MOKANE — The two teams mirror each other with impressive identical marks, which should classify this game as a showdown.
South Callaway and Bowling Green both sit at 3-1 on the season and 2-0 in the Eastern Missouri Conference as the Bulldogs take to the road tonight for a clash with the Bobcats. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.
South Callaway breezed to its third straight victory in a decisive 39-0 EMO romp last Friday at Mark Twain. Bowling Green, meanwhile, was forced to rally for its second win in a row, battling back from a 28-8 halftime deficit to jolt host Montgomery County in a 50-28 conference win.
South Callaway coach Zack Hess noted his counterpart with the Bobcats, Kevin Krietemeyer, has invigorated Bowling Green in just his second year. The Bobcats were 3-7 last season, including a 47-12 loss at South Callaway.
"He's doing a great job in just building the program," Hess said. "He's got more guys out this year, their philosophy is kind of evolving a little bit.
" He's got more athletes out this year. You can just tell — there's just kind of a renewed sense of energy in the program. Kids are playing hard and he's doing a good job of putting them in positions to do well."
Hess said his squad will need to equal Bowling Green's intensity tonight as the Bobcats also celebrate Homecoming.
"We definitely want to make sure that our players go into this game understanding that this is a much-improved team," Hess said. "They're going to be ready to play, so we're going to have to match that energy and hopefully be able to withstand kind of that initial storm."
Bowling Green operates out of a spread offense that is averaging 32 points per game and 237 yards rushing. Junior quarterback Austin Callahan has had mixed success so far throwing the ball, completing only 46 percent of his passes (21-of-46) for 307 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions.
Callahan, though, is the Bobcats' second-leading rusher with 346 yards (8.4 average) and two scores.
"He makes (the offense) tick," Hess said. "If something breaks down, he can make a big play out of it."
South Callaway's defense will also have to account for senior running back Kaleo Dade, who leads Bowling Green with 437 yards rushing (5.9 average) and six touchdowns.
"He's a big kid," Hess said. "He's not like super-fast, but he's got enough speed to make some big plays. He's the type of kid that we're going to have to swarm and get multiple hats on him."
The Bulldogs limited Mark Twain to a sparse 92 yards of total offense — all rushing — and forced four turnovers in logging their first shutout of the season. South Callaway is allowing an average of 154 yards on the ground through four games.
While trying to corner both Dade and Callahan, limiting their chances to wander free, Hess stressed the Bulldogs can't ignore the Bobcats' downfield passing attack. South Callaway is giving up an average of just 115.8 yards through the air.
"These guys are going to challenge us horizontally and vertically, really stretch the field," Hess said. "We're going to have to be great tacklers in the open field, we're going to have to play well in space."
On the defensive side, Bowling Green is surrendering 26.3 points per game in its 4-3 scheme. Dade has tallied a team-high 55 tackles (35 solo) from his linebacker position and also has two sacks.
Junior defensive end Matt McDonald paces the Bobcats with three sacks and is second with 25 tackles. Junior linebacker Andrew Biggs is next with 21 tackles and also has a pair of sacks.
Callahan has come up with a team-high three interceptions from his free safety spot.
"They like to be real aggressive with their stack (line)backers and just let No. 2 (Dade) kind of roam and scrape from side to side," Hess said. "They play a hard man-to-man defense and they'll travel across the field.
"They've got playmakers at every level. I was just really impressed with their aggressiveness and physicality in the box. They're not going to sit and read, they're going to go attack."
With Mark Twain concentrating on clogging running lanes on the interior last week, the Bulldogs profited from their passing game.
South Callaway senior quarterback Peyton Leeper delivered by throwing for 250 yards and three touchdowns, completing passes to six different receivers.
Hess expects the running game to be an integral part of a flexible game plan in finding susceptibilities in Bowling Green's defense tonight. The Bulldogs are averaging 206.5 yards on the ground.
"We're going to have to put pressure on them from different areas of the field," Hess said. "We're going to have to try to get out to the perimeter, we're going to have to keep them honest between the tackles.
"I think one of the things that we do well is trying to figure out the weaknesses of the defense and where we can exploit. I know coach (offensive coordinator Tucker) Bartley does a great job with that."