ELDON, Mo. — The Eldon Mustangs and the California Pintos both had high hopes for 2016 only to stumble out of the gate.
One of them hopes the rebound begins tonight with a Tri-County Conference victory.
California hosts Eldon tonight in the Pintos' Homecoming game. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.
The Mustangs bring in a 1-3 overall record and 0-2 conference mark, while California is 1-3 and 1-1.
Both squads are coming off tough losses from last week — in vastly different ways. The Mustangs were blasted by Blair Oaks 42-7, while the Pintos lost on the final play of the game to Versailles 14-10.
"It was very difficult last week," California coach Marty Albertson said. "We played pretty well; we had 375 yards (of total offense) and they had 148. They scored with three seconds left on a one-yard quarterback sneak and their other touchdown was when they picked up a fumble and ran 70 yards. So defensively we played pretty well. We also fumbled first-and-goal at the three (yard line), so that hurt. Plus it's our Homecoming this week, and there is a little extra incentive."
"(A win tonight) would be great for everybody; it would be great for morale," Eldon coach Shannon Jolley said. "We've kind of been devastated by injuries. We're trying to put the pieces back together and trying to focus on the prize. We're still working. The kids remain upbeat."
A victory for Eldon would also end a four-year losing skid to the Pintos. California knocked off the Mustangs 34-23 last year, but during the last four seasons, the Pintos have outscored Eldon by a combined 171-35, including a pair of shutouts.
The last time Eldon defeated California was 2011, by a score of 38-0.
California is averaging 14.8 points per game while allowing 23.5.
Leading the charge for California is junior quarterback Jacob Wolken, who has passed for 330 yards while rushing for a team-high 481 yards. Last week, Wolken completed 7-of-14 passes for 90 yards and rushed for 150 yards.
Pinto junior running back Cory Friedmeyer has rushed for 280 yards, including 118 last week.
The California defense is led by senior linebacker Sam Kirby, who has 40 tackles.
"Their kids work hard," Jolley said of the Pintos. "The quarterback is good. Obviously a lot of their offense goes through him. And California has a rich tradition."
The Mustangs are scoring at a 20.5-point clip while allowing 29.3 points per game.
With leading rusher Trenton Kidwell still sidelined by injury, sophomore fullback Isaiah Parsons and junior tailback Isaiah Merida are providing Eldon with a 1-2 rushing punch.
Parsons leads the squad with 284 rushing yards on 57 carries and three touchdowns while Merida has run for 220 yards on 44 attempts and a TD.
Senior quarterback Austin Kempker has completed 11-of-28 passes for 194 yards, two interceptions and three touchdowns. Senior tight end Jacob Whittle has four catches for 105 yards and a touchdown while senior wideout Morgan Anderson has three catches for 26 yards and a TD.
Parsons, a linebacker, paces Eldon with 52 tackles (19 solos) while sophomore defensive back Dawson Brandt has 51 tackles (19 solo) with an interception. Junior linebacker Trenton Dillon has 36 tackles (15 solo) and 1.5 sacks and junior linebacker Cole Walker has 35 tackles.
"They have good size," Albertson said of Eldon. "I think they're a lot better than their record shows. They go to the football well and their big fullback runs hard. Their tailback is a good runner and their quarterback is a better athlete than they've had there in a while. They could be dangerous."
"We're excited where we're at," Jolley said. "Time is our friend now. We have time to heal up. The toughest part is to stay focused on the end result; that's what the players and coaching staff are trying to do."
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