MOKANE — The South Callaway Bulldogs are in a situation to have some sway.
South Callaway has an ideal opportunity during the final two weeks of the regular season to impact who wins the Eastern Missouri Conference championship, starting tonight when it hosts co-leader Wright City. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.
Wright City owns a share of first place in the EMO with North Callaway and Montgomery County. All three teams are 4-1 in conference play after North Callaway's 28-22 win last Friday at home against Montgomery County.
In addition to their matchup tonight against Wright City, the Bulldogs (3-4, 3-2 EMO) travel next Friday to North Callaway for the annual Callaway Cup clash.
"We mentioned that (title implications) a little bit in our meetings (Monday)," South Callaway coach Zack Hess said. "We don't spend a ton of time on it because we're just trying to be one game at a time and just doing our best in the upcoming game, which is Wright City.
"But, yeah, it's exciting to know that you can influence how that goes, and that gives you a little extra to play for."
The Bulldogs' primary focus is maintaining their month-long momentum. South Callaway has won two straight and three of its last four after a 51-0 EMO romp last Friday at Van-Far/Community.
"I think they are starting to develop some confidence, I really do," Hess said of his players. "They've had a few good weeks of practice and they've started to let that translate during the games.
"They're having fun, making plays on both sides of the ball."
Wright City is 5-2 on the season after blanking Bowling Green in a 6-0 EMO victory at home last week. The Wildcats have won four of their last five.
Sophomore quarterback Hayden Beck directs a Wright City offense that is averaging just 16.1 points per game. The 6-foot-3, 195-pound Beck is 81-of-159 passing this season for 880 yards, only four touchdowns and nine interceptions, while also running for three scores.
"I think there's just the natural progression any quarterback is going to take," Hess said. "I think he has more command of the offense, the game has slowed down for him some, maybe he's reading the defense a little better than he has.
"He's not a big scramble guy, but he gets the ball out quickly. Even on their deep throws, he's one, two, three, throw it, arch it over and let the receivers go make a play."
The Wildcats' leading receiver is senior Will Janowski (5-8, 150), who has 33 catches for 366 yards (11.1 average) and one touchdown. Janowksi has also rushed for 125 yards and three scores.
"He's going to be tough to deal with — he's just super-fast," Hess said. "They do a good job of designing plays to get him the ball and get him out in space to make plays."
Branden Contrares, a 5-9, 205-pound junior, fuels Wright City's running game with 512 yards (5.6 average) and three touchdowns.
The Bulldogs' defense surrendered just 151 yards of total offense and had four takeaways — including a pair of interceptions by sophomore linebacker Brendon Mealy — in shutting out Van-Far/Community last week.
Hess emphasized "havoc" with his defensive unit against the Indians and it came up with 19-of-51 plays that carried that description. South Callaway will aim for identical results in tormenting Wright City.
"The plan we went into last week is that we were going to bring a lot of pressure, whether that's blitzing more guys or putting guys in different alignments or situations to be more aggressive," Hess said. "We're going to do the same thing (tonight)."
The Bulldogs' offense has found its rhythm after putting up more than 500 yards and at least 49 points for a second week in a row. Junior running back Hayden Vaught rushed for 189 yards and three scores, and also had a touchdown catch last week.
South Callaway gained 448 yards on the ground as a team.
The Bulldogs will test the Wildcats' 3-3-5 defensive scheme that is giving up just 17.7 points per game. Senior middle linebacker Shane Vehige (6-0, 202) tops Wright City with 89 tackles and also has two sacks.
Janowski, at strong safety, and senior free safety Jeremy Cundiff (5-10, 175) each have three interceptions.
"I think the explosive plays might be a little bit harder to come by this week, just with their athletes and how they align on defense," Hess said. "I think not turning the ball over and then just moving the ball, moving the chains.
"That's going to be really big, keeping their offense off the field."