The general consensus of the sports journalism world is that Monett is the underdog. That fact doesn't bother the Cubs. The underdog role is something they have come to expect and embrace.
"Teams evolve throughout the season," said Monett coach Chad Depée. "We lost our first game of the season. Cassville and Lamar earned wins over us but we kept working and getting better. To be the underdog is nothing new for this squad we embrace the challenge and just want to go out and have fun."
In 2011, John Burroughs defeated Osage 39-14 in the semifinals before falling to Logan-Rogersville in the state title.
In 2010, the Bombers defeated Bowling Green 16-14 in the round of four only to drop a 21-20 heartbreaker to Richmond in the state title tilt.
In 2011, assistant coach and former NFL quarterback Gus Frerotte was tapped to lead the Bombers.
"There is no secret to our success," said Frerotte. "We focus on the fundamentals and have good athletes who aren't selfish. The victories have come because of their play."
Good athletes are something the Bombers have had for a while. In the last five years, John Burroughs has had five football players sign with Division 1 football programs and that number has increased this season with the commitment of running back Ezekiel Elliot to Ohio State University.
Elliot has gained 1,686 yards on 158 rushing attempts and has scored a staggering 35 rushing touchdowns.
Elliot averages 153 yard per game rushing and 10.6 yards per carry. He has had 22 runs of 20 plus yards with 11 rushes of 40 or more yards.
"We addressed him in our first team meeting after the Eldon game," said Depée. "He is a good athlete and very quick. We are going to have to gang tackle."
The Bombers try to put Elliot in positions where he can used his speed as a weapon.
"We try to vary our offensive looks," said Frerotte. "We will run some spread and pro-style looks until we find something that works."
If John Burroughs has an Achilles heel it is in the turnover department. Bombers' running backs have put the ball on the turf 12 times this season. The Cubs have only coughed up the pigskin on five occasions during the year.
On defense, the Bombers employ a three-three-five stack defense.
"The three-stack front is our base look," said Frerotte. "They have a lot of speed and are a fun group to watch. We are solid up front."
The stack defense allows John Burroughs to blitz on every down.
"They like to send their linebackers," said Depée. "Our offensive line is going to have to pick up the blitz and get up field."
|The Bombers have outscored their opponents 45.5 to 8.7 this season and average rushing for 205 yards and passing for 121 yards per game.|
The Cubs have put up impressive numbers in their 12 games this season.
Monett averages 28 points and allows 14.6 per game.
Aaron Hall is the Cubs workhorse. Hall has rushed for 1,581 yards this season, averaging 131 yards per game and has scored 11 touchdowns on the year.
Keys for John Burroughs
* Start fast. The Bombers have made a habit of putting games away early. John Burroughs doesn't want the Cubs to hang around.
* Take away the run. The Bombers want to force the Cubs to throw the ball. The stack defense is designed to plug the running gaps.
* Eliminate mental mistakes. The Bombers can't afford to give Monett extra possessions.
Keys for Monett
* Play smash mouth football. Monett will need to open running lanes for the running backs to operate. The Cubs' offense will be content with 3 to 4 yard gains on each play which will translate into time-consuming drives.
* Be physical on defense and limit the big play. Monett must deliver hard hits on defense and force the Bombers to continue to have to snap the ball on offense.
* Have fun. The last three game Monett has had fun on the field getting after their opponents. They have proven that they aren't scared of the moment. The Cubs won't be intimidated by the Bombers' size and speed.
"I say it every week, but we have to do what we do," said Depée. "We have grown and overcome a lot this season. Our offensive and defensive schemes have brought us this far and we wouldn't change a thing."