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story.lead_photo.caption South Callaway senior running back Bradyn Belcher drags a pair of Hermann defenders during the Bulldogs' 21-6 win against the Bearcats last month in Hermann. Photo by Shelley Sconce

MOKANE — South Callaway coach Zack Hess is gradually seeing hints his Bulldogs are picking up steam.

South Callaway will try to stretch its winning streak to three games when it travels to Mark Twain tonight for an Eastern Missouri Conference game with the Tigers. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.

The Bulldogs raised their season record to 2-1 with a 34-12 victory against Montgomery County in last week's EMO opener at home.

"To me, the momentum is the growth from week to week. Are you getting better? Are you responding to the challenges that the coaches are giving you?" Hess said. "I feel like the last two weeks they've done that.

"If the players do well at growth and getting better at the things that we're asking them to do, then inevitably, you're going to have that momentum start to build."

While the coaching staff is more adept at measuring tangible progress, Hess noted sometimes it takes longer for the players to recognize it.

"I do feel like you start to see that confidence and that expectation that now that we've done it, this is what we're going to do," Hess said. "At the same time, we're going to try to get better at this."

Mark Twain (1-2), meanwhile, is looking for some traction to reverse its course. The Tigers suffered their second straight loss in last week's EMO opener, a 35-14 setback at Bowling Green.

Mark Twain's single-wing, run-oriented offense is guided by senior quarterback Nathan Davenport, who is just 7-of-20 passing (35 percent) this season for 86 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.

Davenport also has 184 yards rushing (4.8 average) and a score in 38 attempts.

"He looks good — he can throw the ball well, throw it on the run, throw it with accuracy," Hess said. "He's a good runner, he's a big kid. It seems like he has great command of the offense."

Junior running back Logan Perrigo leads the Tigers with 353 yards rushing (6.7 average) and three touchdowns on 53 carries. Junior running back Jace Barton is next with 250 yards (7.1 average) and two scores in 35 attempts.

"They're just the type of guys that if you give them a lane or you give them some space, that they can make some big plays," Hess said. "They look similar — they're both bigger backs, a little bit taller.

"They're just kind of straight-line, run-you-over type of guys."

South Callaway's defense surrendered just 101 yards rushing against Montgomery County and are allowing an average of 175.7 through three games.

Hess explained the Bulldogs' skill in identifying Mark Twain's assortment of formations, and putting themselves in the correct spot accordingly, will be important tonight.

"They like to be unbalanced, or they just try to create extra gaps or more leverage on one side of the ball," Hess said. "If we align properly and we can recognize those things, I think we'll be OK.

"At the same time, we have to be ready for a very physical game up front."

Hess is planning for the Tigers — who are giving up 30 points per game — to line up in a 3-4 defensive scheme. Junior linebacker Avery Epperson has logged a team-high 40 tackles (28 solo) for Mark Twain.

"They'll be aggressive and they'll be downhill," Hess said. "We've got to make sure we don't have any run-throughs up front and get a hat on a hat."

South Callaway produced 349 yards of total offense — including 194 yards rushing — in the rain last week. Senior quarterback Peyton Leeper ran for a pair of scores and threw touchdown passes to three different receivers.

Hess stressed the Bulldogs' main priorities tonight will be ball security and prolonging drives.

"I think not giving (Mark Twain) any extra possessions is going to be big — take care of the ball," Hess said. "If we get a big play, great, otherwise let's focus on getting those first downs, keep moving the ball.

"I think with our (running) style and their style, it might be a fast game with the clock moving."

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