Intersquad games are nothing new to the Missouri high school football preseason landscape, but how each team goes about it is different.
At Mexico ever since head coach Steve Haag took over, the moment contact is allowed on the prep gridiron thats a rule this program is going to take advantage of. Hence the tradition of Midnight Football began and with it the anticipation comes of yet another season of Bulldogs action and how the team is going to finish in North Central Missouri Conference competition, as well as the Missouri State High School Activities Association season ending championship tournament.
While this event is meant to bring the community together while also Mexico Football, has other purposes, as well. One of those designs is to start setting the depth charts for both the varsity and freshman squads.
"We tried to break the teams up pretty evenly so we could get a good assesment of everybody. We have an idea of players, but we're trying to get other players to step up," said Haag. "That's what we needed tonight and that's why we broke them up. Hopefully we get a couple more players to show us something We need m ore than 11 people. we need a lot of people to win games, so that's what we're trying to develop. We saw some good things tonight out of them."
The format for this event began with the varsity being split into the red and the black. Each squad then started the scrimmage with two offensive with two offensive possesions, the red team featuring players like Jasean White at quarterback and Tyler Talley at running back scored twice. The black team used running back Dillon Nichols to reach the end zone once.
"Dillon Nichols is just a tough kid and a great athlete. He plays that fullback position. He earned his stats last year and tonight he started where he left off. He's only going to get better now that's he's got a year of football uner his belt," Haag said. "He's a veteran now. We expext big things out of him. He was All-Conference and All-District last year, so we expect him yo help carry our team and be a leader. He's a pretty good athlete at everything he does."
While the format then allowed for the freshman team to get some time on the field before the varsity eventually returned and the officials had to keep the time for the four-12 minute quarters because the scoreboards were not available, last year Tyler Talley's biggest role with this team was at linebacker. This season he lit up Midnight Football with two long runs from srimmage to start this event.
"Talley is a tough kid. When he's on the field Anything can happen. He's just a physical individual who loves the game of football," said Haag. "He another one of those kids you love to have on your team. I was excited to see him run. As phyical as he is, we have to take a little bit of pressure off of him. You can't take hits like that all the time, but he's going to get the ball for us. We are hopefully going to keep him healthy and people are going to see him a lot on Friday nights."
Someone who appears to be looking to add the element of an aerial assault to Mexico's offense while still being able to run the ball was Ty Prince. While his exploits with the baseball team may be well known, his onfield football experience is limited, meaning this scrimmage and the upcoming jamboree could determine a lot of his future regarding this season.
"Tyler is a sophomore who played a little bit last year. He's a smart kid who's easy to coach. If you tell him something once he'll remember it and he's going to try and perfect it," Haag said. "Just a tough kid. All around, he's going to be a good quarterback for us and a good defensive back. He's only going to get better with experience. Young kids like him, those two or three games early, they'll grow leaps and bounds in their football. We're waiting for that to happen and hopefully we'll see big things out of him."
Even though those were far from all of the Bulldogs only offensive standouts for this event, the squad is also going to need to perform at a high level on defense if it hopes to win the NCMC title. That's where Haag's thought's on needing depth really ring true, but just like he has questions, the coach also has some answers.
"That's just the nature of the beast. You're always trying to replace the guys you lose. We've got Jasean White at cornerback. He's as good as it comes at his position," said Haag. "When he plays his right technique, and he's getting more physical this year, that's a big step for him. Talley at linebacker will do great things. Up front Tristan Dunlap Has done some good things. Maverick Sadler is out. He hjad knee surgery, but he'll be back and be a good force on our defensive line. A big one is Richard Williams."
Williams, a junior, didn't actually get much playing time as a freshman or sophmore. But, with time, has grown and worked hard in the weight room. Haag also feels he's one of those players whose game knowledge will grow immensely those initial two or three games, making him one of a key group who have the potential to do something special for this program.
"All the guys on defense have the opportunity to play a big part. That's what we need to do, take those guys who have a little bit of experience and let them carry those guys who don't for a little bit," Haag said. "Eventually they'll mesh together, hopefully sooner than later, and the goal is to get a few more wins."
When it comes to Midnight Football as a whole, softball coach Keith Louder specifically said he held his scrimmage when he did because he liked what coach Haag had created. As for what the future of what this event might be, beyond the idea of the Bulldogs continuing to do Midnight Football, nothing is for certain.
"This is our fifth year. I think we had one year cancelled because of rain. The whole thing was this is the first time we can put on pads and tackle. That's the way I sold it to the kids in 2014," said Haag. "We want to be the first team to hit. So, at 12:01 we get that opportunity because it's Saturday. It's kind of fun. You don't get to play games at night a lot. The kids seem to be excited about it. The fans do to. The band came out. It's just a little different. That's what we want. We want those kids to have fun."
Next up for the Bulldogs is a Jmaboree next weekend. The final thing Haag told his team in the postgame huddle was next practice wasn't until Monday ay 6 p.m., but be smart until then and just because they could go out doesn't mean they should.
"We're going to evaluate the film. It's never as good as you think and it's never as bad as you think, but there's things you can leaarn and that's what we intend on doing. Then we'll get back to work (on Monday)," Haag said. "This is something kind of fun. Not everybody gets to do that. We also appreciate the support of the community. I know they brought some paper products. That helps our program. We're selling cards now. Hopefully we can make Mexico proud."