Thunderbirds look to stop slide, get season back on course

For North Callaway head coach Mike Emmons, there is never a time when the state of his Thunderbirds football team is not a pressing matter.

Emmons, though, has to be particularly distressed with his squad's present status.

North Callaway will be looking to stop a two-game losing streak tonight (kickoff at 7) when it plays winless Barat Academy for homecoming in the first-ever meeting between the two schools.

The Thunderbirds have slipped to the .500 mark at 3-3, having dropped three of their last four games. North Callaway lost at Hermann 34-21 last week.

"There's always a level of concern; the urgency to put it together and play a little bit better is definitely there," Emmons said Wednesday morning. "We're putting a lot of pressure on the kids in practice and hoping they respond.

"You can't have game intensity in practice. You can try to simulate it with pressure, and that's what we're trying to do."

While devoting time to prep for their opponent, Emmons emphasized that the Thunderbirds are collectively concentrating on doing their jobs better.

"When you look at how we've performed, we need to block and we need to tackle better," Emmons said.

Hermann senior quarterback Lucas Budnik carved up the Thunderbirds' defense last week, passing for 348 yards and three touchdowns. The Bearcats finished with 433 yards of total offense.

Meanwhile, senior quarterback Tylar Walker returned to the North Callaway lineup after a two-game absence because of a deep thigh bruise. Walker struggled despite throwing three touchdown passes, two coming in the fourth quarter.

He completed just 14-of-32 passes for 192 yards with an interception, and ran the ball only one time for a loss of 6 yards.

"I wasn't surprised that our timing on our pass routes and stuff were a little off with Tylar missing a couple of weeks," Emmons said.

Emmons added that Walker's condition has improved this week.

"Tylar's looking better and is a lot more mobile," Emmons said. "He was pretty excited when he came in (Wednesday morning), because he said he felt like he used to, felt normal.

"I don't think he's 100 percent, but he's getting closer."

Barat (0-6) has found the going rough in its first season of varsity football, which included a forfeit loss to Wright City on Sept. 18. The Eagles bowed to Winfield 42-21 last week.

"Their (roster) numbers are low," Emmons said. "You're not going to see hardly any kids on the sideline; they've had a lot of banged-up players."

According to Emmons, Barat runs a double-wing offense.

"They're very functional and very successful offensively," Emmons said. "... It's not all between the tackles; they'll toss it outside because they have a lot of speed. I was pretty surprised when I saw what they were doing offensively."

From a defensive standpoint, Emmons said it will be critical for the Thunderbirds to force the issue.

"With that type of offense, you better attack," Emmons said. "They're very capable of methodically going down the field, taking six or seven minutes off the clock. Defensive linemen need to come under those double-, triple-team blocks and plug it up."

On defense, Emmons expects the Eagles to switch in and out of 5-2 and 4-4 alignments.

"We've gone back to basics (on offense), doing things right," Emmons said. "We're just making sure we're blocking better and hitting holes quicker.

"If we do those things right, success will happen."

With the start of district play looming next week, Emmons pointed out that his players' confidence level has not cooled.

"I don't see that as an issue with these guys," Emmons said. "It's simply a matter of getting them better, getting them to where they're not satisfied with what they've done and wanting to get better.

"We're putting a lot of emphasis there."

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