ASHLAND — Southern Boone coach Trent Tracy didn’t expect the type of performance he saw out of his young offensive line Friday night.
The Eagles returned just one starter up front: senior center Brett Price. Youth brings uncertainty, but Friday, in Southern Boone’s 49-6 win over Mexico, there was no uncertainty. Southern Boone’s offense dominated, especially in the second half, and much of that had to do with the offensive line.
Quarterback and safety Sam Stichnote raved about the group after the game.
“It’s the leadership. Our center is a three-year starter, and so he is a great leader on the line and he gets those guys ready,” said Stichnote, who threw for 105 yards and two touchdowns and added 97 yards and a touchdown on the ground. “They played great tonight.”
Tracy said the staff has had to find a balance between getting the best out of the linemen and easing them into varsity play.
“They are young,” Tracy said. “I was challenging them to give me everything they have on every play. I haven’t watched the film, but I feel like they did that consistently tonight against a pretty good football team.”
After taking a 14-0 lead into halftime, Southern Boone exploded. The Eagles outscored the Bulldogs 35-6 in the second half, and it all began after a 40-yard screen connection between Stichnote and running back Colby Phillips went the distance.
“I think that deflated them,” Tracy said. “If we punt and they put one in the end zone, now they have confidence.”
In the first half, Mexico had tallied just three first downs, but it answered Southern Boone’s touchdown with one of their own.
A nine-play 80-yard drive was capped off with a 10-yard touchdown run by Dante Billups. The lead was back down to 14, but Phillips had another answer waiting.
The senior took the ensuing kickoff 90 yards for a Southern Boone touchdown. From there, Mexico had no answer.
“Colby is a special player,” Tracy said. “Just, overall, that was such a great job by all of the guys.”
Friday’s performance was a welcome sight for Tracy after a disappointing showing at last week’s jamboree. He especially enjoyed seeing his team score on each side of the ball, as a Blake Dapkus interception even gave the defense six points.
Dapkus’ defensive score came just four plays after he caught a 28-yard touchdown pass from Stichnote.
“All facets of the game really played well,” Tracy said.
Mexico coach Steve Haag had nothing but praise for what Southern Boone was able to accomplish in this contest. At the same time he was also able to see both the good and the bad innhis squads performance and has a good idea where the Bulldogs go from here.
"I think it all started going bad when we gave them the short filed right off. The didn't have to ge very far to score. We also missed a couple tackles on the long run when they scored their other (touchdown)," Haag said. "I thought we settled in defensively in the first half. Started playing better. I think we were better with our assignments, but offensivelt we really didn't get it rolling to well in the first half. We had a couple good runs, but I just don't think we were very physicsl up front, and I think it showed."
One trademark of Mexico football since Haag took over is starting the season against a quality opponent. The idea is to not only get ready for what lies ahead, but also not be afraid to punch above the squads weight class because taking an early season non-league loss is worth the punishment if it makes the team better in regards to North Central Missouri Conference competition. Not only is that how this game got scheduled, but it's also why the Bulldogs started 2017-18 at Batte.
"You've got to prepare for our schedule. We're probably going to play teams better than Southern Boone," said Haag. "In the past, I don't think we're going to face better teams than Battle, but Southern Boone is in our district. They got some quality guys back. We lost some. We're playing some younger guys. No matter who you play you have to get better and those guys have to get game experience. Our thinking is we didn't want to play a Battle again, but we did want to prepare for the year."
As for the Eagles, being 1-0 isn’t an uncommon feeling. That's because they've won their last three season openers.
Now the focus is on being 1-0 next week, when they travel to Fulton (1-0.)
“It’s the 24-hour rule, they can celebrate this and live in this moment between now and tomorrow afternoon,” Tracy said. “After that, the focus is Fulton. That’s all it can be.”