MOKANE — The South Callaway Bulldogs are delighted three weeks' worth of down time is done.
Top-seeded South Callaway (5-3) will resume its season tonight when it hosts the No. 5 seed Paris Coyotes (4-6) in a Class 1 District 2 semifinal. It will be the first-ever meeting between the two teams.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.
The Bulldogs — who received a bye in last week's first-round game — haven't played since a 55-14 Eastern Missouri Conference loss at Bowling Green on Oct. 16. South Callaway was forced to cancel its regular-season finale at Wright City on Oct. 23 after the school district moved to distance learning and a subsequent shutdown.
"I think our players are in the right frame of mind to go out and compete," Bulldogs coach Zack Hess said. "We're excited as a group — from coaches to players — about the opportunity just to play, but then the opportunity to go win a district game and make it to another district championship.
"We know that we're going to have to play well and practice well this week in order to play at a high level."
Hess noted his squad prioritized regaining its rhythm in all phases when workouts started back up Monday.
"We're trying to get as many reps as we can in practice without going too fast, just trying to re-establish that chemistry," Hess said. "Offensively, especially, because you're trying to get the timing of the mesh between the quarterback and the running back, and the movements of the linemen.
"Defensively, it's a little bit different — a see-ball, kill-ball type of attitude. I think the biggest thing is just getting as many quality reps as we possibly can between now and (tonight)."
Paris set up tonight's matchup by toppling No. 4 seed Father Tolton in a 24-6 victory last week in Columbia. Hess explained the Coyotes — who average 19 points per game — prefer to run the ball out of a traditional I-formation, but will also feature a spread look when necessary.
"I think if they have success with that (running the ball), that's what they'll stick to," Hess said. "I think that's kind of the mentality that their coach has, the philosophy.
" If the defense is doing a good job of containing that, then they've got options (in the spread). That's their second-and-long, third-and-long kind of offense. Maybe if they want to throw the ball they'll spread it out a little bit, or maybe just trying to loosen up the defense some."
South Callaway's defense was battered by Bowling Green the last time it was on the field, allowing 376 yards rushing and 463 total yards.
"Our run fits are going to be huge in this game (tonight) and getting off blocks up front," Hess said. "We're just really keying in and focusing on stopping the run."
As far as Paris' defense is concerned, Hess is expecting to see a 4-3 base alignment. The Coyotes are allowing 24.2 points per game.
"They're aggressive," Hess said. "Their coach does a really good job of reinforcing that physical mentality, and it carries over on defense."
The Bulldogs' running game will also look to rediscover its groove tonight after being limited to 189 yards by Bowling Green. South Callaway is averaging 299.3 yards on the ground through eight games.
"It's the same old story for us — we want to play keep-away," Hess said. "We want to run the ball. We're going to take some shots, obviously, but for the most part we want to run the ball, get first downs and finish drives.
"We got away from that a little bit in the Bowling Green game. We wanted to focus in on that going into Wright City, didn't get to play that game, so that's where we're at right now."
Notes: In tonight's other District 2 semifinal, No. 2 seed Mark Twain (4-5) hosts No. 6 seed Louisiana (1-7). Mark Twain advanced with an 18-14 win against No. 7 seed South Shelby last week, while Louisiana earned a forfeit victory against No. 3 seed Principia.