The Jefferson City Jays have gone up against plenty of talented running backs this season.
That will only continue in the postseason.
The Jays will head southwest today to take on Joplin in the first round of play in Class 6 District 3. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. at Junge Field.
The top-seeded and third-ranked Eagles (9-0) like to hand the ball off, mostly to senior Isaiah Davis (6-foot-3, 230 pounds).
"Powerful runner, likes to run north and south, haven't seen him stretch it east and west too much," Jefferson City coach Terry Walker said. "He likes to stick his foot in the ground and go north and south."
Davis, who's committed to play at South Dakota State, has gained north of 100 yards eight times this season and hasn't been held out of the end zone since Week 6 of last season.
The Eagles spread defenses out, let their big offensive line create a crease and have Davis do the rest with his strength and elusiveness.
"I just want to see us match up and and fit the gaps correctly," Walker said. "And then if we do that, we've given ourselves the best chance to be successful. The teams that have the most success, which none of them really did this year, but when they had success on a play was because they got to him before he had an opportunity to really get his motor going and get out there in the open field."
Back in Week 2 when Webb City limited Davis to 91 yards on 18 carries was the last time he didn't surpass 100 yards on the ground.
He's gained more than 200 yards twice, including averaging 18.8 yards per carry for a total of 245 yards in Week 8 against Nixa.
For the season, Davis has 1,453 yards and 27 touchdowns on 142 rushing attempts.
Tonight, he'll face a Jays defense that allows 263.66 yards rushing per game.
"He definitely breaks a lot of tackles," Walker said. "It's going to take more than one guy to bring him down."Other than having the luxury of a offensive line with numerous players weighing at least 260 pounds, Joplin utilizes running back Nathan Glades (5-10, 175 jr.) as a blocker.
Glades sometimes cracks a defensive end or plays the role of lead blocker.
The Eagles will also find ways to get the ball to Glades, who has 431 yards rushing and five touchdowns on 62 carries and 22 receptions for 354 yards and a score.
"He's really a versatile player," Walker said. "He looks to be a really good all-around football player. He blocks well, he runs the football well, he runs good routes, catches the football. It's a good one-two punch that they have with both those kids. And their receiver that they have certainly presents issues."
Zach Westmoreland (6-2, 210 sr.) leads the Eagles with 58 catches for 732 yards and 11 touchdowns.
At quarterback, Blake Tash (6-0, 185 sr.) has completed 110-of-141 passes for 1,504 yards with 18 touchdowns and zero interceptions.
Tash's last interception came in Week 4 of last season.
"Their running game definitely sets up their passing game, but they do throw some shorter throws that are just designed to get the ball to the perimeter," Walker said. "They present their own challenges and we feel like we've got a good plan against them and we'll try to go down there and execute."
Joplin scores 47.66 points per game, but allow 19.55 points per game.
The Eagles have faced two teams with winning records, with both games ending in close victories.
In Week 2, Joplin led 28-7 at halftime against Webb City (8-1), the top-ranked team in Class 4, and held on for a 35-28 win on the road.
The next week at home, the Eagles used a defensive stop on a 2-point conversion attempt to edge Carthage (7-2), the fifth-ranked team in Class 5, 56-55.
Since then, Joplin has outscored its opponents by an average of 50.33-13.33. Those opponents have a combined record of 17-37.
Defensive end Joe Pal (6-1, 195 sr.) has accounted for 37 tackles (24 solo), including five for loss. Fellow end Jacob Prosser (6-1, 170 jr.) has 21 tackles (12 solo) with four tackles for loss.
Defensive tackle Donovahn Watkins (6-0, 285 soph.) is tied for a team-high with five tackles for loss.
"I think their strength is just their team pursuit," Walker said. "They chase the football well. Their defensive line is active, they create some issues for blocking schemes."
Scott Lowe (6-1, 210 jr.) leads the Eagles with 77 tackles (39 solo) from his middle linebacker spot.
At outside linebacker, Holden Ledford (5-10, 175 sr.) and Davis have 70 and 27 tackles, respectively.
"Their linebackers are active as well," Walker said. "We've played against some good defenses and they're certainly a quality defense, but we feel like we have some things we can do against them that might cause them some trouble."
Westmoreland leads Joplin with six interceptions at safety.
Notes: The eighth-seeded Jays (2-7) are going for their first win in district play since defeating Blue Springs South 46-28 in 2016 on the road. Since getting shut out at De Smet in Week 7, the Jays have recovered with a 35-point output against Battle and a 19-point performance against Rockhurst. "Really the last few weeks our preparation has been much better," Walker said. "Sometimes we're really, really, really close. But during those parts of the game when when it is tight, you've got to execute. And sometimes we're still struggling." Along with missing lineman Brandon Backues and linebackers Bryant Gipe and Michael Heislen, Jefferson City will be without backup running back/defensive back Orentheus Pitts after being ejected in last week's loss to Rockhurst. "Hopefully we'll be able to survive the Joplin game and buy ourselves another week," Walker said. "And then maybe we'll start seeing some guys coming back."