MOKANE — Building off the momentum of an impressive victory against their county rivals, the South Callaway Bulldogs want to sidestep the possibility of any self-inflicted entanglements.
South Callaway goes on the road for the first time this season when it travels eastbound on Highway 54 to winless Louisiana tonight for an Eastern Missouri Conference matchup between Bulldogs. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
South Callaway collected its first win of the season last week by defeating the North Callaway Thunderbirds 21-6 in the annual Callaway Cup rivalry game in Mokane. South Callaway is now 1-1 overall and 1-0 in the EMO.
Louisiana, meanwhile, tumbled to 0-2 both on the season and in conference play after a 40-18 home loss to Montgomery County last week.
"If we want to continue to improve and to reach whatever potential we have, we can't assume anything and we can't take weeks of practice off, or days of practice off, or a game off," South Callaway coach Zack Hess said. "It's a mindset. We talked about playing up to a high standard that we want to set for ourselves.
"It doesn't matter who we're playing on Friday night, whether it's North Callaway or Louisiana, or whoever, it doesn't matter. Having two games to start the season against high-quality opponents, and they're physically demanding games, emotionally demanding games, you can't just wipe your brow and go like, 'The work's done.'"
Louisiana's spread offense — which is averaging 20 points through two games — is steered by junior quarterback Mason Washington. The primary running back is sophomore Wyatt Harrison and Washington's main targets are junior wide receivers Tramaine Chatman and Quincy Hutt.
"Their quarterback is a dual-threat type of kid — he'll throw the ball, he'll run the ball, but I would consider him more of a running quarterback," Hess said. "He's very fast, agile.
"Their running back is quick and agile, and they use him quite a bit. They've got a couple of slot receivers that are really talented. They throw a ton of screen game, short routes."
South Callaway's defense turned in an exceptional performance last week, twice intercepting North Callaway passes in the end zone and holding the Thunderbirds scoreless until late in the game. South Callaway allowed 288 yards of total offense, including 131 yards rushing.
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Hess emphasized South Callaway's defensive unit will have to limit running options for Washington and restrict Chatman and Hutt on short routes tonight. Two of Louisiana's three scores in a 74-22 EMO loss at North Callaway in the season opener came on screen passes that went for long touchdowns.
"It's a unique challenge — it's one of those things where we've got to stay at home, we've got to do our job," Hess said. "If we play too fast or if we do things too different, or too quickly, that opens up running lanes for the quarterback.
"They've got dudes that are fast and can get down the sideline. We've got to make sure that we're disciplined, especially our DBs (defensive backs)."
South Callaway's offense will surely be eager to face a Louisiana defense that has been exploited for a stunning 114 points combined in just two contests. Hess expects Louisiana to operate out of a 3-4 scheme.
"It's not the athleticism — I think they're still learning their roles on defense and assignments, and what exactly their job is," Hess said. "I feel like after watching Week 1 and Week 2, that they've gotten better.
" They've got a lot of players that don't have a ton of experience, so each week that ceiling is really high."
South Callaway produced 265 yards of total offense — including 191 yards rushing — against North Callaway. Junior quarterback Sam Buckner had a hand in all three South Callaway scores, including a pair of 1-yard touchdown runs and a 16-yard touchdown pass to senior tight end Tyler Potter on fourth down.
"We just want to continue to see that growth in Sam, and more and more trust each week in him putting us in good positions with some of our option checks," Hess said. "I think going up against a defense that maybe struggles a little bit with discipline, that really is an advantage for us, especially in the option game.