depeť. "Last year, we played a bruising game with them and I don't see that changing on Friday."
Monett keys to success are simple.
* Control the pace. Monett wants to dictate the tempo of the game and force Mt. Vernon to react to what the Cubs want to accomplish.
* Pound the ball. The Cubs want to run the ball 65 percent of the time. The only way they are successful is if the line sustains their blocks.
* Find green grass. Skill position players Kurran Blamey, Aaron Hall and Kyle Woods only need three steps to be at full speed if these players find and opening it could equal six points for the purple and gold.
"It all boils down to execution and defense," said Depeť. "If we take care of the little thing the points will come."
Even though it is the first game of the season, the contest looms large due to the playoff implications. A win would go a long ways in helping the Cubs secure a home game in the district tournament.
A battle of first year Eagles' coaches will commence Friday night in Jasper.
Matt Holt leads his Pierce City squad against Richie Adkins and a Jasper squad looking to rise from three wins in the last four years.
"We saw some things at the jamboree that really give us hope," said Holt. "Our o-line led by Logan Deems was able to create space for our running back. Kole Kelley was great at the quarterback position."
One change Holt has made is moving last season's quarterback Cedric O'Hara to the tailback spot.
"Cedric is very quick," said Holt. "I believe he is more valuable to the team when you can move him around. As a running back he can get to the outside quicker and as a receiver he creates mismatches."
Jasper lined up in option formations during their jamboree and Holt expects more of the same tonight.
"They showed they can run the ball in films we have watched," said Holt. "Own guys, especially our d-line must read the play and make the tackle."
Both Monett and Pierce City's gridiron tilts are slated to kickoff at 7 p.m.