WARDSVILLE, Mo. - It might be the final game of the regular season, but it's far from a "regular" game.
When the Blair Oaks Falcons and Eldon Mustangs meet at 7 p.m. Friday at the Falcon Athletic Complex, there's going to be plenty to play for.
First off, there's a Tri-County Conference title on the line. If the Falcons (7-1 overall, 6-0 Tri-County) can get a win, they'll take the title outright. But if Eldon (6-2, 5-1) wins, the crown will be split three ways between Blair Oaks, California and Eldon.
Then there's winning streaks on the line, as the Falcons have won seven straight and the Mustangs are on a five-game streak.
Finally, it's Senior Night, as the Falcons will be honoring their eight seniors.
"The thing I've told the kids is, "If you can't get excited now, there's something wrong with you,'" Blair Oaks coach Brad Drehle said. "The weather's turning, it's cool, that alone gets you excited for football. You add in the trees are changing, there's barbecue smoke here, a little bit of crowd noise, all those things, if you can't get fired up to come to work every day and do this, there's something wrong.
"Then you add in all the implications of the game and it's a playoff atmosphere. This is what you want."
Drehle added Senior Night is nothing to sniff at this time around.
"We've got eight kids who have stepped up and worked their tails off to become leaders," he said. "There are several of them in that group where you looked at them, somewhere along the line, and said, "Man, are they ever going to make it?' But they've contributed. They've done it with their character, their work ethic, their attitude and they've made us better.
"We want to honor them with a great effort."
It will be part of a big sports day for the school, as the Blair Oaks softball team will play at 11 a.m. Friday in the Final Four in Springfield.
"There are a couple things that concern me coming into this game," Drehle said. "No. 1, we have parent-teacher conferences on Thursday, which means no school on Friday. No. 2, our softball team is playing in the Final Four, so I don't know how many of our kids will go down and support them. Eldon is going to have a big crowd when they get here and some of our crowd will be split with the two activities, and rightly so. Softball playing for a state championship is pretty exciting stuff.
"Then you add in the things Eldon brings, and it's going to be tough. They're averaging 300 yards rushing, they're 6-2, they're physical, and these kids are experienced (17 of 22 starting spots are seniors)."
The Mustangs' only two losses came to Miller Career Academy in season opener (48-42) and California in Week 3 (38-0). Miller Career is 8-0 and among the others receiving votes in the Class 4 state poll, while California is tied for fifth in Class 3.
The Mustangs are led by senior running back Raymond Kwok (126 carries for 760 yards and 13 touchdowns) and senior quarterback Wyatt Greenwalt (76 carries for 553 yards and 10 touchdowns, plus 31-of-62 passing for 592 yards and seven scores).
"In the past, it's been one kid carrying the ball and we've had to load up and find him," Drehle said. "... This year, Greenwalt adds another dimension. It makes you divide the field in half, a little more like option responsibility, where you have to stay at home and read your keys."
Kwok is a familiar face to the Falcons, as he stepped for the Mustangs' injured feature back in last year's game against Blair Oaks and ran for 70 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries.
"He's got great balance. He's not real tall, so he's hard to knock off his feet, he's strong and has really good quickness," Drehle said. "He's a kid that we've got to pay attention to. ... When we tackle him, we've got to go with the idea of gang-tackling. We can't just go with one guy."
Blair Oaks will look to make Eldon more of a passing team.
"They make their money running the football, with play-action," Drehle said. "If we can force them into situations where they have to get into trip sets and try to throw the ball, that gives us the advantage. Where they have the advantage is when they're able to line up and bring it downhill and run at you."
Notes: The Mustangs' defensive coordinator is Glen Lemmon, who is in his first year at the school after serving as head coach at Versailles. "(Their defense does) a good job of mixing things up, they'll bring pressure at times," Drehle said. "... You watch film and the thing that jumps out at you is they run to the ball real well. They're hustling and getting things done." ... Eldon's wins have come against Buffalo (41-14), Warsaw (62-19), Versailles (56-0), School of the Osage (56-38), Hallsville (14-7) and Southern Boone (50-24).