MOKANE — Like any head coach and staff, South Callaway's Zack Hess and his assistants are constantly re-evaluating the state of the Bulldogs during the course of a season.
Such self-scrutiny is particularly acute in the wake of a disappointing loss that robs precious momentum.
South Callaway will seek to rebound from a 41-20 Eastern Missouri Conference setback at Montgomery County when the Bulldogs host the Clopton/Elsberry IndianHawks in a conference game tonight. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
Last week's loss stopped South Callaway's two-game winning streak, leaving the Bulldogs at 2-2 on the season and 2-1 in the EMO.
"I think the biggest thing is to not let it snowball," Hess said. "We addressed it (Monday night) at our meeting. What are some things that went wrong for us? Why did they go wrong?
"What could we have done better as individual players, and as teammates, and what could we even have done better on the sideline as coaches? We were outcoached, we were outplayed. Why did that happen? It's just going back to the drawing board."
Clopton/Elsberry is 2-1 both overall and in the EMO after logging its second consecutive victory last week, a 27-6 home win against Louisiana.
The IndianHawks' offense — which is averaging 33 points — is directed by junior quarterback Lucas Martin, a first-year varsity starter.
"He throws a pretty ball, he does," Hess said. "He's got good touch on the ball, tight spirals. He's got a good arm — he can throw it a good, long ways.
"That's challenging, especially when you have those big receivers that can go up and high-point the ball."
Martin's top target is tight end Zakk Eivins, a 6-foot-3, 220-pound senior. Eivins produced more than 400 yards receiving and had 11 touchdown catches last season.
"(Eivins) is kind of their go-to guy," Hess said. "He gets over half the passing targets. He'll be a challenge because he does a great job of using his body to box out the defender.
"It just makes it hard to defend the pass initially, but then also to make the tackle if he does catch it. Our awareness of his alignment — where he's at — will help us a little bit, understanding his favorite routes and tendencies. He's going to be a load, he'll be hard to take down."
South Callaway's defense is allowing just 122 yards passing per game, but will be tested tonight by Martin, Eivins and the rest of Clopton/Elsberry's receivers.
"We've got to acknowledge where their playmakers are on the field and just play solid, fundamental pass defense," Hess said. "We can't give them too much cushion and we've got to really challenge them.
"If they do catch the ball, then we have to swarm. That goes DBs (defensive backs) to linebackers — linebackers have to have good pass drops as well, take good angles to the ball and we've got to be able to leverage the receiver if they catch the ball."
Eivins is also one of the anchor end positions for the IndianHawks' 4-3 defense, which is giving up 27 points per game.
The Bulldogs will be looking to revive their running game, which was limited to 138 yards by Montgomery County last week. On the season, South Callaway is averaging 255.3 yards rushing.
That will certainly be a point of emphasis tonight with sophomore quarterback Jacob Martin making his second straight varsity start. Martin is filling in for junior starter Sam Buckner, who received a two-game suspension for violating team policy.
Martin completed 4-of-8 passes for just 66 yards last week. The majority of that sum came on a 57-yard touchdown pass to senior running back Hayden Vaught. Martin also ran the ball six times for only 4 yards.
"I think we've got to keep things very simple," Hess said. "We're going to practice specific things throughout the week and try to get good at those things, and get Jacob lots of reps so he feels comfortable.
"We're going to depend upon some of our older guys and our leaders on that side of the ball to really step up, and try to take some pressure off of Jacob. We've got faith that he's going to do a good job and he's going to have that start under his belt already, and we're playing at home, so there'll be some things that are going his way.
"We've just got to try and help him out."