Brookfield is seeking its first conference win of the season in perhaps the toughest situation to do so. The knicked-up Bulldogs travel to Centralia on Friday night to face the most highly-touted team in the conference.
"They're the best team in the Clarence Cannon right now, and they're a top-five team in the state," Brookfield head coach Scott Stevens said. "They're a very good football team, but we know we can be that caliber when we put everything together."
The Panthers have already run through probably their most challenging part of the schedule, having hosted Monroe City and Clark County in the first two weeks before travelling to Palmyra in week three. Centralia handled Monroe City, 35-6, before a pair of nail-biters the Panthers won 14-12 and 10-7, respectively. Centralia then routed winless Highland on the road last Friday.
Nonetheless, for as good as it may be, Centralia proved in the second and third weeks of the season that it is not a perfect football team.
"We think that we match up well, especially with our defensive front," Stevens said. "The things that they like to do on offense, we've seen before. We have to make sure that we're able to make a tackle and that we're in pre-snap position, but we've got to make sure that we're forcing penalties while not giving them any of our own."
The Bulldogs will specifically have to gameplan defensively for second-year starting quarterback John Durant. The senior makes things go in the Panthers' balanced attack. Junior Luke Hunter is also dynamic with the football in his hands, and senior defensive lineman Trevor Bodine will make it exceptionally tough on the Bulldogs' battered offensive line.
Centralia also likes to use Bodine, listed as a tight end, both on the ground and in the passing game.
On the offensive side up front, as few as one Bulldog starter may be ready for Friday night depending on health.
"We've got to put some points on the board and not make any costly penalties, and on the defensive side, it doesn't change -- we've got to control the line of scrimmage and get some things going to make some big-time plays," Stevens said.