Regular season football is finally making its return to Rolla as the Bulldog football team is set to host West Plains for Pride Night on Friday, Aug. 31. The Bulldogs and Zizzers both come into the game with a win under their belt and some fire power on both sides of the ball.
Rolla is going to see a very different offense than they saw from Glendale in week one when the Zizzers come to town. After needing to load the secondary to cover the pass last week, the Bulldogs will face one of the top rushing attacks in the Ozark Conference with West Plains. Brayden Lidgard nearly became the first rusher in conference history to rush for 2,500 yards last season and will be the number one focus of the Rolla defense when the two teams square off Friday night.
"Hopefully this goes into the way we want to play, more of a physical game, more of a downhill smack them in the mouth game. That's kind of what they want to do and I think that fits us pretty well," said head coach Jon Franks. "I thought that last year too, but we just made some errors. We've worked hard on correcting that stuff and just executing for the 48 minutes."
The Bulldogs will have to take advantage of some of their flexibility with personnel. Rolla will likely use a few more players in their front seven than normal to make sure those players stay fresh against a run-heavy team.
"We've known with this group that we've got flexibility. We've got a lot of skill guys, we've got a lot of guys that can play in the box, so we've just got to go out and obviously they're big and strong, but we've just got to do our job and play hard," said coach Franks. "We always want to keep things fresh. We're a little dinged up now, just regular in-season items, but that's one thing that you always want to keep people fresh.
"We tell them all the time, play as hard as you can, we'll get subs for you," continued coach Franks. "To play at the level we want this program to be at, you can't conserve and every once and a while kids will conserve so they can stay on the field. We don't want them to conserve, we want them to go all out, go as hard as you can until you can't go anymore, then we'll get a replacement."
Last season, West Plains handed Rolla their most lopsided loss in a 63-28 game. Coach Franks said that his team was able to learn a lot from that game and should be able to avoid some of the same pitfalls.
"We talked with the kids about the importance of ball-security. We talked to the kids about the importance of doing your job," said coach Franks. "Defensively, schematically, if you don't do your job, it puts another guy in a bind. You just have to do your job. They understand that, they understand what we need to do, how we need to do it and we'll just kind of put it out there and see what happens."
Offensively, Rolla has found an excellent weapon in Trey Quick. The senior rushed well over 200 and three touchdowns in the Bulldogs' week one victory over Glendale. His breakout game shows that Rolla has the ability to beat you several different ways on the offensive end.
"I think it just goes to show with coach Shockley's system we're very flexible," said coach Franks. "If a team wants to take away the pass, we can run. If they want us to run, we can throw. Trey is a mismatch.
"I think it just shows we have some flexibility in what we can do, because we're not going to shove the run down ya if that's what you're going to take away," continued the Rolla head coach. "If you leave the throwing open, we're going to throw the ball. If you leave the running open, we can run the ball."
Coach Franks sees a very similar defense to his own when he looks at West Plains on film, which should lead to a very interesting matchup.
"I think when we're playing well, we're very similar defensively," said the Rolla head coach. "Kind of close to the same scheme, kind of close to the same ideas of how we want to do things, so our offense should be fairly prepared. We give them a good look all well, so it shouldn't be a surprise when West Plains shows up."
There will be a ton of energy in the stadium with Pride Night, but coach Franks wants to be sure his team is prepared to play well if that emotion begins to fade.
"I hope they're excited. We try to talk a lot about emotion. Emotions are great, but eventually emotion wears off in a game and you have to rely on your technique, your skills, your fundamentals, your system," said Franks. "That's where we're trying to get those guys. Be excited, be happy, be under control and just play well for 48 minutes. There's going to be a lot of hype with a good football team coming into town. We know we're a good football team and we need to show it to some more people and that's another step that will happen this week."