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story.lead_photo.caption Russellville players and coaches line up during the national anthem before an Aug. 28 game against M.M.A. in Russellville. Photo by Ken Barnes / California Democrat.

After an unexpected off week, the Russellville Indians return to action tonight in their first road game of the season against the Sweet Springs Greyhounds.

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.

The Indians were originally scheduled to play the Tipton Cardinals last Friday, but did not have enough eligible players.

This week, the roster is not an issue.

"We're gonna be suiting up 19 or 20 kids," Russellville coach Roger VanDeZande said. "That'll allow us to make substitutions and keep our players fresh."

After their Week 1 loss to Missouri Military Academy, Russellville (0-1) only had 14 players that were ready for Tipton, and thus could not play the game. With that week off, it allowed VanDeZande and his staff extra time to prepare the team for Sweet Springs (2-0).

With the numbers they have, it has not been easy.

"It's difficult to simulate someone's offense when we don't have that many kids, but we have been watching film and working on the fundamentals on defense," VanDeZande said.

One area VanDeZande has seen improvement in is his team's conditioning. During the M.M.A. game, the conditioning proved to be a problem as the game went on. With a team of only 20 players, and many playing both sides of the ball, it can quickly become an issue.

The Greyhounds won their first two games this season, a 40-8 romp against Knox County in Week 1, and a 14-13 nail-biter against Carrollton last week. Sweet Springs' offense is led by junior running back Cole Lovencamp, who has 254 rushing yards and five touchdowns.

"They run their system well, they have good ball carriers, and a good line," VanDeZande said. "They're pretty comfortable in what they're doing and they do it effectively."

Lovencamp proved to be the difference in the Carrollton game, rushing for 121 yards on 15 carries and two touchdowns. Russellville hopes to contain him by continuing to make good reads on defense and controlling the clock on offense.

The Indians also have a powerful ball carrier in junior fullback Bladen Kremer. In the M.M.A. game, he rushed for 124 yards on 10 carries. Eighty of those yards came on the final drive of the game when he busted for 39 yards and then 41 yards for a touchdown. With a back like him, Russellville can match Sweet Springs yard for yard.

For now, VanDeZande is anxious to get back out onto the football field against what he hopes to be a good test for his first-year team.

"It'll be a good challenge and we are all looking forward to it," he said.

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