Neither Boonville Pirates football coach Devin Brown or Mexico coach Ty Harrison would call Friday’s game a make or break game.
But if the Pirates or Bulldogs want to have any chance of a .500 season, the game Friday night could prove pivotal for both teams.
In the game last week against the Knob Noster Panthers, the Pirates recorded their first win of the 2013 season with a 34-3 victory. Mexico, meanwhile, took the Hannibal Pirates down to the wire before falling by a score of 21-20.
The Bulldogs also may have a little payback in mind after dropping the last-two games against Boonville by the scores of 26-0 in 2012 and 18-12 in 2011.
Since 2008 when Boonville joined the North Central Missouri Conference, the Pirates are 3-2 against Mexico. Another interesting tidbit about the series, since 2008 the home team has won every game.
But don’t tell that to Coach Brown. He said it’s tough to win any road game but this one obviously will be pretty competitive.
“It’s hard to go into any place and win, but you have to put all that away and focus on your job at hand,” Brown said. “We have to play sound football on Friday night and try to beat them.”
The Bulldogs will also be trying to do the same against Boonville. After falling to 1-9 overall and 0-6 in the NCMC in 2012, second-year head coach Ty Harrison has the Bulldogs believing again.
With eight starters returning on the offensive side of the ball and six back on defense, the Bulldogs may very well be one of the most improved teams in the conference this season.
Harrison said his team is close.
In the game last week against the Hannibal Pirates, the Bulldogs trailed by just a touchdown at the half (14-7) before rallying back with two scores in the fourth quarter to go up 20-14 with approximately three minutes to play. However on the final drive of the game, Hannibal drove the ball downfield and scored the go-ahead touchdown in the final minute for a 21-20 victory.
“I thought we played pretty good in the first half,” Harrison said, “and then after we took the lead in the fourth quarter we missed the extra point attempt. That proved to be the difference because they came back and scored and made the PAT to win the game. Had we made the extra point we would have went into overtime and could have possibly won the game.”
Although the Bulldogs have the same identical record as Boonville at 1-3 overall, Harrison said his team has played pretty well during that stretch. He said the 26-7 loss against St. Joseph Lafayette  was nothing to be ashamed of because Lafayette had a really good team last year and they are a good team this year.
Meanwhile, in Week 2 against the state-ranked California Pintos, Harrison said his team played well for a half.
“It was 21-14 at the half and then it kind of got away from us in the second half,” Harrison said. “They kind of wore us out.”
As it turned out, the Pintos wound up beating Mexico 42-14 to hand the Bulldogs their second straight loss. However, in the third week of the season, Mexico finally got in the win column by beating the Marshall Owls in the conference opener 14-7.
Harrison said a couple of plays here or there and the game could have been a little different against Marshall.
“We were fortunate to win that,” Harrison said, “and then we played Hannibal last week so our schedule was really good  at the beginning of the season.”
Despite losing the game last week in the final minute, the Bulldogs still had several individuals stand out in the game.
Senior running back Jamel Taylor finished the game against the Pirates with 23 carries for 141 yards. Junior quarterback Tyler Bracht, meanwhile, completed 3 of 12 passes for 24 yards but also rushed for 85 yards against Hannibal.
On the defensive side of the ball, sophomore linebacker Karsten Ekern led the Bulldogs with a total of 12 tackles.
“We ended up with over 300 yards rushing against Hannibal,” Harrison said. “We felt we could win the game going in and we were right there until the end.”
Like Harrison, Brown was also impressed with his team’s play last week against Knob Noster. He said even though the Pirates gave up only three points, they gave up too may long drives.
“Offensively, we rushed for almost 200 and passed for over 100 so that is a great balance,” Brown said. “We will have to continue that for the rest of the season.”
Like the Bulldogs, the Pirates have also been close this season. After a 42-7 loss against California in the season opener, Boonville came back in Week 2 against the Higginsville Huskers and had several chances to score in the first half only to fall by a score of 15-0. Then, in Week 3 against Hannibal, Boonville trailed by only a touchdown at the half (14-7) but gave up two quick scores in the third quarter to lose to the Pirates 35-7.
