The Boonville Pirates and Higginsville Huskers have had their fair share of battles on the field dating back to the late 80s in the Missouri River Valley Conference.
Although the Pirates have won their fair share of games against Higginsville, the Huskers have dominated the last-two meetings winning 20-0 in 2012 and 15-0 last year.
Of course during that span the Huskers also put together a 13-2 season in 2011 and finished runner-up in Class 2. They also finishes 11-1 the last-two seasons under head coach Steve Cook.
As for the Pirates, they have also won their share of games by finishing 10-2 in 2011. As far as state title, Boonville’s last championship came in 1998 under then head coach Mark Thomas.
But was then. This year Higginsville enters Friday night’s game against Boonville with a record of 1-0 after beating the Concordia Orioles in the season opener last week 49-7. As for the Pirates, they fell last week on the road against the state-ranked California Pintos 44-0.
Nonetheless, Cook said he still has all the respect in the world for Boonville just because of the size of schools they play week in and week out.
“It’s a ballgame we definitely have to play up for,” Cook said. “We finished 11-1 last year and ended up beating Boonville by just a little over two touchdowns so it was a pretty close ballgame. I am not going to make any predictions but for us we just hope to get better at the things we made mistakes on last Friday and just hope to be able to put a good effort out.”
The effort was definitely there last week against the Orioles. While recovering two onside kicks in the game, Cook said senior quarterback Matt Gibson also completed 6 of 12 passes for 156 yards and one touchdown. Of course the running game was no slouch, either. While all three running backs scored two touchdowns, senior Colton Williams led the group with nine carries for 90 yards while Christian Turner, another senior, had 12 rushes for 80 yards. Junior Malcolm Elmore, meanwhile, rushed six times for 60 yards.
Of course nobody probably had a better performance than senior Blaine Wheeler, who caught six passes for 124 yards and one touchdown. Meanwhile, on the defensive side of the ball, junior linebacker Dalton Edwards led the charge with seven solo stops and four assisted tackles. Cook said senior Alex Nolte also had a big game defensively for the Huskers.
While leading 35-7 at the half against Concordia, Cook said he thought his team played well with the adverse heat.
“We were able to get the upper hand early so that was beneficial to us and then playing in the heat I thought our boys flew around the field well, so it was a good experience for us,” Cook said.
As for the Pirates, they played well for a half against the Pintos while trailing 17-0. However, in the third quarter, California took advantage of two interceptions which they converted into touchdowns and never looked back.
 California also dominated on paper against Boonville while racking up over 500 yards in total offense along with 17 first downs. The Pirates, meanwhile, finished the game with 50 yards passing, minus 5 yards rushing and only five first downs.
Brown said despite the loss he thought his kids competed well against a senior-laden California team.
“It finally got away from us in the fourth quarter, but we competed and didn’t give up,” Brown said “We just have to build off of that and realize that we have to play like this Friday night against a good Higginsville team. We just have to believe that we can win the ballgame and that we have to go out and play.”
While the Pintos entered the game ranked fourth in Class 3 last week, the Huskers also entered the preseason polls ranked tied for eighth in Class 2.
Brown said offensively the Huskers have a lot of skilled guys back from last year.
“Their running backs are good, their receivers are good and their tight end, all 6’-6” of him, is a good player,” Brown said. “All three of their running backs run hard as well. They don’t go down on first contact and broke a lot of tackles against Concordia last week. As for their offensive line, they are quick but are not as big as last year, but they get off the ball.
“I thought we played well for a half defensively last week against California and we will need to do the same for four quarters obviously again Friday night. We have to know our responsibilities and where we are supposed to go and be able to make plays and not let big plays happen, which the first half we limited that and the second half we didn’t. Same thing with Higginsville. They have good athletes so we have to limit their big plays.”
While holding the Orioles to a lone touchdown last week, Brown said the Huskers’ defense will also feature a lot of good athletes. He said they will run a 3-3 stack and will blitz the linebackers a lot.
“Their nose is pretty good and he gets off the ball well,” Brown said. “The defensive ends, one of which is also the tight end, are good bookend-type guys and the skilled guys are their linebackers like us who play both ways. The secondary also has pretty good feet. One corner is like 6’-2” or 6’-3”, and the free safety is the running back and he covers a lot of ground.
“We just have to make yards, which we didn’t do Friday night. We have to be able to run the ball, pass the ball and complete the ball and catch it. We just have to make normal plays and move the ball and get drives going which we couldn’t do against California.”
Cook has also done his scouting report on the Pirates. He said offensively Boonville are a full spread team that likes to run the perimeter with jet sweeps and will look to get the ball down field to No. 9 (Josh Judd).
“He is a good split end for them that can catch the hitch and fade well,” Cook said. “They also have a big, tall sophomore quarterback so they are a young team. However, we are a young team, too, in a lot of regards. We have a fairly senior-laden backfield but we’ve also had to replace a few guys like Boonville. I know they played California extremely tough in the first quarter. They had a few plays that didn’t go their way and that really changed the momentum, but they were playing with them for quite a while.”
With that being said, Cook said his defense will just have to keep everything in front of them and not let Boonville stretch it to the sidelines and just turn things in.
“We just want to keep the ball in front of us and swarm to the football,” Cook said.
As for Boonville’s defense, Cook said  it’s a pretty straight 4-4 stack. He said Boonville will do a lot of good things with their linebackers and try to be aggressive with that week in and week out.
“It seems like they put out a good effort the last few years we have played them,” Cook said. “We just have to be ready to attack the 4-4 front and maintain our balance which we were able to display in Week 1. We are not going to change what we do any week this season. We run a shotgun and will run our base plays out of it. We will also sprinkle in a few things we feel might be most beneficial against a certain look we are getting. We are just going to try to get out and do what we do and do it better this week than last.”
If last week’s game against Concordia is any indication, the Huskers appear to be headed in the right direction.
While sporting a record of 35-4 the last-three years, Cook said the senior class is a combined 46-4 in four years.
“I think the kids as a whole have bought into the program,” Cook said. “We average 95 percent five days a week in the weight room and that has really helped, but it also helps to have really talented kids that work hard at it.”
As for the Pirates, Brown said his team just has to keep playing and chopping wood as the offensive line saying goes.
“We just have to keep improving and getting better,” Brown said. “We need to have a little energy about playing at home and since we are here this week hopefully that will be in our favor.”
In the game last week against the Pintos, freshman Gabe Kaiser led all rushers with one carry for 12 yards.
Sophomore quarterback Nick Zeitlow, meanwhile, completed 4 of 12 passes for 50 yards and two interceptions. Senior Austin Hulbert had one catch for 22 yards while Josh Judd, another senior, hauled in two catches for 20 yards.
On defense, junior linebacker Jordan Weaver led the Pirates with 11 total tackles with seven solo stops and four assisted while freshman Kole Ficken had 10 tackles with nine solo stops and one assisted tackle.