MOKANE — The South Callaway Bulldogs probably don't need any reminders of what was likely their darkest point in the 2019 season.
South Callaway returns to Montgomery County for a second straight year when the Bulldogs square off against the Wildcats in an Eastern Missouri Conference clash tonight. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. in Montgomery City.
South Callaway will be seeking to avenge a 53-21 thrashing by Montgomery County a year ago that left the Bulldogs at 0-3 and desperately exploring for solutions.
"That was something we had not experienced a lot of," South Callaway coach Zack Hess said. "Not the losing part of it, but just the way that we played.
"We were not happy with a lot of things that went into that game, but most of all just the overall effort, the lack of enthusiasm. I think all of that just led to the outcome of that game."
The Bulldogs are certainly in a better frame of mind entering tonight's matchup. South Callaway is 2-1 overall and 2-0 in the EMO after easily collecting its second consecutive win last week, a 55-12 conference romp at Louisiana.
The Wildcats, meanwhile, find themselves in a bit of a funk, sitting at 1-2 on the season and 1-1 in the EMO after a 56-32 shootout loss at Bowling Green last week.
"From the coaches' perspective, we want to make sure that the players know what took place at Montgomery County last year is not something we ever want to have happen again," Hess said. "Not so much the loss or the score, or all of that, but just how we played."
Senior Drake Deuser and sophomore Adam Czerniewski share the duties at quarterback in operating Montgomery County's spread offense. Hess, though, noted Czerniewski has been receiving the majority of the snaps.
Czerniewski has completed just 18-of-41 passes (44 percent) on the season for 280 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions. Deuser is 10-of-22 passing (46 percent) for 221 yards and a pair of scores.
Deuser has also rushed for 134 yards and a touchdown. When he's shifted out to a receiver position, Deuser has four catches for 66 yards and two scores.
Czerniewski is second on the team in rushing with 151 yards.
"Both of those guys are very similar, they both have got really good arms," Hess said. "They can throw the ball well on the run, which is dangerous, and they both scramble really well.
"I would give the edge to (Deuser) a little more with the scrambling because he'll make a big play out of nothing. Both of those guys manage the offense well — they'll both be a challenge."
The Wildcats' leading rusher is junior Logan Hutcheson, who has 302 yards and four touchdowns on 36 carries (8.4 average). Junior Drake Smith tops Montgomery County in receiving with 11 catches for 212 yards (19.3 average) and two scores.
South Callaway's defense forced two turnovers — which ultimately were converted into points — and gave up 224 yards of total offense to Louisiana last week.
The Bulldogs' biggest test tonight, Hess pointed out, will be in blanketing the Wildcats when they put the ball in the air.
"We're going to have to be able to contain their athletes, I think specifically in the pass game," Hess said. "That's something we're really going to have to work on this week is locking down our coverages and assignments on pass defense."
Montgomery County's defense is led by a pair of linebackers, senior Kyle Yelton and junior Trenton Clardy. Yelton has posted a team-high 42 tackles and Clardy comes in with 32.
Deuser has also tallied 32 tackles and the Wildcats' only interception from his safety spot.
"Their linebackers get downhill really fast and they're really good at doing that, they always have been," Hess said. "Their defensive line has always presented challenges for us — they're just fast off the ball and physical.
"Then you've got those athletes on the back end that lock down the pass game."
To break down the Montgomery County defense tonight, Hess explained South Callaway's offensive unit will need to play at a clean, accelerated pace.
"The message is just tempo and execution, continue to work quickly and get a lot of reps in practice," Hess said. "(The offense) has done a really good job the last couple of weeks in minimizing mistakes.
"The more reps we get in practice, the faster we can run things and the better we can execute, the better offense we're going to be."