Two teams with identical unbeaten records and similar seasons will face off on Friday night at School of the Osage when the SoBoCo Eagles visit the Osage Indians.
At stake? The right to challenge the Blair Oaks Falcons for the Tri-County Conference title.
The Indians have defeated Fulton, Seneca, Hallsville and Warsaw – with their only real test coming in the Hornets contest. This week, they will be tested by SoBoCo’s much-improved physical play.
The Eagles will be tested by the most athletic team they have played yet this season.
The key, according to Eagles coach Trent Tracy, is for the Eagles defense to recognize different Osage formations when they line up.
“They have a balanced run-pass attack,” Tracy said, “but they do a lot of different things out of different formations. Our effort is always there on defense, but it will come down to basic assignment football – and that starts with recognizing their formations.”
The Eagles will have to look for the running of Dalton Depee and Austin Magnuson along with the pass-catching skills of Jason Edwards.
Tracy said on offense the Eagles will have to be capable of handling Osage’s fast linebackers in their high-pressure defense. Magnuson, at middle linebacker, and the rest of the Indians like to blitz from the inside, the outside – and anywhere else they think they can get to the football.
“We will have to recognize where they are coming from and handle that pressure – especially on the perimeter,” Tracy said.
SoBoCo had three TD passes last week from quarterback Spencer Taggart – two to Clay Jeffery. While Jeffery definitely showed he can get the job done while defenses are concentrating on Sam Stichnote, look for the Eagles to look to get Stichnote in one-on-one coverage deep into the Osage secondary.
Stichnote could be a player who makes a difference in this game. His ability to go up and get the ball as well as his ability to gain yardage after the catch will challenge the Indians – if Taggart has time to get the ball to him.
Tracy said Friday’s game could simply be won or lost on turnovers and special teams.
“Ball security will be really important on Friday,” Tracy said. “We have to protect the ball, watch for their blitzes and communicate on the offensive line. There is a lot going on up there” that many fans don’t see. “We will need to stay with our blocks, or else they are quick enough that they will still make plays.”
The vastly improved Eagles special teams – with Parker Boyce on kickoffs and placekicking – and Stichnote returning punts could provide the Eagles with the field position to work with a short field as they did last week – and that could make a big difference.
Player to Watch: Cooper Mange – While the Indians will have their hands full with covering Stichnote, Jeffery and Tanner Smith running the ball through the middle, Mange is a player who can make a key run on offense, a great play at outside linebacker or a 40- to 50-yard return as an up-man on kickoffs. Watch for No. 28 on Friday night.
Eagles @ Osage