The first five weeks of the season have been relatively easy for the Smith-Cotton Tigers.
Four of S-C’s five wins have been by double digits and the combined record for its first five opponents is 8-17.
The Tigers enter the final stretch of their regular season against teams with a combined record of 12-8, including undefeated Center and a 4-1 O’Hara team.
“The motto this week was being physical,” said Smith-Cotton running back and linebacker Noah Aziere. “That’s all we’ve been doing, hitting drills and just getting at it.”
The Tigers start a three-game homestand Friday against O’Hara, which is part of the three-way tie for first in the West Central Conference.
“This is getting to a time where we’re going to have to turn it up because we’re all fighting for that conference title,” said Smith-Cotton lineman Austin Jaekel.
The Celtics’ lone loss of the season was a five-point loss to Oak Grove, which won the Class 3 state title last season and is 4-1 this season.
That loss to Oak Grove is the only time this season the Celtics have been limited to less than 200 yards rushing.
O’Hara’s running attack has been dominant, averaging 228.4 yards per game and 5.5 yards per attempt.
“They’ll do some mis-direction and things like that, but it’s about being discipline,” said Smith-Cotton coach Ryan Boyer.
The duo of Austin Evans and Peyton Jones has led the Celtics, combining for 721 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground.
“You can’t just key on one set guy,” Boyer said. “(Evans) does a lot for them at tailback and they’ll put him at flanker and he returns kicks for them. You obviously want to know where he’s at, but there’s other guys that can create too.”
That pair of rushers only combined for 82 yards in the loss to Oak Grove.
“We’ve watched film on them really closely and the coaches have prepared us for it,” Jaekel said. “We’ve all got our reads; we’ve all got who we’re taking and the linebackers have who they’re taking and we’re ready for it.”
S-C is coming off a comeback win at Nevada. S-C trailed 13-0 before a weather delay. Aziere said he hopes the team takes the attitude they had at the end of last week’s game into Friday’s game against O’Hara.
“Coach just left us seniors in there with ourselves,” he said about the weather delay. “We talked it out and a couple kids stood up and had something to say. We had to change the attitude. It went from sad and just being down on ourselves to being hyped.”
Jason Strickland can be reached at 660-530-0147 or on Twitter @J_Strick_Sports.