Not that anyone really questions Mexico varsity football coach Steve Haag after all the success he's had since taking over the program, but to anyone considering the idea please know there's a very definite plan in place and from one season to the next it doesn't vary all that much in regards to focus.
Specifically, the concept is to use the inital two games of the year to prepare for the beginning of North Central Missouri Conference competition and go from there. Last Thursday the start of that plan came a day early for the Bulldogs when Marshall asked that their matchup be moved up due to impending weather, so that's what happened.
What followed was, not only did these squads manage to miss the rain and wind that was predicted, Mexico outscored the Owls 14-6 in both the second and third quarters to come out ahead 35-25.
"We gave up two long pass plays in the first quarter trying to get settled in on our pass coverage. We let them behind us and they made some plays," said coach Steve Haag. "We got back in it by sustaining a long scoring drive."
The Bulldogs opening score of the contest came on an 11-yard run in the opening quarter by Tyler Talley. For the game the junior had 43 rushing yards and one catch for 18 yards, but at the end of the first quarter Mexico was down 13-7.
Now down 19-7 in the second, Jasean White took the ensuing kickoff for Mexico at his own seven-yard line and just started running. By the time he was done all that was left to do was put his points on the scoreboard and bring out Gage Gilmore for the extra point to cut Marshall's lead to 19-14.
Later in the second the Bulldogs defense had finally had enough of Marshall's aerial attack and decided enough was enough. That's why Dillon Nichols decided to intercept the ball and run it back 21 yards for the score to put his team back on top 21-19.
"(Marshall) ran 45 total plays and they threw the ball 27 times, so they only ran the ball about 18 times," Haag said.
Apparently the Owls didn't quite pick up what Mexico was laying down and in the third put on quite a display. Until White intercepted the ball in his own endzone, that is, and he just kept moving and shaking until he'd returned the ball 103 yards to paydirt and widened his teams advantage to 28-19.
"(Defensively) White did some things well. He also has some things to work on. He did have the interception, but he did allow his technique to break down a little bit, which, a times, helped Marshall," said Haag. "His speed helps out a ton. Once he's determined to get good at his technique and put that with the skill he'll just get better. (Against Marshall) he had a really good game both offensively and defensively, as well as on special teams and that's what we need for him."
Having racked up 128 rushing yards on the night, it was later in the third that Nichols most important yards were clocked because, leading 28-25, he found a way into the endzone from two-yards out. Once Gilmore connected on the extra point, that made it a 35-25 affair that, and slowly but surely, this game couldn't help but turn into a defensive showdown from that point forward.
"They did a couple things in the first half with their wide receivers, lining them up a little bit differently. (At halftime) we talked about adjusting to that and not getting to nervous against those receivers, because those guys are good athletes," Haag said. "We've got to be able to get some pressure, so we had to adjust our blitz's a little bit. That made it a little easier on our defensive backs to cover."