CALIFORNIA, Mo. — When California and Warsaw meet tonight, it will breed a matchup of 0-2 teams.
Both teams will be trying to shake off losses in their home openers from Week 2, with the Pintos falling 39-10 against Mexico and Warsaw dropping a 34-16 contest against Cole Camp.
California has had a stranglehold on this Tri-County Conference matchup, winning four straight, including last season's 36-0 victory in the regular season finale. Warsaw last beat the Pintos in 2010.
Facing a young Wildcats team a year ago, California racked up 249 yards on the ground. Pintos head coach Marty Albertson would love a similar outcome tonight, but acknowledged that his squad will be greeted by an improved Warsaw team.
"(Warsaw) will be better," Albertson said. "They've played a lot of young kids the last two years and now those kids have got experience.
"We have to go and play, obviously, because they're not going to roll over and do nothing. Their offense has been scoring some points and our defense has been giving up some points. We're going to have to improve that to stay with them."
If California is to take a fifth straight win against Warsaw, it'll likely come from the hand — or rather, feet — of quarterback Jacob Wolken. Last season, Wolken rushed for more than 100 yards against Warsaw. The junior has been California's leading rusher in both games this season.
California's first two opponents Monett and Mexico had the Pintos greatly outmatched on the offensive line. That won't be the case against the Wildcats, which should open up the option for Wolken and running back Cory Friedmeyer.
"Warsaw has some good size, but their big guys aren't nearly as quick as what we faced," Albertson said. They're big, but we can use our quickness against them. It should be effective to open things up."
While tonight poses an opportunity for California's skill players particularly Friedmeyer and sophomore Dakota Henry to have a breakthrough, the Pintos will be shorthanded in that department as well.
Senior running back Gunner Baquet will miss time after having three pins put in a broken finger he sustained in Week 1.
Junior linebacker and running back Liam Glenn will miss the remainder of the season after tearing two ligaments in his elbow.
Wide receiver and kick returner Toby Dalbey will also be out for the year after breaking his collarbone against Mexico.
The injuries for California have put a lot of sophomores into action early, but Albertson has liked what he's seen from some of his young players.
"I thought the sophomores that have played did well," Albertson said. "Kyle Riley and Dakota Henry played really well on defense, and Dakota made a nice run a time or two.
"At one time, we had six sophomores out there on Friday night, so we're pretty young right now."
Though California has started out 0-2 and has been bit by the injury bug early, there's no panic within the team.
The Pintos are mindful that they've had a tough slate to start the season and that they are still 0-0 in conference.
"I told the kids after last game that (Monett and Mexico) could very likely be the two best teams we play all year," Albertson said. "We just have to keep improving week-to-week and if we do that, the wins will come.
"Last year, we started out 0-2 also and then won four in a row and got things going in the right direction. We just need to get a win and that makes everybody feel a lot better."
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