The St. James football team continues their road to a District Title on Friday when they head down to SBU to face off against Buffalo.
The Tigers are fresh off a 14-6 victory over conference rival Owensville. Head coach Josh Rodriguez saw his team grind out a tough win last week and was excited to see how well his team fought through adversity.
"(I saw) Our kids' ability to just stick with it and not get too worked up about the things that weren't happening or were happening and just stick to the gameplan and having faith everything would work out," said coach Rodriguez.
The Tigers did a solid job of bundling up the running game last week against Owensville. That will be their biggest task on Friday night against Buffalo, as their quarterback also doubles as one of the top runners in the area.
"It was just relentless pursuit," said coach Rodriguez of the St. James run defense last week. "Owensville did a good job of trying to spread us out and trying to run underneath, but the kids did a good job rallying and making sure they didn't bust any plays. We did a pretty good job tackling in the open field.
"That's something we're going to have to do this week," continued the St. James head coach. "Buffalo has one of the best runners in southwest Missouri at quarterback in Jamen Smith. That kid can flat out scoot and we're going to have to do a good job of containing him."
Buffalo's offense reminds coach Rodriguez a bit of his own offense. They find different ways of getting the ball into Smith's hands to keep defenses off balance.
"They kind of look like us on offense," said the Tiger head coach. "They do a variety of different things. They do kind of like a single-wide set and run the ball with him kinda like we do with Recker, snap the ball directly to him and run some power and counter with it. Their base offense is out of the spread and they do some spread-read option stuff. They look a lot like we do, it's just that he's extremely gifted in the run game."
Smith will throw the ball a little bit, as well, but he favors the ground game. He's rushed for 1355 yards and 19 scores, with throwing for another 757 yards, eight touchdowns and six interceptions. Buffalo will throw the ball enough to keep St. James honest, but coach Rodriguez believes his secondary, which has been solid all season long, is up to the task.
"I have faith in our secondary that they'll do their job and be where they're supposed to be," said Rodriguez. "They've one a pretty good job all year of containing in the pass game. Our focus will definitely be up front on the run game and try to take away what they do best. They throw okay, but their bread and butter is running the ball."
Buffalo has played solid defense all season long. They've allowed two or fewer touchdowns five times this season and have strung together seven consecutive wins. The key to their defense so far has been consistency.
"Well they're just consistent," said coach Rodriguez. "They play a 4-3 and they're just very consistent about where they need to be and they're very sound on their assignments and they're pretty good tacklers in the open field. That's a pretty good recipe for playing good defense."
St. James struggled to get their offense going until the final drive of the third quarter against Owensville. Coach Rodriguez said the key to making sure they can get going earlier is establishing their line.
"It starts up front," said the Tiger head coach. "We have to do a better job this week of controlling the line of scrimmage, making our blocks, holding them longer and getting our chunks of yards like we're accustomed to. If we can do that, it gives us a chance to milk the clock and keep their offense off the field."
The Tigers will face Buffalo at SBU, rather ran Buffalo's home stadium due to construction.