In a rematch of last years season opener the Mexico varsity football team once again played Southern Boone to start the 2019 campaign on Friday.
The difference was this time around the Bulldogs were not only at home, but they were also able to keep things much closer than they did in 2018, falling 20-0 after heading into halftime trailing by 13.
"Our game plane coming into Mexico was that we know their identity is to run the football, so we had to adjust some of our defense based on what we thought they were going to do," said Southern Boone coach Trent Tucker. "I was really impressed. Mexico's guys up-front are much improved from last year. On offense they pushed us around quite a bit at times. Fortunately we were able to get the ball in the air on the outside, running to the outside. Last year we were a pretty heavy-based inside run team."
Once Mexico started this game with possession of the ball, the Eagles came back and scored the only touchdown of the first quarter on a short run by Tristan John at 5:55. After they missed the extra point, that made it a 6-0.
"(Mexico) had a good answer for our read-option stuff. We had a gameplan then we had to adjust because we saw something different than we thought we would see," Tucker said. "I think this was a good week one game for both teams. I'm happy we came out on the winning side. I was really impressed with my boys. Getting the zero on the board is awesome and we've got to continue getting better. We had self-inflicted wounds a lot tonight. Penalties and bad snaps. Things we can control."
Southern Boone's second score came when they took over at their own 25 yard-line with 7:19 remaining in the second quarter. While it took a bit of maneuvering it was the Eagles Blake Dapkus who pulled in a 24-yard scoring pass at 4:30 from signal caller Tyson Smith. Once Kaden Davis tacked on the extra point that made it a 13-0 affair.
"I thought we played much more physical this year. The one thing we wanted to do was fly around and be physical and I think we did that," said Mexico coach Steve Haag. "We just hurt ourselves in spots, and you can't do that against good teams. You've got to be able to play sound football. I think what you saw here were two evenly matched teams. They didn't make very many mistakes and we made mistakes."
One thing the Bulldogs can hang their hats on in this contest was when they blocked a field goal just prior to halftime that would've made it a 16-0 game. That came after a drive that started with 2:11 left in the half that Southern Boone drove all the way to its own 11-yard line, only to end up falling short.
"That last touchdown was just being tired. Our defense had been on the field a long time," Haag said. "It happens. In the first half they got their first score because we allowed a long punt return. Special teams is a part of the game and you've got to take it seriously. You've got to get downfield and tackle and we didn't do that. I don't know what his return was. Probably a 40-yard return and they get in our territory and end up scoring their."
In the fourth quarter Tristan John capped off the scoring by reaching the end zone one last time for the Eagles, this time on a 19-yard run. This came with just :30 left to play.
"Their second touchdown was a missed tackle. When you get that guy, you can't miss him. You have to bring him down," said Haag. "At that point we didn't play sound football defensively and they punched it in. We talk about it all the time. Getting the kids to understand that stuff is important."
Mexico, 0-1 overall, next plays on Sept. 6 at California in non-conference action.
Southern Boone, 0-1 overall, next hosts Fulton on Sept. 6.
"I think we're a much better Mexico Bulldogf team this year. We've got guys who are a little bit older, they've worked hard and we still have a lot of improving to do," Haag said. "We still have guys we need to get on the field so we can give these guys breaks, but I think we're going to play some exciting football. It's a long season. Knock on wood. If no one gets injured and we continue to improve that we can do that."
In 2018 Mexico lost this contest 49-6.