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story.lead_photo.caption South Callaway linebacker Hayden Vaught (16) and defensive end John Hecktor (59) try to tackle Bowling Green running back Michael Starks during last Friday night's game in Bowling Green. Photo by Daniel AuBuchon/Special to the Fulton Sun

Editor's note: This story was published prior to Thursday's announcement South Callaway's game against Wright City was postponed due to COVID-19 concerns.


MOKANE — The South Callaway Bulldogs will get a measure of themselves by their reaction.

South Callaway wraps up the regular season tonight when the Bulldogs travel to Wright City for an Eastern Missouri Conference game against the Wildcats. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.

South Callaway (5-3, 4-2 EMO) will be looking to quickly rebound after a decisive 55-14 conference loss at Bowling Green last week stopped the Bulldogs' three-game winning streak.

South Callaway, with 44.99 points, appears to have the No. 1 seed in Class 1 District 2 locked up. Fellow EMO member Mark Twain (2-5) — which hosts Louisiana tonight — is the No. 2 seed with 33.17 points.

The Bulldogs would also receive a first-round bye when district play begins a week from tonight.

But before all that takes place, South Callaway coach Zack Hess is anxious to see how his squad moves forward after last week's resounding loss.

"I felt like we needed to do a better job Friday night of responding to playing a good team (in Bowling Green), just playing a physical team — a smash-mouth type of team," Hess said. "We didn't handle that very well. The message going into this week is to get better, to respond to that, be motivated by that.

"We want to have a good week and then go out and play Bulldog football, because I don't feel like that's what we did on Friday night. That was frustrating, but we've got a good group of kids that will respond well to that."

South Callaway will be looking to get right against a Wright City team that halted a four-game losing streak with a 55-20 EMO triumph last week at Louisiana. The Wildcats are 4-4 on the season and 2-4 in conference play.

The Wright City offense is steered by junior quarterback Hayden Beck, a three-year starter. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound Beck has passed for 949 yards (72-of-128, 56 percent), eight touchdowns and four interceptions this season.

Beck has also rushed for 256 yards and two scores.

"He's got some pretty good numbers and he's a tall, prototypical size for a quarterback," Hess said. "We feel like if we can get some pressure on him and get him uncomfortable, he's prone to throwing a ball up that we can go compete for.

"We've got to try to keep him in the pocket, try to make him throw the ball and get it out of his hands quickly."

Beck's main targets are a pair of junior wide receivers, Jake Smith and Ian Wolff. Smith paces the Wildcats with 25 catches for 518 yards (20.7 average) and five touchdowns, while Wolff has 19 receptions for 304 yards (16.0 average) and two scores.

Wright City's ground game is fueled by senior running back Dalton Wiser, who has gained a team-high 688 yards (4.8 per carry) and scored four touchdowns.

"He's a shifty, speedy guy back there," Hess said.

South Callaway's defense will be be seeking to patch some holes after surrendering a season-high 472 total yards last week, including 385 yards rushing.

"That was a big hit to our pride," Hess said. "We got off the field one time last week, so that was something we talked about. We've got to re-establish ourselves as a good defensive team and get after it on Friday night — just play physical and play fast."

The Bulldogs will also attempt to rediscover their running game tonight against the Wildcats' 4-4 defensive look. South Callaway was limited to 189 yards on the ground against Bowling Green, more than 100 yards below its season average.

Junior quarterback Sam Buckner led the Bulldogs with 61 yards rushing and accounted for both of South Callaway's scores on runs of 1 and 17 yards. Senior running back Hayden Vaught was held to just 57 yards on eight carries and junior running back Trace Helsel finished with only 50 yards in eight attempts.

"I think we need to get back to basics in terms of running our option and make sure that we get our playmakers the ball," Hess said.

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