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Tigers linebacker Dawson Talbott tackles Lancers quarterback Collin Smith during the district semifinal at Mark Twain High School on Friday, Nov. 5.

CENTER, Mo. — Mark Twain has gotten to where its at by sticking to a formula of a stout defense, a bruising running game and timely passes for big plays.

The Tigers will need to be on top of all facets of their game on Friday, when Mark Twain plays Monroe City for the Class 1 District 2 championship at Lankford Field.

First-year Mark Twain head coach Austin Leake said Monroe City’s Wing-T offense can present matchup problems.

“We are just training our eyes and making sure that we are where we are supposed to be when they trade,” Leake said. “Making sure we have eyes in the right places defensively. Offensively, we’re just business as usual. Making sure that we are getting off the ball as an offensive line and being physical.”

Mark Twain is coming off 20-0 shutout win over St. Pius X (Festus) in the district semifinals and has held opponents to 14 or less points in nine games this season.

Although Mark Twain’s defense has been a team strength, it has been a tough task to defend Monroe City this year. The Panthers averaging almost 45 points per game.

Opposing teams have to deal with several talented runners in the backfield, such as All-Conference running backs Joshua Talton and Ceaton Pennewell, as well as Landon Utterback.

When teams focus on the Panther running game, it opens things up for quarterback Kyle Hays and the passing game. Hays has All-Conference wide receiver Waylon DeGrave and All-Conference tight ends Deion White and Cade Chapman at his disposal.

“It’s going to take some points for us to win because (Monroe City) scores on everybody,” Leake said. “We are going to have to step up defensively and keep doing what we are doing. Which is a tough task, but we are excited for the challenge.”

Monroe City is coming off a shutout win of its own, as the Panthers defeated Brentwood 46-0 in last Friday’s semifinal.

The Tigers can always count on running back Landon Moss to grind out tough yards, which helps jump start the Mark Twain offense for quarterback Payton Hawkins and the passing game.

All-Conference wide receiver Lakoda Preston has been the home run threat for Mark Twain this year, and has scored touchdowns on the ground, through the air and in the kick return game.

Leake said Mark Twain will be ready for whatever curveballs Monroe City throws them defensively.

“Rather if we spread it out and try to do things through that or ground-and-pound out a heavy formation, whatever it takes,” Leake said. “I’m not picky. Whatever works for us we’ll try that. If it’s not working, we’ll got away from it.”

With Friday’s Class 1 District 2 championship game being hosted in nearby Monroe City, Leake expects a lot of Mark Twain fans to show up to support the Tigers.

“I told the kids how awesome it’s going to be and how the atmosphere is going to be,” Leake said. “We just got to make sure that we don’t make the game bigger than it is. At the end of the day, it’s a football game. All of the crowd and the whole aura of the game can’t affect the way you play. It’s 11-on-11 playing football.”

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