Carl Junction’s passing game has clicked during the Bulldogs’ current three-game winning streak.
Directed by quarterback Alex Baker, the Bulldogs have averaged 266 passing yards over Ozark, Monett and Hillcrest, raising their season average to 262 yards.
Baker, returning after missing all of last season with an injury, has thrown for 2,630 yards and 27 touchdowns to a talented and deep receiving corps led by Cole Stewart (60 catches for 1,056 yards, 8 touchdowns), Noah Southern (50-779, 10) and last year’s quarterback Drew Patterson (47-608, 4).
“We’ve thrown the ball well all season,” Carl Junction coach Doug Buckmaster said. “As a team we have thrown for right at 3,000 yards. It’s just been a really good season. When you have those kind of numbers, obviously you’ve had a good year. Coming into the year, I knew that we had a really good receiving corps with Cole Stewart and Noah Southern coming back. Both had big numbers last year, but they weren’t this big. And then Drew Patterson moving out to the other spot outside, that’s a good three-man gang. Drew Beyer (17-204, 1) does a good job for us, too, at the other slot position.”
And it hasn’t been strictly an aerial attack for the Bulldogs as running back Brady Sims has rushed for 1,100 yards.
The second-seeded Bulldogs (6-5) are in the district championship game tonight for the first time since 2017. They journey east to tackle top-seeded West Plains (9-1) for the Class 4 District 5 title. Kickoff is at 7.
The Zizzers won the Ozark Conference title despite losing their regular-season finale at home to Bolivar 42-21. The Zizzers average 435 yards per game, including 330 on the ground.
“West Plains likes to run the football, and they have three kids who can do that,” Buckmaster said. “The quarterback is a tall, lean quarterback who runs very well. They have a smaller tailback who is in the 5-8, 5-9 range, around 210 pounds, who is a really good player. And they have the big tailback/fullback/tight end/wide receiver kid ... those three make a pretty good tandem. They are all capable of running the football.
“I would call them a very multiple spread, wing-T football team. They are based out of the wing-T, but they do everything out of multiple formations. They line up about every possible way you can line up and try to outnumber you at the point of attack, out-leverage you. If they can do that, then they are very successful with their run game. They have some very big kids up front.”
Tailback Titus Seley has 184 carries for 1,743 yards and 22 touchdowns for West Plains. Quarterback Dagen Kenslow has 850 yards and 15 touchdowns rushing and 1,117 yards and nine TDs passing, and Connor Lair, the do-everything threat, has 616 yards and six TDs rushing and 121 yards receiving.
“It will be a challenge,” Buckmaster said. “A three-hour bus ride, and we haven’t played well on the road this year. All of that is going to have to change if we’re going to be successful.
“We have won five of our last six, so we do have a lot of momentum. I believe we can go compete and win there, but we have to play well. We can’t win a game at West Plains if we just show up and don’t play to our ability. If we play to our ability on both sides of the ball, I think we have a tremendous chance of winning the football game.”