Bulldogs debut upgraded facility, new FieldTurf at jamboree

South Callaway opens season at home Friday night against Putnam County

— The South Callaway Bulldogs’ four-team jamboree scrimmages were upstaged by the snazzy new surface they were played on.

South Callaway showed off its upgraded football facility — featuring FieldTurf — for Saturday night’s scrimmages against the Southern Boone Eagles, Hallsville Indians and Father Tolton Trailblazers. A larger set of bleachers, topped off by an expanded press box, has been installed on the west side of the field, with the Bulldogs moving over to that sideline this season.

Work was still to be completed on the facility ahead of Friday night’s season opener against the Putnam County Midgets, but South Callaway head coach Tim Rulo couldn’t help but be delighted by the makeover.

“It’s pretty awesome, that’s all I’ve got to say,” said Rulo, who is starting his seventh season with the Bulldogs. “It’s so humbling to be out here and see all this. It’s amazing.”

With rain falling earlier Saturday and a brief downpour soaking the teams and fans early on during the scrimmages, South Callaway was already profiting from the FieldTurf’s impact.

“We jokingly said that if it had rained this much, our field would have been destroyed for the entire season last year,” Rulo said. “Just being honest, it would have been destroyed.

“You bring four teams out on this thing after all that rain — half an inch or whatever it rained — it would have been destroyed.”

Getting down to the business of football, South Callaway’s offense tallied three touchdowns in Saturday night’s controlled scrimmages. Senior running back Cory Hanger, one of the most dazzling playmakers in Mid-Missouri, had a hand in all three scores.

The 5-foot-10, 160-pound Hanger darted 11 yards for a touchdown in the first series against Tolton, then peeled off a 36-yard scoring run against Southern Boone. He capped off the night by catching a touchdown pass from senior quarterback Troy Hentges that covered more than 50 yards in the last scrimmage against Hallsville.

Meanwhile, the Bulldogs’ defense surrendered just a pair of scores Saturday night — allowing a 5-yard touchdown pass to Southern Boone and a Hallsville touchdown run that went for more than 50 yards.

“Jamborees are tough (to judge), but I was happy because we got a lot of guys reps,” Rulo said. “To me it’s tough because we pre-set out who’s going to play what number of plays because we want to make sure that: a) in the heat of the moment we don’t forget an athlete who needs to get out there.

“So there’s not a lot of rhythm, because we’re running guys in and off the field. … Overall, sometimes it’s good to shoot from the hip like that, just calling plays kind of on the fly. I felt like our guys did a good job.”

Rulo and his coaching staff limited the number of reps involving South Callaway’s first-team offense and defense, preferring to give more exposure to players working to establish themselves in reserve roles.

“The jamboree is going to be about getting the next group of guys ready,” Rulo said. “I’ve got to see if the No. 3 (backup) is ready or the No. 2 is ready. I’ve got to make sure that the next guy is ready.”

Rulo stressed that the Bulldogs — who went 10-2 last season and lost to Blair Oaks for a district title — still “have a long way to go” before they’re ready to play games that count.

“Football is such a challenging sport because you’ve got to get all 11 guys to do their job to the best of their ability — on a play,” Rulo said. “And the more plays you can do that in a row, the better you’re going to be.

“I would say that, I did not see (Saturday night). I just saw too many mental mistakes and things like that — and that comes from anxiety, it comes from nerves, just heightened levels. I wouldn’t say we were very crisp; we have a lot left to do to get better. I wasn’t blown away by how we played.”

Rulo expects his squad to continue to push toward the lofty benchmark that has been instrumental in helping South Callaway assemble four straight 10-win seasons.

“We have guys — both starters and reserve players — that need to continue to get better and raise their level, so we can perform consistently at the level that’s needed, that this program has set as the bar and the standard of excellence,” Rulo said. “We’ll be ready, but the thing we’re pursuing is definitely just perfection and excellence.

“Sometimes it can be pretty elusive, so we’re going to keep running after it and keep getting better.”


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