The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


September 21, 2012

Joplin wary of winless West Plains

Chris Shields knows it sounds cliche.

But he says it’s the truth, especially in this hard-to-figure-out Ozark Conference.

“West Plains is so much better than their record indicates,” Shields said Thursday.

West Plains — with its 0-4 record — heads into Junge Field at 7 tonight as Joplin tries to win back-to-back games for the first time this season.

 A win over the Zizzers would also push Joplin over the .500 mark for the first time since a season-opening win against Glendale.

“West Plains is like us in the fact that they have a couple losses they kind of let get away from them,” Shields said. “They haven’t had a game where they’ve been beat real badly.”

The Zizzers are coming off a 20-0 loss to undefeated Hillcrest and suffered a 39-15 Week 2 loss to Camdenton.

But their other two loses have come by one score — a 26-21 opening-week loss at Waynesville and a 14-6 loss at Glendale.

“They’re hungry and they’re a good team with good skill-position players.” Shields said. “We have to be ready to come out and play early, more so than we did last week.”

Last week saw the Eagles sputter early and when Rolla made a couple big plays in the second half, they found themselves down by two scores late in the game.

But the Eagles began executing — something Shields has stressed all season — and scored twice in the final 3 minutes, 36 seconds to escape with a win.

“What we take away more than anything is the execution late,” Shields said. “The kids did a good job.”

And, after studying the game film on Saturday morning, Shields said he found the Joplin’s struggles early on weren’t as bad as he had anticipated.

“They always say that it’s never as good as you think and it’s never as bad,” he said. “And that’s true. I wasn’t in the best of moods Friday night. But then I watched the film and the kids didn’t play that poorly. It was a good game.”

A big reason for Shields’ change of mind was the fact that out of the 60-some plays Rolla ran, just a handful saw the Eagle defense break down — twice when a Joplin player was in position but didn’t make a play, and the rest were misalignments.

“Those are things we can work on and improve,” Shields said. “We looked at the film and the things we got beat on were fixable. It wasn’t as bad as we thought.”

Shields also wondered aloud after the win last week how his team would react after such an emotional win. Teams, he said, can either ride that momentum or drop off the next week.

“The kids have done a great job of learning from Friday and coming back this week and focusing on West Plains,” he said. “Our kids are still hungry. It was big for them to get that win and stop that two-game skid we were on. Now they want to keep it going.”

West Plains will run many sets — offensively and defensively — that the Eagles should be familiar with.

“They’ll get in shotgun and throw the ball and run isolations and they’ll get under center and run it up the middle, a lot like us,” Shields said. “And defensively, they’re going to do a lot of stuff that we do, which make it easier to get scouting looks in practice.

“They’ll give us a test. We can’t look at their 0-4 record. They’re a solid team.”

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