WEEK 9 PREVIEWS: Eldon going to battle against St. James in regular season home finale
If there is a will, there is usually a way.
As high school football in the state of Missouri approaches the final week of the regular season, there are still teams across the state dealing with the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic that comes with cancelled games or newly scheduled opponents. Eldon has not been spared from this new reality as coronavirus issues caused the program’s scheduled Tri-County Conference game at Boonville to be cancelled last week and it was the second time this season that a Friday night came and went without the Mustangs on the gridiron. It seemed Eldon may be heading down that path again when this week’s conference battle with Versailles was cancelled for those same reasons, but the Mustangs were able to quickly find a new opponent for Friday night.
The St. James Tigers will be coming to Victor Field and kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
St. James (1-7) has faced some struggles like Eldon (1-5, 0-4 TCC) so far in 2020 as the Tigers currently average 110 rushing yards, 119.5 passing yards and 229.5 total yards per game that has led to 9.3 points per game. The Tigers are coming off a 34-21 defeat at Scott City and their lone win of the season came the previous week in a 12-6 defensive battle over Sullivan, also a team that has just won one game.
Senior quarterback Preston Schmidt is the field general for St. James at quarterback and he has completed 70 of his 149 passes for 941 yards, five touchdowns and 12 interceptions. If Eldon can find a way to generate some pressure and make Schmidt uncomfortable in the pocket, it could be a big night for the Mustang secondary to add to that interception total.
Senior receiver Kadin Guese has been Schmidt’s top target this season with 22 receptions for 332 yards and two scores. Fellow senior Derek Skaggs has hauled in 15 receptions for 176 yards and a touchdown, junior Peyton Maylee has 11 receptions for 166 yards and a touchdown and junior Logan Sparks has also crossed the century mark with 10 catches for 126 yards. Sophomore Cody Wilfong has put up six catches for 70 yards, respectively, but it is the ground game where the sophomore is most dangerous.
Wilfong is currently the team’s leading rusher with 69 carries for 470 yards (6.8 yards per carry) and two touchdowns. Senior Levi Hutto has galloped 38 times for 184 yards (4.8 yards per carry) and a score, Maylee has rushed 11 times for 65 yards (5.9 yards per carry), junior Chandler Tinsley is at 16 carries for 55 yards and score (3.4 yards per carry) and Schmidt has run 30 times for 51 yards. Slow down Wilfong, forcing others to step up, and an Eldon defense currently allowing 47.3 points per game may be happy with the scoreboard by the end of the night.
Meanwhile, Eldon’s offense is currently averaging 187.2 rushing yards, 58.5 passing yards and 245.7 total yards per contest to go with 19.8 points per game and this side of the ball will be lining up against a defense currently allowing 29 points per contest.
The Mustangs are hoping there is not too much rust to shake off after a week off and there have been numerous benefactors in the rushing attack of the Wing-T offense.
Through six games, Eldon senior Mason Kirkweg has led the ground attack with 68 carries for 391 yards (5.8 yards per carry) and four touchdowns. Sophomore Krystopher Shepard has galloped for 324 yards on 41 carries (7.9 yards per carry) and six touchdowns and senior Owen Levesque is at 47 rushes for 208 yards (4.4 yards per carry) and two scores as the third Mustang over the century mark so far this season. Junior Killian Wilson has also found the end zone with 29 carries for 87 yards (3 yards per carry) and one touchdown and freshman quarterback Hunter Hees has rushed for three scores of his own on 37 rushes for 67 yards (1.8 yards per carry).
Hees has 100 passes so far in 2020, completing 41 of them for 351 yards, two touchdowns and five interceptions. Junior receiver Baylor Pearson remains the team’s top option in the passing attack with 24 catches for 199 yards. Levesque has caught four passes out of the backfield for 44 yards and both Wilson (three catches, 9 yards) and senior Ian Birdno (two catches, 16 yards) have each caught a touchdown pass.
With just one win on the season, both teams will be looking for some kind of spark in the final week before the district playoffs get underway. The Mustangs are currently fifth in the district standings with 21.7 points so Friday night’s game may just be the final time the team plays at home this season.
Time to see if Eldon can make it count.
According to Eldon activities director Steve Henderson, this very well could be the first time these two sides have met unless there was a game Eldon and St. James played in the distant past. There have been no previous matchups between the Tigers and Mustangs in at least the past 10 years, according to MSHSAA records.
Well, hopefully not too many temperatures on the football team given the unfortunate cancellation of last week’s game. Kirkweg, Shepard and Levesque have been a solid combination on the ground and Pearson seems to be a reliable option in the air. It all comes down to execution.
Wilfong and Guese have the ability to do some real damage if they find their stride and slowing down these two Tigers will be one of the top priorities for the Mustang defense.