By Ryan Atkinson
Globe Sports Writer
Another week, another solid opponent for the Joplin Eagles.
But this time it’s win or go home.
Joplin — 5-4 after a win over Kickapoo last week — heads north to open Class 6 District 4 play at Raymore-Peculiar.
The Panthers are 6-3, their losses coming to Blue Springs South, Blue Springs (the No. 2 team in Class 6) and Lee’s Summit West (the No. 1 team in Class 5).
“They’re another good team,” Joplin coach Chris Shields said. “They don’t do a lot of fancy things. It’s going to be kind of like Camdenton, a big, physical team.”
Camdenton, you’ll remember, handed Joplin its worst loss of the season — a 45-10 setback on Oct. 12.
Still, the Eagles are confident heading into the first survive-and-advance scenario any of these Joplin players have taken part in.
“Our big motivation is we haven’t been to the playoffs in a long time,” Joplin senior running back Chris Payton-Barba said. “Everybody is confident about it. We’re just getting hyped up and ready to go.”
Added Shields: “I don’t think Joplin has played a Week 11 game in quite a while, so to have that opportunity is something that we have to relish and take advantage of.”
The Eagles can look to last week’s second half for more confidence. Joplin trailed 13-0 and 16-7 before rallying for a 20-16 win over a Kickapoo team that handed Ozark Conference co-champion Hillcrest its only loss.
“When we play like we’re capable, we can play with anybody in the state,” Shields said. “I’m not saying we’re better than anyone, but we’re not worse.
“I don’t know that there is anyone who is two touchdowns better or worse that us when we play like we’re capable of playing.”
Joplin held Kickapoo to just 36 rushing yards in the second half last Friday. That kind of effort will be vital against the Panthers.
“They take pride in running the ball,” Shields said. “They run some unconventional looks, but when it comes down to it, it’s the same basic plays. They’re going to run trap, they’re going to run (isolation), counter and toss. Those are their four bread-and-butter plays.”
The winner of tonight’s game will face the winner of Lee’s Summit and Rockhurst next Friday.
“Hopefully we can come out, believe in each other and execute,” Shields said. “When we do that, we’re a pretty good football team. There is no great mystery to it.”