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story.lead_photo.caption The Eldon run game will be a key tonight in its district opener at Buffalo. Photo by News Tribune file photo

ELDON — The lowly win-loss record and No. 7 district seed of the Eldon Mustangs mean nothing to the Buffalo Bison.

The number 72 is what has Buffalo's laser-focus.

That's the point total Eldon put on the Bison the last time the two teams met in the postseason.

The squads hook up again tonight at Buffalo in the first round of the Class 3 District 5 Tournament (7 p.m. kickoff).

At the end of last week's regular season, Blair Oaks (9-0) was seeded No. 1 in District 5 with 47.91 points, Buffalo (7-2) was No. 2 with 41.36, Springfield Catholic (6-3) was No. 3 with 35.83, Salem (6-3) was No. 4 with 32.55, School of the Osage (3-6) was No. 5 with 23, Logan-Rogersville (2-7) was No. 6 with 22.11, Eldon (1-8) was No. 7 with 17.89 and St. James (0-9) was No. 8 with 14.43.

In other first-round games tonight, Blair Oaks hosts St. James, Osage travels to Salem and Logan-Rogersville is at Springfield Catholic.

In semifinal games next Friday, the Blair Oaks/St. James winner plays the Salem/Osage winner, while the Buffalo/Eldon winner takes on the Springfield Catholic/Logan-Rogersville winner at the location of the highest seed.

The district championship game is set for Nov. 15.

The last time Buffalo and Eldon faced each other was in 2017, when the Mustangs rode off with a convincing 72-33 victory against the Bison in district action.

That performance left a major impression on then first-year Buffalo coach Ed Phillips, who has learned to never underestimate the rush-heavy wing-T offensive formation.

"They run that wing-T and run it very well," Phillips said of Eldon. "They have run it for years. They know it and know how to run it. My first year here, they put 72 on us. We know you've got to be sound disciplined-wise.

"I don't care what their record is; if they run the wing-T, they're going to be tough if they run it well. They keep the ball away from you. Plus, they play a tough schedule. They have to battle every week."

Lately, Buffalo has been winning most of its battles. Since that season-ending blowout in 2017, Phillips has led the Bison to a 16-5 record.

Phillips is familiar with Tri-County Conference teams, having blown out Versailles earlier this season and defeating School of the Osage in district play last year. And, of course, the Eldon debacle in 2017.

The Buffalo spread offensive attack is averaging nearly 400 yards per game.

Bison junior quarterback Jamen Smith has passed for 1,300 yards, run for 800 yards and has accounted for 31 touchdowns.

Sophomore wideout Cameron Portis paces a balanced receiving group with 29 receptions for 500 yards and seven touchdowns, while junior wideout Bode Abraham has 21 caches for 450 yards and seven TDs.

Jamen's younger brother, sophomore Jaren Smith, is a dual-threat at slotback, with 11 receptions and more than 300 yards rushing with nine total touchdowns.

Also for the Bison, 6-foot-2, 210-pound senior running back Coltin Henderson has rushed for 400 yards and has 200 receiving yards and seven total touchdowns, despite missing 3 games due to injury. He returned last week and figures to be at full strength tonight.

Leading Buffalo's defense in tackles with 70 is senior linebacker Pete Herrera, followed by senior safety Brett Bilyeu with 55.

"They're a very talented team," Eldon coach Chad Hult said. "Very well-coached. They're another team with a quarterback who makes them go. They like to keep it balanced. They spread it out but also have a heavy set they run. When we have had success, it's been with our offense maintaining the ball and eliminating turnovers. We'll have to do that (tonight). Buffalo has given a couple of different looks on defense. They've had some guys in and out of the lineup; we'll just have to see who they play. They have been big and physical up front."

"We kind of went through a mid-season injury bug and some of those guys are starting to come back," Phillips said. "We're getting healthier as we go. We are a spread team but like to run it as well. We have five senior offensive linemen, with three of them having started the last three years. The running back position is where we've been hit hard by injuries. Our quarterback is a run-pass guy and we have some receivers who are athletic."

Eldon is coming off a 44-24 home loss last Friday to conference foe Osage. In that game, the Mustangs battled to a tie at 16 at the half but saw Osage take control with 28 unanswered second-half points. Eldon had a 16-8 edge in the final minute of the first half on a 5-yard touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Dallas Hardy to senior wideout Gabe Marriott and senior fullback Kaden Dillon had a 1-yard TD run.

Dillon rushed for 93 yards and Hardy had 77 for the Mustangs.

That gives Dillon 996 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns for the season while Hardy has rushed for 693 yards and eight TDs and has passed for 224 yards and two TDs.

Marriott, a linebacker, paces Eldon in tackles with 22 while Hardy — a safety — junior safety Owen Levesque, freshman lineman Colton Phillips and junior lineman Fisher Snelling each had 16 tackles.

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