The Rolla High School football team has one last chance to make a winning statement before beginning the district playoffs.
The Bulldogs will attempt to snap their season-long victory drought tonight, hosting the West Plains Zizzers. The Ozark Conference game will begin at 7 p.m. at Lions Memorial Field. It's the final regularly-scheduled home game of the season for Rolla as well as Bulldog Senior Night.
RHS enters 0-8 both overall and in the conference while the West Plains Zizzers, after a winless 2012, are a competitive 3-5 this fall.
The Bulldogs are in last place in the six-school Missouri Class 5 District 4 standings with 14.27 points. As it stands currently in District 4, Rolla will be traveling to Sedalia Smith-Cotton while Waynesville will host Washington in the district openers next week, with Camdenton and Lebanon getting first-round byes.
"Right now we're going to Sedalia," said RHS head coach Willie Howard. "This is the week we need to build some momentum."
And the Bulldogs, who last week lost in the rain at Springfield Hillcrest 32-16, will have to work to gain momentum over West Plains, which is probably the most improved team in the OC.
In addition to their three victories the Zizzers also have a couple of close-call losses, including last week's 31-25 setback to Springfield Parkview. In that game West Plains had a 25-24 lead with 1:10 remaining before losing a fumble and watching Parkview rally for the last-second victory.
"Things have gone well," said Steve Ary, in his second season as West Plains head coach after successful runs at Willow Springs and later Mountain Grove. "We've been real competitive; I've been real happy with the progress. Last week we're up 25-24 with 1:10 left and I thought we were two downs away from winning. But instead of getting a first down we fumbled on a 3rd-and-4 and that set up Parkview's last touchdown."
West Plains is averaging 17.9 points per game and has allowed an average of 31.0. The Zizzers are averaging nearly 270 yards of total offense.
"They're a whole lot better than a year ago," Howard said of West Plains. "They played a lot of young kids last year and now that experience has worked in their favor.
"I told our kids regardless of the won-loss records, (West Plains) will probably be the roughest, toughest group of kids we'll play this year. They're not afraid to tackle people."
The Zizzers have split their quarterback duties this season due to injury. Sophomore quarterback Sam Hall started out as the signal-caller and passed for 447 yards.
But Hall suffered a season-ending knee injury and junior Jacob Mitchell - the starter much of last year - returned three weeks ago and has hit on 25-of-50 passes for 228 yards, three interceptions and three TDs.
Page 2 of 2 - Senior running back Gaige Moss has been the hub of the Zizzer attack, having rushed for 710 yards on 156 carries and six TDs while junior fullback Matt Wernsing has rushed for 146 yards and five TDs and Mitchell has kept the ball for 113 rushing yards.
Senior wideout/slot Jacob Womack is the team's go-to receiver, with 42 receptions for 457 yards and two scores. He has also rushed 38 times for 218 yards.
On defense Wernsing, a middle linebacker, leads the squad in tackles with 39 solos and 69 total while sophomore free safety John Williams has 57 tackles and a team-high four interceptions.
"They are a ground-based offense," Howard said of the Zizzers. "They're using some spread-type, wing-T stuff with a lot of misdirection. Moss does a good job following his blockers and finding holes.
"And they play a typical Steve Ary defense; they play a lot of gaps and tackle really well."
After going winless a year ago Ary feels for the Bulldogs' current plight, adding the Bulldogs are not a typical 0-8 squad.
"They're not as bad as their record shows," Ary said. "They move the ball on people; they kind of play with everybody. They probably should have a couple of wins under their belts but for whatever reason they don't.
"Sometimes you've got to be lucky. And that's my biggest fear this week; that they come in and put one together on us."
Last week RHS junior running back Andy Satulla went past the 1,000-yard rushing barrier. He now has 1,157 yards on 192 carries and eight TDs.
Bulldog sophomore quarterback Kyle Morris has hit on 59-of-143 passes for 648 yards, five interceptions and four TDs. Satulla has 15 receptions for 240 yards and a TD while senior wideout Jared McBride has 12 catches for 137 yards, junior Bradley Lohr 11 for 107 and senior Joe Drallmeier 10 for 130.
Drallmeier, a defensive back, and junior linebacker Billy Brookshire each have 53 tackles to lead the RHS defense while senior lineman Kaan Kutman has 42 tackles and two sacks and senior lineman Jacob Banholzer has 41 tackles and three sacks.