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Back On Winning Track, Mustangs Eye Seneca

Possible Return Of WR Malone Is Game-Time Decision by Al Gaspeny / Special to McDonald County Press | September 23, 2021 at 12:01 p.m.
Al Gaspeny/Special to McDonald County Press McDonald County's Colton Ruddick (5) looks for running room as Destyn Dowd blocks against Monett last Friday at Mustang Stadium.

McDonald County was quick to shrug off its loss to Lamar, topping Monett 31-14 last week.

The Mustangs scored the final 21 points of the game and celebrated homecoming in style.

"It was good to see our kids respond after a tough loss," McDonald County coach Kellen Hoover said.

Things might get even better for the Mustangs. Senior wide receiver Levi Malone, sidelined thus far by a hamstring injury, could see action. It'll be a game-time decision, Hoover emphasized on Tuesday, depending on how Malone feels during pregame warmups.

"He's kind of been giving it a go in the last two or three weeks of practice," Hoover said.

McDonald County's air attack is already growing more effective by the week. Quarterback Cole Martin is spreading the ball around to several targets, including Colton Ruddick, Cross Dowd, Destyn Dowd, Weston Gordon and Sam Barton against Monett. Malone's return would give Martin another valuable option.

"He's a security blanket for Cole," Hoover said of Malone. "They've been playing together since the third grade."

The Mustangs, 3-1 overall and 1-1 in the Big 8 West, face a road challenge Friday against Seneca. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. The Indians (3-1, 1-0) routed East Newton 35-7 last week.

"They're a dangerous, dangerous team," Hoover said of Seneca. "They're a really good football team. They want to run the football [first], very similar to us. We're going to have to be very physical, especially with our front."

Running back Jaxson Graham is a Seneca star to keep an eye on.

"He's fast, runs hard," Hoover said. "And their quarterback complements him."

On defense, the Indians feature an aggressive style.

"Their linebackers get a quick read, and they just go," Hoover said.

No matter what the opponent does, McDonald County wants to run to set up the pass.

"We're an offense that's going to take what the defense gives us," Hoover said. "[But] we're definitely going to try to run the football first because that's what it takes to be successful in our conference."

Martin and Destyn Dowd (slowed by a knee injury) combined to rush for 152 yards last week.

The Mustangs shut out Monett in the second half, and the defensive front asserted itself down the stretch.

"I like the way we are rotating our linemen in different packages," Hoover said. "I thought we were probably fresher as it came to the end of the game."

With each win, the stakes get higher for the Mustangs. But they're not looking down the road or losing perspective.

"Our guys do a pretty good job just keeping focused on that week's opponent," Hoover said. "Our players just make it about getting a win that week."

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McDonald County at Seneca

When: 7 p.m. Friday.

Where: Earl Campbell Stadium, Seneca, Mo.

Records: McDonald County is 3-1, 1-1 in the Big 8 West; Seneca is 3-1, 1-0.

Livestream: KNEO.org.

Print Headline: Back On Winning Track, Mustangs Eye Seneca

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