Monett looks to rebound against Lamar
The Monett Cubs football team (4-2, 2-2) prepares for another huge Big 8 Conference test tonight as they travel to Lamar (4-2, 2-2) to face a hungry and healthy Tigers squad.
"They are much better than the ninth place ranking in Class 2 indicates," said Monett coach Chad Depée. "Lamar is very big up front and loves to be physical."
The Tigers are coming off a 14-1 season and their first state championship from a year ago.
Lamar returns 16 starters from the title team and has a motto this season of "One is not enough."
This season hasn't been easy for the Tigers with back-to-back losses to Seneca and Cassville in the second and third weeks.
Since that time, Lamar has rebounded with a 28-6 win over Mt. Vernon, a 63-12 mauling of Butler and a 47-13 dismantling of Carl Junction.
"We had too many turnovers and key injuries this season," said Lamar coach Scott Bailey. "The last two weeks we have finally got our players back on the field and we are playing the way I thought we could."
The Tigers defeated Monett 27-18 last year by rushing the ball 75 times and gaining 377 yards on the ground. Lamar averaged just over five yards per attempt and picked up 20 first downs.
Monett's defense forced four turnovers to keep the game close.
"I don't know if you can really stop Lamar's offense," said Depée. "They do a great job of creating vertical seams. On defense, you have to try to slow them down and give yourself a chance."
The Tigers this season are still putting up video game-like numbers. As a team the Tigers are rushing for 402.7 yards and passing for 87 yards per contest. The stingy Lamar defense is only giving up 110 yards rushing and 90.3 yards passing per contest.
Quarterback Levi Peterson is rushing for 145.5 yards per game and running back Jared Beshore chips in a healthy 12.5 yards per carry and 177.8 yards rushing per gridiron match.
"Its no secret that their backs love to get north and south," said Depée. "We have to string plays out on defense in order to compete."
So how do the Cubs play with a team with impressive offensive statistics?
"Monett can hurt you with their speed," said Bailey. "(Kyle) Woods, (Kurran) Blamey and (Aaron) Hall are a hard group to stop. Last year, Monett kept the game close with big plays."
Monett scored on a Woods' 1-yard sneak, a Blamey 70-yard run and a Blamey 85-yard touchdown catch last year against Lamar.
Lamar's keys to the game
* No big plays. The Tigers had trouble slowing down Blamey a year ago. If Monett can get their backs and receivers in open space they can cause havoc for Lamar.
* Control the line. Lamar is big up front and they wear teams down.
* No mistakes. Turnovers and penalties have hurt the Tigers in their two losses. When they control those two items, they win big.
Monett's key to the game
* Play east to west. Lamar running backs know how to get up field. Monett must string plays to the sidelines and use their speed to make tackles.
* Go for a long drive. The Cubs have shown the ability to put together long drives against every team they have played. Monett does not want to get in a scoring track meet with Lamar. Chewing time off the clock favors the purple and gold.
* Work on being special. At best, Monett has been inconsistent with their special teams play. Punts have been blocked, extra points missed and field position yielded on long returns has been countered with earning a safety against Cassville, a punt return to set up a touchdown against Aurora and punts pinning the opponents deep against Mt. Vernon and McDonald County.
* Keep it close. A close game favors Monett. The Cubs defense has been outstanding all season and has given the team a chance to win every game. As long as the Cubs' speedsters on offense are healthy Monett has a chance.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.