The Rolla High School football team is hoping its longest road trip of the season will produce its first victory.
The Bulldogs travel to Joplin tonight to take on the Eagles in Ozark Conference play. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Rolla sagged to 0-3 both overall and in the conference by losing in Springfield to Parkview 27-20 last week.
Also last week Joplin suffered its first setback of the season to Springfield Hillcrest 41-22. The Eagles come into tonight 2-1 both overall and in the league – one of four teams tied for third in the league standings.
The leaders in the Ozark Conference at 3-0, Springfield Kickapoo and Camdenton, square off tonight to break the tie at Camdenton.
Joplin owns wins over Springfield Glendale and Parkview earlier this season and has shown some offensive pop, averaging 27.0 points per game.
"They have a lot of weapons offensively," said RHS head coach Willie Howard of Joplin. "Their quarterback and running back are really good athletes and playmakers and (junior wideout Tamerik) Branham is a really good receiver for them as well."
The Eagles are a spread offense but lean heavily on their rushing attack, which is led by junior running back Adam Norsworthy.
Norsworthy has rushed 61 times for 446 yards (7.3 yards per carry) and three TDs while senior quarterback Tristen Ash has run 31 times for 186 yards (6.0) and six touchdowns.
Ash has completed 24-of-47 passes for 239 yards, three interceptions and one TD.
Branham is the go-to receiver, with 10 catches for 123 yards and a touchdown while senior wideout Gavin Jones has five catches for 38 yards and Norsworthy four catches for 37.
"They rely more on their ground game to set you up for the pass," Howard said.
"Things have gone pretty well," said Joplin head coach Chris Shields. "We're fairly young and inexperienced; we have some seniors playing varsity for the first time. I'm pleased the way we came out the first two weeks but last week against Hillcrest I don't think we played as well as we can.
"We showed some inexperience last week and Hillcrest did some things we weren't able to pick up. We made progress in the passing game, but it's something we need to continue to improve on the rest of the season."
Defensively senior linebacker Josh Miller has 19 solo tackles and 14 assists for a team-leading 33 total for the Eagles while Ash, a linebacker, has 23 tackles and Jones, a defensive back, 15. Damian Campbell-Ketron, a sophomore defensive end, has four QB sacks for Joplin.
The Joplin defense is allowing an average of 24.3 points per game.
"Their defensive linemen are very good," Howard said. "They are big and quick. Their quarterback also plays linebacker and he does a nice job; he's a physical kid. They have a lot more kids going both ways than in the past.
Page 2 of 2 - Last week the Bulldogs outgained Parkview by 130 yards but were burned by a pair of turnovers in the 1-TD setback.
"Our plan going in was we had to control the ball and take pressure off the defense," Howard said. "We've got to continue drives and eliminate turnovers. The more 20-play drives you can put together, the better chance you've got."
Junior running back Andy Satulla has rushed for 367 yards on 78 carries and two TDs for the Bulldogs while senior QB-WR Joe Drallmeier has 75 yards on 18 carries and a TD.
Sophomore quarterback Kyle Morris has hit on 25-of-50 passes for 273 yards, one interception and two touchdowns for the Bulldogs while rushing for 70 yards on 28 attempts.
Satulla has caught eight passes for 117 yards and a TD and senior wideout Jared McBride has seven catches for 77 yards and a TD.
For the Bulldog defense senior defensive back Ben Maples has nine solo tackles and 12 assists for 21 total while Drallmeier, a defensive back, has 12 solos, eight assists and two interceptions and senior lineman Kaan Kutmen has eight solos, five assists and two sacks.
"It was a heck of a fight when we played Rolla last year," Shields said. "Coach Howard does a good job – those kids play hard. You know what you're going to see; it comes down to execution."
Rolla senior defensive back Holden Pierce, who went down and was carried off the field to a Springfield hospital last week, will not play tonight, although he returned to school this week. Pierce is third on the team in tackles.