KINGDOM CITY — The North Callaway Thunderbirds' running game is hoping to avoid another hiccup.
North Callaway — coming off a mammoth 445-yard rushing effort in a 64-20 Eastern Missouri Conference rampage last Friday at Van-Far/Community — goes to Bowling Green tonight for a conference encounter against the Bobcats. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.
The Thunderbirds (3-2, 2-1 EMO) were able to revive their rushing attack after being limited to 113 yards on the ground in a 14-6 conference home loss Sept. 20 to Wright City. In two consecutive wins before that, North Callaway averaged a substantial 364 yards rushing.
Running back Cody Cash triggered the Thunderbirds' outburst on the ground last week, erupting for 237 yards rushing and a touchdown. Fullback Mason Wortman gained 104 yards and added a pair of scores, while running back Trevor Ray contributed 72 yards and two touchdowns.
"Cody Cash is an explosive player — (assistant coach Jantzen Bradford) designed some things and got him in space," North Callaway coach Don Boulware said. "He's dangerous in space, get him on the edge, even inside.
"The way we spread the ball around, all three of our backs were very effective. Trevor Ray ran well, Mason Wortman was over 100 yards on 10 carries. Like I told him, I'd rather see you get 100 yards on 10 carries than 120 yards on 20 (attempts)."
The Thunderbirds will get a test tonight when they challenge Bowling Green (2-3, 2-1) and its stout run defense. The Bobcats held South Callaway to just 127 yards on the ground in a 20-10 EMO victory against the Bulldogs last Friday in Mokane.
"Bowling Green's very athletic — they run both a four- and a five-man front," Boulware said. "They've got two bookends that are like 6-foot-4, 200 pounds, athletic guys.
"Bowling Green does have a very effective run defense. They've got three down linemen that do a good job of maintaining their gaps and funneling things in to the linebackers and to those defensive ends."
Boulware stressed North Callaway's intent is to give the Bobcats a variety of appearances with its running game.
"I think we have to mix up our formations, that's one thing where Jantzen has done a good job," Boulware said. "We're running a lot more formations now, which makes us a little harder to defend.
"Just mixing up inside, outside (runs), and mixing in the pass. We're still not throwing a lot, but we're throwing it on non-passing downs. With the change in formations, we're able to juggle our personnel a little bit more and get matchups that we want."
Bowling Green junior quarterback Nick Breakfield was just 9-of-21 passing for 141 yards and an interception against South Callaway, but connected with senior wide receiver Deonta Fleming on touchdown throws of 23 and 18 yards. Breakfield also ran for 52 yards in 20 attempts.
"He's a very solid quarterback," Boulware said. "He's a good runner, he's deceptive with the ball, throws it pretty well. He's not as athletic as (injured senior QB Austin) Callahan and probably doesn't have as strong an arm, but he's a tough kid."
Fleming finished with five catches for 94 yards last week and senior running back Gavin Deters rushed for a game-high 78 yards on 23 carries. As a team, the Bobcats ran the ball 53 times for 149 yards.
Boulware pointed out the Thunderbirds' ability to defend Bowling Green's counter play will be critical tonight.
"I think the tackles up front have to stay solid on their gaps," Boulware said. "If you're getting double-teamed, you've got to take on that double-team and either split it or make a pile.
"You can't get blown back. If you get blown back, you create a big seam and you also get in the path of the backside linebacker trying to scrape over."