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story.lead_photo.caption North Callaway safety Cody Cash tries to strip the ball out of the hands of Bowling Green quarterback Dylan Dalton during a game earlier this mont in Kingdom City. Photo by Amy Craghead/Special to the Fulton Sun

KINGDOM CITY — To maintain momentum during their bye week, the North Callaway Thunderbirds were planning to concentrate on essentials.

North Callaway (6-2) earned a bye for tonight's opening round of the Class 2 District 5 Tournament with last week's 27-14 Eastern Missouri Conference triumph at Montgomery County.

The victory allowed the Thunderbirds — who have won three straight — to jump up one spot to the No. 2 seed, while knocking the Wildcats down to the third position.

"That was our biggest win of the year," North Callaway coach Don Boulware said. "That's the team with the best record, the best team we've beat — a team that had won five in a row, had been playing really, really well."

Boulware stressed the Thunderbirds can avoid lessening the impact of last week's victory by investing in their postseason preparations right now.

"I think that only affects you if you let it, if you treat the bye week as an off week," Boulwaresaid, "and you don't focus on something."

Boulware noted the objective this week was shorter, 90-minute workouts with a stripped-down emphasis.

"You get away from fundamentals because you get into the season and you put so much on the team (playbook), because you're adding things," Boulware said. "By the end of the year, you've probably got too much stuff in — too many offensive sets and plays, too many defensive sets and calls.

"They're all good, so you keep them, but you try to rep all those things every week. Well, that takes most of your practice time, just the team part. We're going to put team on the back burner a little bit and we're going to increase the length of our fundamental periods (in practice), and try to really focus on being sharp."

No. 3 seed Montgomery County (6-3) will host No. 6 Van-Far (1-6) in a first-round matchup tonight. Montgomery County coasted to a decisive 51-6 EMO rout at Van-Far on Oct. 16.

North Callaway will get tonight's winner in a District 5 semifinal clash next Friday in Kingdom City.

Boulware said the Thunderbirds will have a team dinner tonight and then travel to Montgomery City to watch the Montgomery County-Van-Far game.

"We've embraced it (bye)," Boulware said. "Football is a different animal — you only play once a week. You get in the mode of getting ready for that Friday night game. I'm sure it's going to feel different on Friday night."

Hallsville (5-4) is the No. 1 seed in District 5 and also received a first-round bye. The Indians will host either No. 4 seed Missouri Military Academy (5-3) or No. 5 Hermann (2-7) in the semifinals next Friday.

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