WEEK 7 PREVIEWS: Eldon hitting the road to take on tough California squad
Another tough challenge awaits Eldon Friday night.
After facing Blair Oaks last week, one of the top teams in the Tri-County Conference and likely the entire state, things do not get any easier for the Mustangs (1-4, 0-3 TCC) this week as they hit the road to face another one of the top teams in the conference at 7 p.m.
California (5-1, 3-1 TCC) has won three straight, including a 43-7 win at Versailles last week, and the Pintos are coming back home to host an Eldon team that has dropped four straight games since winning its season opener against Springfield Central.
But the teams Eldon has faced during that that skid have not really been lackluster in any sense with a combined record of 16-7 and three of those opponents have only lost one game all season. Losing any game is obviously not a pleasant experience, but after falling to state-ranked Blair Oaks last week, 69-6, Eldon coach Chad Hult still saw some positives to bolster moving forward and there certainly is no time to dwell with another battle ahead.
“Our guys really kept fighting to the end and that’s all we can ask for,” the coach said after the loss to Blair Oaks.
Well, the time has come to bring that fight against a California team that is currently averaging 37.2 points per game and allowing just 17.5, respectively. The team’s only loss this season came against Blair Oaks and the Pintos have won five of their games with an average margin of victory of 32.2 points after winning just one entire game in all of 2019.
It has been quite the turnaround for Coach Derek Scroggins’ crew.
California piled up 459 yards of offense last week, led by quarterback Calen Kruger who finished 7-11 for 111 passing yards and two touchdowns while also dashing ahead on six carries for 112 yards and an additional score as the team rushed for 308 yards overall. Meanwhile, Tagen Higgins dashed for 103 yards on six carries and Drake Schlup made the most of his opportunities with 37 rushing yards and three touchdowns on just three carries. Trevor Myers had a big night for the Pintos with six catches for 112 yards and a touchdown and Dawson Gump hauled in a pair of catches for 32 yards while Schlup added a receiving touchdown, his fourth of the game, on a 5-yard catch.
Eldon’s defense is currently allowing 45 points per game and after allowing 402 yards of offense to the Falcons last week, who won their 40th straight conference game, the team will have its hands full once again against an efficient California team. Containing Kruger will be one of the top priorities, but the Pintos have a multitude of weapons in the arsenal who are all capable of moving the chains just as efficiently.
Meanwhile, the Pinto defense held Versailles to just 115 total yards of offense last week, including just 33 rushing yards which Eldon prefers in the Wing-T offense. The Mustang offensive line will have to find a way to push California around in the trenches if Eldon is going to do what it does best.
Eldon is currently averaging 245.8 yards and 21.2 points per game with an average of 205.4 of those yards coming from the rushing attack, accounting for about 84 percent of the yards. It has been a trio of Mustangs who have led that effort.
Eldon senior running back Mason Kirkweg has led the charge with 49 carries for 323 yards and four touchdowns, averaging 6.6 yards per rush. Sophomore back Krystopher Shepard is at 302 rushing yards and six touchdowns on 32 carries, averaging 4.4 yards per attempt, and senior Owen Levesque is at 47 carries for 208 yards (4.4 yards per carry) and two scores.
Junior Killian Wilson has galloped for 87 rushing yards and a score on 29 carries (3 yards per rush), freshman quarterback Hunter Hees has totaled 61 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 31 carries (2 yards per carry) and senior P.J. Bledsoe has dashed for 44 rushing yards on just two carries so far this season.
In his first season beneath the Friday night lights, Hees has completed 28 of his 76 pass attempts for 202 yards, a touchdown and four interceptions. Junior wideout Baylor Pearson has been the young quarterback’s top target with 14 catches for 91 yards while Levesque has caught four passes for 44 yards out of the backfield and Shepard has a 25-yard catch on the season as seven different Mustangs have registered at least one catch. They may be needed if the Pintos dig in and present a tough defensive front against the ground attack.
While the conference slate has been tough so far in 2020, it also allows Eldon to see how much improvement has been made and how much work still needs to be done with this group. Regardless of the outcome, the one thing Hult and his staff will always count upon is effort and time will soon tell what kind of fight his team brings against another one-loss team.
Eldon won last season’s battle against California on home turf, 44-36.
While plenty of emphasis is placed upon the rushing attack in Eldon’s style of offense, Pearson has emerged this season as a reliable target for Hees and the passing attack. Against a Blair Oaks team that has not given up very many yards or points in 2020, Pearson hauled in five of Hees’ passes for 43 yards and he currently owns half of the team’s completed passes this season.
Kruger has mobility and is also more than capable of finding open receivers. Through the air, Myers is one of the top threats and Higgins also knows how to move the chains on the ground. The trio of Pintos have been dangerous all season.