T-Birds put selves in position to make state playoffs

North Callaway head coach Mike Emmons likes the view for his Thunderbirds.

North Callaway started Class 3, District 6 play last week by flattening Fulton 42-14 at Kingdom City. It was the Thunderbirds' first win over the Hornets in five meetings, all coming in district play.

With a district win tonight at home over winless Missouri Military Academy (kickoff at 7), North Callaway can assure itself of a trip to the state playoffs. The Colonels (0-7) were demolished by Southern Boone 92-28 -- yes, the score is correct -- in last week's other District 6 pairing.

"It means a whole lot," Emmons said Wednesday morning of the Thunderbirds' control of their district path. "The last few years we've been on the bottom side looking up, having to depend on other people.

"Now our fate is in our own hands. That's always a good thing."

Emmons has never had a team lose to MMA in his 21 years as head coach, and the Thunderbirds will be an overwhelming favorite against the Colonels tonight.

"We know we've got to make ourselves better, to go where we want to go," Emmons said. "We want to make sure we're focusing on us improving every day, and the kids have responded really well. We had a great practice (Tuesday).

"Monday we had to get them corralled a little bit. They were understandably excited (after the Fulton win), but they also know that if you sit there and dwell on what you've done, you're going to get smacked in the face."

North Callaway rolled up 421 yards of total offense last week against the Hornets, including a robust 282 from its running game. Senior wingback Taylor West -- who returned the game's opening kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown to spark the Thunderbirds -- led the way with a game-high 119 yards on just nine carries and scored on a 33-yard run.

Junior wingback Ty Webster also supplied 99 yards in 13 attempts and had touchdown runs of 4 and 10 yards. Senior quarterback Tylar Walker, who scored on a 1-yard run, was 5-of-7 passing for 113 yards with no interceptions and hooked up with junior wide receiver Jared Graves on a 70-yard touchdown pass.

Emmons expects MMA -- which is surrendering a stunning 49.6 points per game -- to change in and out of 4-4 and 3-5 defensive schemes tonight. He noted that his squad wants to cut down on mistakes after committing three turnovers and being penalized seven times for 40 yards last week.

"(We're concentrating on) fundamentals and avoiding turnovers and penalties, and just getting ourselves better," Emmons said.

Meanwhile, the North Callaway defense forced three turnovers last week and was constantly pressuring Fulton junior quarterback Jake Matthews, intercepting him twice while recording three sacks.

The Thunderbirds are planning for the Colonels, who are averaging a feeble 11.6 points per game, to run out of a variety of offensive sets.

"We're stressing simplicity," Emmons said. "We're really going to focus on attacking and containing; we're going to let our seven (defenders) stay in the box and really focus on stopping everything they do with the run, and get a good pass rush."

In tonight's other District 6 matchup, Fulton travels to Southern Boone.

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