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story.lead_photo.caption Jacob Wolken (11) and Cory Friedmeyer (33) have accounted for much of California's offense through the first three games. Photo by Carter Mulvihill / News Tribune.

CALIFORNIA, Mo. — Some early season struggles combined with injury issues forced the California Pintos to shake things up in the run game last week at Warsaw.

The result: An old-school wishbone attack that saw the Pintos run for 256 yards against the Wildcats in a 33-7 win.

California coach Marty Albertson knows it won't always come that easy, but based on how effective the Pintos were last week, a heavy dose of the wishbone can be expected again tonight at Versailles. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.

"The wishbone just gives us an extra two blockers in the backfield ahead of our running back," Albertson said. "We're able to pick up linebackers a lot easier with it. We'll keep running it when we can.

"It's a physical offense where basically, you're saying 'Here we come. Stop us.' And kids seem to buy into it."

When California takes the field tonight, it will be very similar to the team's situation last week in Warsaw.

Both the Pintos and Tigers enter the matchup with identical records at 1-2. Just like Warsaw, Versailles is both a Tri-County Conference and potential district opponent for California.

But the most notable similarity coming into tonight is in the track record. Like Warsaw, Versailles has struggled against California since Albertson arrived. Last week, the Pintos topped the Wildcats for the fifth straight year.

A California win tonight would make it seven in a row against the Tigers, who last beat the Pintos in 2009 by a score of 42-21.

"(Versailles) is a much better team than they've been in the past," Albertson said. "They've gotten better each year, and this year is no exception. We have to take care of business and play our game."

It's only three games in, but the numbers suggest this Versailles squad is better than last year's 3-7 team California drubbed 42-0. The Tigers opened the year with a 22-6 win at Knob Noster before falling to Fulton and Blair Oaks the past two weeks.

However, the Tigers' 36-0 loss to Blair Oaks can be looked at as an improvement after they lost to the Falcons 70-0 twice in 2015.

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Versailles quarterback David Connor will provide a stiff challenge for a Pinto defense that struggled some to contain another dual-threat quarterback last week in Warsaw's Matt Luebbert.

The Tigers will also feature a heavy dose of power run behind the duo of Taylor Dobbins and Grant Hutchinson.

Opposite of Connor and the Versailles offense will be a California defense that will likely feature four linebackers on the field. In an attempt to get his 11 best defensive players all on the field at once, Albertson went to a scheme change after Week 2.

A relatively small team, the Pintos will make up for their undersized defensive line with a quick core of linebackers. Senior Sam Kirby anchors the unit. He's joined by Jacob Wolken, Jacob Adams and Kyle Riley.

"We're blessed with more linebackers than defensive linemen at this point," Albertson said. "We have more linebacker-type kids on our team, so the more athletes we can have out there, the better we're going to perform."

Offensively, if California is to have another strong showing, it will likely come via the feet of Wolken and Cory Friedmeyer. Both juniors, each had a rushing touchdown last week. Wolken finished with 125 yards on 13 carries, while Friedmeyer had 78 yards on 15 attempts.

The Pintos have yet to really cut it loose in the passing game, but with the running game finally on track, Wolken thinks it may only be a matter of time before the offense starts to fully click.

"We had good blocking for our run game," Wolken said "Once we get our run game established, we can work on throwing the ball more. Our line is just going to keep getting better and that's what we really need."

California at Versailles

Preview podcast: California Pintos Football Podcast [Versailles preview, Sept. 9, 2016]

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