Ready or not, the high school football season opens tonight.
And according to Rolla High head coach Willie Howard and Lebanon High head coach Will Christian, their respective teams are ready.
The Bulldogs kick off the 2013 campaign by playing an Ozark Conference contest against league power Lebanon tonight. Kickoff at the Lebanon High School Field has been moved back 30 minutes due to excessive heat and is now slated to begin at 7:30 p.m.
"It is time to play," Howard said. "We've done all the work we can do. Now we've just got to go find out (if it was enough)."
"It went pretty well," Christian said. "We have less hours (for practice) put in, with the restrictions of two-a-days. But with more days to work in the summer, we still think we're in position to play a game."
Rolla is trying to bounce back from a 2-9 2012 campaign and the Bulldogs open against a Lebanon Yellowjacket squad that finished 9-2 overall and tied with Springfield Hillcrest for the Ozark Conference 2012 championship at 8-1.
Last season the Bulldogs lost to the Jackets twice, 28-12 in the season-opener at Rolla and 42-15 in Missouri Class 5 District 4 playoff action at Lebanon.
In the first matchup RHS trailed by a single touchdown entering the fourth period before the Jackets pulled away. The playoff game was the blowout the final score indicated.
"We find it out in a hurry with what has been a perennial power in the Ozark Conference the last four or five years," Howard said of facing Lebanon in the opener.
"That first meeting, take away a (Rolla) fumble near the endzone and it could have easily went the other way," Christian said. "Any time Rolla and Lebanon hook up you throw the records out the window. When we play Rolla we know they're going to play a very physical football game and that they will be well-schooled in the little things."
Lebanon's high-fired offense lost a lot of fire-power, including at quarterback and in the form of Brock West, Lebanon's all-time career rusher who was one of the most productive running backs in the state the past two years.
Howard expects the Jackets to continue to use what has worked so well in the last few years offensively – both the spread and the wildcat formations. The spread uses a four-receiver, one-running back set while in the wildcat the ball is snapped directly to the lone running back.
Junior running back Elza Evans, who rushed for 711 yards as West's backup last year, figures to be the ball carrier if Lebanon uses the wildcat this year.
"They have a very solid offensive line returning and are similar to us in they have a lot of starting linemen back and a sophomore and junior quarterback competing for the job still. And they have a running back who was a solid player backing up West last year.
Page 2 of 2 - "They didn't show any wildcat in their jamboree (last week). Brock West was the superior runner in the league and made the wildcat very tough. But they've got the personnel to again do both."
"Offensively we've been in this situation before," Christian said. "West was a phenomenal player for us. Now it's somebody else's turn."
Defensively the Jackets return eight starters.
"They're a very physical defense," Howard said. "They are very good and very big. Austin Evans returns at middle linebacker and he's a physical specimen. And their two safeties are very athletic and physical."
The Rolla quarterback derby this preseason between senior Joe Drallmeier and sophomore Kyle Morris was pretty much a draw. Morris will get the start at QB but Howard says Drallmeier will also play there and the Bulldogs will try to get the ball in his hands in other ways as well.
"Both are going to play," Howard said of his quarterback situation. "Both have things they do well and that's what we'll try to maximize."
The Bulldogs, led by a seasoned line of Brendan Wuest, Andy Smith, Dalton Turner, JorJon Ellison, Chase Bartle and Jacob Banholzer, also hope to use a stable of running backs in their option game, led by hard-running junior Andy Satulla.
Defensively, all-stater Banholzer returns at tackle to anchor an experienced line. Drallmeier is back to highlight the secondary play.