You might think the SoBoCo Eagles would be the favorite to win its homecoming game over California on Friday night.
The Eagles-Pintos kick off at 7 p.m. and will include the crowning of the homecoming king and queen during special ceremonies.

Tanner Smith needs a solid night carrying the ball against California.

Tanner Smith needs a solid night carrying the ball against California.

And those ceremonies are a part of the problem – but let’s talk about our visitors first.
This is not your father’s California Pintos. The blue-red-and-white Pintos of the past were athletic, fast and solid tacklers. This year’s squad is young, not as athletic as last year’s team and sporting a 2-4 record.
The Pintos lost badly to Mexico, was topped by Eldon and barely got past Hallsville last week, winning 6-0.
But that is the thing about the California Pintos that cannot be overlooked – they have a one-game winning streak, they typically get better as the season goes along and they always come out and play hard with a winning attitude.
Which it is why the Eagles have every chance to really stink up their homecoming week by blowing a game they should win.
The Eagles are bigger, faster, more athletic and should handle California they way they did Hallsville – and win by three or more touchdowns.
But, to get back to the homecoming ceremonies, the Eagles have a number of hurdles this week which go beyond play on the football field.
The Eagles are on a two-game losing skid, falling hard in the second half at Osage and Blair Oaks running past them last week.
The Eagles need to get some of their swagger back before they take the field Friday night.
They also need to focus on playing football – and not allow the distractions of homecoming week be their priority. High school coaches everywhere despise homecoming week – even SoBoCo volleyball coach Jaime Nelson attributed a part of her team’s loss on Monday at Eldon to “distractions due to homecoming” and a lack of team focus.
This is not about the coaches and their game plan. This is whether or not the Eagles football players handle their day off of school on Friday (yet another potential distraction) and come prepared to play on Friday night. This is about whether or not the team has had a good week of practice and has prepared itself. This is about whether or not the Eagles want to finish the season on a three-game winning streak, making it one of the most successful Eagles football teams in the school’s short gridiron history — or if they want to limp into the playoffs with a 5-4 record.
Most often high school football games are won by the dominant team who doesn’t have too many turnovers.
This is one of those weeks in which the game could be decided before kickoff – based on the Eagles’ attitude and focus coming into the game.
It’s a big challenge – one that I think SoBoCo will meet with the following execution:
• Tanner Smith needs a solid night carrying the ball. The Eagles will work to dominate the line of scrimmage and Smith needs to be the backbone.
• Quarterback Spencer Taggart needs to find Sam Stichnote and Clay Jeffery – and then look for Kolton Schupp. The Eagles passing game has got to re-gain its timing in order to get ready for the playoffs.
• Cole Morris must continue to be a monster on defense. Morris is one of the top three defensive players in the conference and his ability linebacker allows the Eagles to take risks they otherwise would not take. Morris’ 16-tackle performance against Blair Oaks was one of the most impressive this season.
• Get out some gadgets. If the Eagles can grab a two-touchdown lead, the third quarter might be a good time for a fake field goal. Let holder Seth Mueller flip the ball backwards to Parker Boyce and watch Boyce sprint around the right side for a touchdown. Easy. And the Eagles pulled off a great fake punt a year ago at California to lead them to a playoff win – so, don’t be surprised if coach Trent Tracy goes for a fake.
If the Eagles have had a good focus on game preparations and if they come out ready to play football, Friday night could be a lot of fun. If they spent too much time thinking about dodge ball and the homecoming dance, the California Pintos have the ability to sneak out of town with an upset win.

HOMECOMING ~ 7:00 p.m. ~ SEPTEMBER 30th, 2016

SoBoCo EAGLES vs. California PINTOS