Brown said the first-three games of the season were all against good football teams and it paid off last Friday night against somebody they could play with.
“It helps playing those tough teams at the beginning because it gets you ready for the rest of the season, but now we have to keep on winning.”
As for Mexico’s offense, Brown said the Bulldogs have a good running back and a good quarterback but they also like to pound the ball with the big guys up front.   He said one guy up front weighs 270 and another player is 320.
“They also have some skilled guys on the outside so they can complete some balls and do something with it,” Brown said. “We just can’t miss tackles. Against Knob we didn’t really miss that many tackles. We just didn’t really get off the ball in the first quarter and a half and we were just kind of in a sleep. If we do that against Mexico, they are going to put points on the board. We can’t give up big play drives on third down. We have to be able to get off the field. We also have to have some drive killers and do some things up front and limit their big plays.”
On the defensive side of the ball, Brown said the Bulldogs will run a 4-2-5 but it basically looks like a 4-4. He said the backers will come up and it could even be a 6-2. “They switched it from last year a little bit because their two big guys up front just sit there in the middle and plug up the holes. They are also flying around defensively and play well. The secondary is also good. The same guys on offense are on defense so we have to be able to find ways to move the ball, get the ball to the edge and just keep drives moving.”
As for Boonville, Harrison said Francis is a good solid player and controls things on offense.
“The film I have watched on him he throws the ball really well,” Harrison said of Francis. “I think they are balanced on offense. They are able to pass it as well as run it and it seems like they spread the ball out quite a bit. They don’t just rely on one or two guys, they have a lot of different guys they can go to. That presents  problems when you can’t focus on one guy because they got a lot of guys they can get the ball to.
“The key for us is always just being sound in what we are doing. They are pretty multiple so we have to be ready to defend different things. We can’t let the passing game get off the ground because it seems like they gain confidence when they can throw the ball. They throw the ball and they pick away at you and they get yards, and then that just boost their running game because they have confidence that they do it. I just think we have to be sound against the run and the pass  and everybody has to do their job. We definitely have to shut down both things, we can’t focus on just one.”
On the defensive side of the ball for Boonville, Harrison said he sees the Pirates having an advantage because they play a lot of the players on both sides of the ball.
“I think it’s an advantage because they are on the field and they are in the flow of the game and not coming off the sidelines cold,” Harrison said. “A lot of the same guys that effect their offense also effect their defense. They also have some experience back at the linebacking corps, too, which makes them pretty strong there. It’s going to be a challenge for us to move the ball on them. I think we have to be balanced so they can’t load up on the run.”
Harrison also sees it as a close game Friday night. He said one play here or there could make the difference whether it be a turnover or something on special teams.
“I think it is going to be a close game and whoever makes the fewest mistakes and executes the best is probably going to come out on top. This game is big because it’s a conference game for us and it’s a home game. We want to win on our field and we want to win in the conference.”
Brown downplayed the game for the simple fact that he said every game is big, especially with only nine of them. “Obviously being 1-3 and them being 1-3 it’s going to be a big game for both teams, so we have to come out and be ready to play,” Brown said. “We are 0-2 at Mexico so we have to go there and try to get a victory.”
Note: Jamel Taylor leads the Bulldogs with 530 yards rushing this season while Bracht has completed passes for 221 yards. Junior wide receiver Cole Jaramillo, meanwhile, leads Mexico in receiving with 13 catches for 135 yards. On the defensive side of the ball, Karsten Ekern leads the Bulldogs with 40 tackles. For the Boonville Pirates football team, senior quarterback Jacob Francis has completed 41 of 74 passes for 494 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions and also leads the team in rushing with 34 carries for 108 yards and one touchdown. Josh Judd, meanwhile, is the leading receiver with 17 catches for 205 yards and one touchdown. On defense, senior linebacker Tyler Peterson currently leads the Pirates with 50 solo stops and 25 assisted tackles for a total of 75.