With only two returning starters on both sides of the ball from last season’s 10-2 football team, last Friday’s home jamboree was a major benefit for St. Clair.
The Bulldogs competed against Helias Catholic, Rolla and Poplar Bluff.
Each team had 24 plays against the other, 12 on offense and 12 on defense.
“We’re about where I thought we were. We have a lot of guys who haven’t had a lot of game experience, and they played like it. There’s a lot of inexperience, a lot of kids who are real hesitant. We got a lot of paralysis by analysis going on. It’s very evident when you face teams like we faced,” said St. Clair Head Coach Cody McDowell. “When you have a team with two returning starters, you have a lot of kids who have to learn and grow up fast. We have to get a product on tape so these guys can see it. We have to see how we respond to live competition.”
Poplar Bluff was St. Clair’s first opponent.
On the Bulldogs’ second play from scrimmage, senior running back Skyler Hutchison raced 40 yards for a touchdown.
Hutchison saw a limited amount of playing time in the jamboree.
“There are certain kids who we don’t need to see much of, and Skyler is one of those kids. We know what he can do,” McDowell said. “We have a lot of holes to fill. We lost a good class. The main thing about that class is they played a lot of minutes on both sides of the ball. There’s a lot of things we have to see and fix.”
St. Clair then played against Helias and Poplar Bluff.
Helias returns 17 starters from last season’s team that lost to Webb City in the Class 4 state championship game.
Poplar Bluff, a team with good size, arrived late to the jamboree, but got things going after a few plays. The Mules visit Union in this week’s opener.
Competing for St. Clair’s starting quarterback job are juniors Collin Scott and Damon Arnold.
“Offensively, we’ll work on finishing plays. We have some mental mistakes going on. It’s an evaluation process for us all the way up to week one,” McDowell said. “We’re trying to see everyone we think are going to play a role for us on Friday nights. This was an evaluation process where we can get some tape on kids and see what they can do, who we can rely on and we can handle the load.”
St. Clair kicks off the regular season Friday at home against Washington at 7 p.m.
The Blue Jays return three starters on offense and seven on defense from last year’s 6-5 team.
The Bulldogs won at Washington in last season’s opener, 35-24.
McDowell and Washington Head Coach Zach Schneider played football together at Central Methodist University.
“Zach and I are great friends. I hope he does well and I’m sure he hopes I do well,” McDowell said. “We’re both very competitive people and want to win. We’re friends through football. That’s what brought us together.”
The Bulldogs and Blue Jays are similar teams. Both will have a new quarterback this season after graduating their three-year starter.
Both teams are led by a senior running back/linebacker who bring a physical style to the field.
St. Clair’s Hutchison and Washington’s Kyle Summers both wear No. 44 as well.
“Both guys are tough players. Summers is a good player. He was all over the field for them last year,” McDowell said. “We game planned around him last year, and this year will be no different. He’s a hard-nosed, tough player and an athletic kid.”
Could it be another entertaining game, such as last year’s meeting?
“I hope so,” McDowell said. “I think we’re both in similar spots. They lost some kids, just like we did. We’ll see. It will come down to who can get going fast enough and jump out and play well early.”
MasseyRatings.com Projection —
St. Clair 40, Washington 26.