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story.lead_photo.caption Two North Callaway defenders combine to stop a Wright City ball carrier during last week's game at Wright City. Photo by Amy Craghead/Special to the Fulton Sun

KINGDOM CITY — North Callaway Thunderbirds coach Don Boulware admitted crafting offensive and defensive strategies for the Mark Twain Tigers has been a bit more of a task this week.

North Callaway plays its final home game of the regular season tonight when it squares off against Mark Twain in an Eastern Missouri Conference matchup. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.

The Thunderbirds improved to 4-2 overall and 3-2 in the EMO after a 35-6 victory last week at Wright City.

The Tigers slipped to 2-4 on the season and 2-3 in conference play following a 48-14 loss at Montgomery County.

"They're not a great team, but they're a tough preparation," Boulware said of Mark Twain. "They do stuff that you just don't see from anybody else."

That starts on offense for the Tigers, who Boulware noted have shifted from a spread look earlier in the season to a single-wing approach in the last two weeks.

"They're just trying to get different angles, trying to be deceptive with some counters," Boulware said. "They're trying to run downhill and get you outnumbered at the point of attack.

The ball typically is directly snapped to a running back in the single-wing offense, and in this case it's Mark Twain junior Landon Moss. The 5-foot-11, 170-pound Moss leads the Tigers in rushing with 589 yards (6.5 per carry) and six touchdowns.

"He's got a low center of gravity," Boulware said. "He's not huge, he's not real tall, but he's stocky, powerful and quick.

"He's just always running north and south."

Senior Evan Torrence is second for Mark Twain in rushing with 394 yards (4.2 average) and three scores.

North Callaway's defense overpowered Wright City last week, holding the Wildcats to a meager 87 yards of total offense and zero yards rushing.

Boulware said the Thunderbirds will likely add another defensive lineman tonight in an attempt to clog the Tigers' interior running lanes.

"We'll just try to plug all of those gaps inside and force things to the outside, and use our speed to run them down," Boulware said.

When Mark Twain is on defense tonight, Boulware expects to see the Tigers work out of a 3-3 stack.

"They have three big linemen that like to get after it, pin their ears back and get upfield," Boulware said. "They'll blitz — they'll have three stacked linebackers and then a couple of outside linebackers off the edge.

"It can be a 5-3 (alignment) or it can be a 3-5. They might only send three and drop eight (into pass coverage), or they might bring six or seven and drop four or five. It's kind of a guessing defense and try to come after you and get big plays."

Junior running back Trevor Ray and senior running back Cody Cash combined for 132 yards rushing and four touchdowns for North Callaway last week. Sophomore quarterback Braydn O'Neal completed 13-of-20 passes for 167 yards, one touchdown and an interception.

Boulware stressed Mark Twain's unpredictable defensive tendencies will challenge the Thunderbirds' offensive objectives.

"You play against somebody and you know how they're going to line up (defensively), you have all your blocking schemes down," Boulware said. "You just have to kind of be ready to shoot from your hip against these guys.

"They might not line up the same way twice, and you don't know who's coming, who's dropping. It's a tough prep on that side of the ball, too."

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