MOKANE — Possessing only one victory with the start of district play now just a month away, the South Callaway Bulldogs continue to try to coax a spark from within.
South Callaway will seek a foothold for some momentum when it travels tonight to Clopton/Elsberry to face the IndianHawks in an Eastern Missouri Conference game. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.
The Bulldogs wasted an early 10-0 lead last week in bowing to Bowling Green in a 20-10 EMO home loss. The setback left South Callaway at 1-4 on the season and 1-2 in conference play.
"We came out in the first quarter starting the game playing with a lot of intensity, a lot of emotion, passion — all those things," Bulldogs coach Zack Hess said. "Then throughout the game, it just progressively regressed.
"That's something we really harped on, just having guys step up and be emotional leaders on the team. Right now we're really lacking that. When things aren't going well throughout the game, it's harder for those guys to step up and be those types of leaders. We've got to work through that and figure that out a little bit."
Clopton/Elsberry is 2-3 overall and 1-2 in the EMO after a 20-14 loss at Wright City last week.
The IndianHawks' offense is directed by dual-threat quarterback Shawn Yates, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound senior. Yates has completed 60-of-130 passes (46 percent) this season for 811 yards, 10 touchdowns and four interceptions, while leading Clopton/Elsberry in rushing with 318 yards (6.4 average) and four scores.
Yates threw for 366 yards and three touchdowns, and also ran for a score in the IndianHawks' 46-29 EMO home loss Sept. 13 to North Callaway.
Senior wide receiver Kyle Martin (6-2, 190) tops Clopton/Elsberry with 22 catches for 402 yards (18.3 average) and six touchdowns. Junior tight end Zakk Eivins (6-3, 220) is next with 16 receptions for 131 yards and two scores, while senior wide receiver Maleek McPike has nine catches for 117 yards and two touchdowns.
"The thing that really stood out to me is how (Yates) distributes the ball to all of his players," Hess said. "It's not just one guy that he's throwing to — he does a really good job of taking what the defense gives him.
"He doesn't have a traditional throwing motion, but he throws accurate balls. He'll tuck the ball and scramble when things aren't there, and that presents a lot of challenges as a defense."
Hess said the Bulldogs won't necessarily spy Yates tonight, but will have to be aware of his location at all times.
"We've got to know where he's at," Hess said. "You tell your defensive line to get after it, but at the same time you've got to keep him in the pocket. We don't want him running around.
"Our linebackers have to play the run, but they also have to be ready to press the quarterback when he scrambles. Then our defensive backs have got a huge challenge in staying on top of their vertical threats."
On the defensive side, Hess noted the IndianHawks will likely operate out of a unique 4-2-5 scheme. Martin paces Clopton/Elsberry with 46 tackles (38 solo) from his linebacker position, followed by junior nose guard Riley Walker with 35 tackles (18 solo).
"(The alignment) is not a traditional look, but it's effective, they do a good job with it," Hess said. "They're big up front and that allows their linebackers to run and make plays.
"They've got those other receivers that are defensive backs, that do a good job on the back end."
After its early scoring last week, the South Callaway offense went three-and-out on four of its final six possessions and lost a fumble on another series. The Bulldogs managed just 170 yards of total offense.
"We talked with the players (Monday) and came up with some new goals that we want to try to get for the season, but then also some game goals," Hess said. "One of those game goals was getting 12 first downs.
"If we can get 12 first downs and stay on the field, that's going to bode well for us. Move the ball down the field — not necessarily big plays, we don't necessarily have to have that every time, but just methodically moving the ball.
"Winning the time of possession, I think, will be a big deal for us."