To start district play, the Jefferson City Jays will go against a pounding rushing attack and a stiff defense. Sound familiar?
"A lot of similarities to Rockhurst," Jefferson City coach Ted LePage said of Blue Springs (7-2), which is tonight's opponent for the Jays. "The only thing they do a little different than Rockhurst is they don't run as much boot pass. They are just more, 'We're going to power, we're going to run sweep, we're going to run iso, and we're going to run counter and we're going run reverse, and it's about in that order."
The Wildcats, ranked third in this week's Missouri Media Rankings, are the No. 2 seed in Class 6 District 3, will host the seventh-seeded Jays (3-6) at 7 p.m. tonight.
Blue Springs, which ran for more than 400 yards in a 56-46 win against the Jays in last year's district semifinals, is averaging 194 yards per game on the ground.
Aveion Bailey is leading the way with 495 yards and five touchdowns in seven games.
"They've got a really good running attack, they throw the ball well, but they just try to pound you," LePage said. "They take the ball and they move it down the field just methodically. They're not afraid to take a 20-play drive. That's part of the reason why people are staying in games with them."Six of the Wildcats' games have been decided by 17 points or less. Blue Springs trailed 10-0 at halftime and 10-8 after three quarters in last week's 23-10 win at Ray-Pec.
Caleb Marquez, who is used as a tight end and fullback and has an offer from Western Illinois, had a 1-yard score in the fourth quarter to give Blue Springs the lead. Bailey added a 76-yard touchdown.
Blue Springs South only trailed 7-3 at halftime two weeks ago against Blue Springs before Matthew Marzolf caught two second-half touchdown passes from Chase Donohoe for a 20-3 Wildcat win.
"Big, athletic. Very, very good football team," LePage said. " They are just a plethora of talent all over the board, but yet they have found ways to leave people in games."
Scoring in bunches isn't necessary when the defense only allows 10.7 points per game.
Daniel Parker Jr., a University of Missouri commit, and Khristian Boyd, who has offers from Kansas and Arkansas State, take up space on the defensive line.
Boyd is 6-foot-4, 305 pounds while Parker Jr. is about 6-3, 270 pounds.
"They take their three big guys and say we're going to take up five blockers with those three and let our athletes run around and play defense," LePage said.
Parker Jr. leads Blue Springs with four sacks and 14 tackles for loss this season.
"He's got a great takeoff, he's got a great motor, he's nasty on the field," LePage said. "He does a really, really good job at a lot of things he does. What you've got to do with a guy like that is try to contain him as much as you can because he's going to run around and make plays."
The Jays are hoping to limit the number of times quarterback Devin Roberson gets taken down in the backfield.
"We worked with him very exclusively this week on two days where I and coach (Lerone) Briggs stood behind him, counted his steps, throw," LePage said. "Counted his steps, throw. We really got him to throw on rhythm. I think he's had a much better week.
"Last week he was off rhythm. He just wanted to see things. With the coaching that he's accepted, he's able to sit there and go bang, bang, bang, throw. We've had a lot of success and a lot of completions."
As for the ground game, the trio of Roberson, Noah Jahr and Maleek Jackson is still trying to hit their stride. They've been held to less than 100 yards the past two games.
"We've got some things we think can work," LePage said. "We've seen some things on film where we feel like we've got some advantages and we're going to try and take advantage of it."
The Jays want to avoid what happened last week. Quick offensive drives kept their defense on the field and Rockhurst gained 199 rushing yards in just the second half against the tired defensive unit.
"If we can get moving the ball where our defense isn't out there every snap, I think we can definitely hold up with this team, I think this is a good game for us," LePage said. "I think we match up well with them. I think their size is something we've seen all year, their speed is something we've seen all year. We've got the road map, now we've just got to execute."
The winner will face either No. 3 seed Fort Zumwalt West or No. 6 seed Troy in the semifinals next Friday.