KINGDOM CITY — While his North Callaway Thunderbirds are humming along at 4-0, attention to detail is a constant objective for coach Kevin O'Neal.
North Callaway — which is 2-0 in the Eastern Missouri Conference — worked on that persistent pursuit in advance of tonight's conference matchup at home against the Van-Far/Community Indians. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.
"This is a good week for us to focus on fundamentals, getting back to doing the little things right," O'Neal said. "Making sure we're tackling correctly, making sure our feet are right whenever we're blocking, making sure we understand our schemes, making sure our fits are right defensively.
"That's going to be our biggest focus this week, cleaning up the little things on both sides of the ball, making sure that we haven't lost our focus there and we're doing those things right."
The Thunderbirds will square off against a Van-Far/Community team that is 2-2 on the season, but has dropped its last two games. The Indians tumbled to 0-2 in the EMO after a 50-42 shootout loss at Clopton/Elsberry last week.
Senior quarterback Eric Hombs directs a Van-Far/Community offense that is putting up 33 points per game.
"He's a tough runner, he's doing the most with what he has," O'Neal said. "He throws a decent ball on the shorter routes. They're doing some zone read with him, trying to feature him in the offense."
North Callaway allowed 339 yards of total offense — including 207 yards rushing — in last week's 52-22 EMO victory at Wright City, but most of that output came in the second half against the Thunderbirds' defensive backups.
No matter the opponent, O'Neal emphasized North Callaway can't ease up in defending the run.
"Early in the game (last week), we did an excellent job of shutting down the run," O'Neal said. "Wright City had to throw the ball and then after they threw it for a little bit, we kind of let go of our run reads.
"We weren't fitting where we were supposed to when they did run, and got a couple of decent-sized runs on us because we got lazy up front. We need to make sure that we stay focused and that we're doing the things the right way."
The Indians — who will work out of a 5-2 defensive alignment — are giving up 27.5 points per game.
The Thunderbirds, sparked by senior running back Jordan Delashmutt's 139 yards rushing and one touchdown, finished with 206 yards on the ground against Wright City. Junior quarterback Jadon Henry passed for 208 yards and three scores.
O'Neal expects Van-Far/Community to stack the line of scrimmage tonight in an effort to pinch the Thunderbirds' potent running attack, which is averaging 233.3 yards.
"They're going to load the box — I would imagine — against us, and blitz linebackers, and do the best they can to slow down our running game," O'Neal said. " We need to make sure, at the point of attack, that we're picking up who we need to pick up (blocking-wise), and we're not letting any leakage happen. We can't have any run-throughs.
"Then with our running backs, we've got to make sure we're hitting the hole fast. We can't stand around and dance, we've got to hit it hard and find the seam, and get through it."