Playoff position and second place in the Big 8 West are at stake when McDonald County visits Nevada on Friday night.
Both enter the showdown with momentum. The Mustangs (6-1, 3-1) ride a four-game winning streak. The Tigers (6-1, 4-1) have taken three straight. The only loss for both was to Lamar (7-0, 4-0), which is ranked No. 1 in Class 2 and has won 17 in a row.
Speaking of rankings, Nevada is ninth in Class 4. McDonald County received votes in the latest state poll and is knocking on the door of the Class 4 top 10. A victory would surely open that door for the Mustangs. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Logan Field.
"There've been a lot of big ones," McDonald County coach Kellen Hoover said when asked if this was the biggest regular-season test during his tenure. "It's just another week in the physical Big 8. It's always hard to win on the road in the Big 8. It's definitely a challenge our kids are excited about."
The matchup likely hinges on the ground game. Nevada wants to run and has a 1,000-yard back, Avious Steadman. McDonald County specializes in shutting down the run, allowing 30 rushing yards last week against Reeds Spring and 28 against East Newton the game before.
"They're going to try to run the football right at us, a lot of power, some counter," Hoover said of the Tigers. "They've got a lot of bodies in there. A lot of gap scheme. They do different things out of the single wing they run."
Whatever the formation or strategy, Nevada must find a way to move on a defense that's given up a total of 40 points in the past four outings.
Hoover asked his team to renew its focus on doing the little things that create overall success, and the Mustangs responded in last week's 41-6 rout of Reeds Spring.
"I think we took a step forward," Hoover said. "You look at a lot of our pass concepts, I thought we just got a little better there. I thought we were just more physical and willing to finish plays."
Aside from one drive, McDonald County's defense held firm. Hoover praised the performance of sophomore defensive lineman Jayce Hitt, who had a good week of practice and carried that over to the game.
The return from injury of receivers Levi Malone and Jack Parnell energized an already-effective passing attack. When opposing defenses emphasize stopping running backs Jakobe Montes, Destyn Dowd and Jared Mora, quarterback Cole Martin picks them apart.
"We watch a lot of film throughout the week," Hoover said about Martin. "He's a guy who can remember that stuff and put it together on the field. It's a blast to work together with him and be on the same page."
McDonald County at Nevada
When: 7 p.m. Friday.
Where: Logan Field.
Records: McDonald County is 6-1, 3-1 in Big 8 West; Nevada is 6-1, 4-1.