Although the official MSHSAA district seeding and first round playoff schedules across the state using the new playoff formula will not be announced until after this weekend, most district seeding are pretty much intact leading up to Week 9 of the 2012 football season.
And that includes Class 4 District 6 that consists of both Moberly and Mexico who meet this Friday at the Bulldogs home turf to wrap up their regular season and North Central Missouri Conference football schedules.
The Spartans have sewn up the fourth spot and will have a second home meeting against Marshall on Oct. 26 for the first round of district play, while Mexico is the 8th seed and must travel to play at top-seed Hannibal.
In addition, after the Spartans defeated Mexico 17-7 a year ago Moberly's football team is riding on a 7-game winning streak against the Bulldogs as they march into Mexico tomorrow night. Mexico has not won this annual rivalry since 2004 when the Bulldogs pulled out a close 22-21 victory.
Taking rivalry history and the district playoff schedule into account, and the fact that Moberly with its 6-2 record (4-1 NCMC) will compete with a young Mexico program (1-7, 0-5 NCMC) that has had its fair share of hardship winning just one game so far this season, this leaves a curious question as to what the mindset of the Spartans are before kickoff tomorrow night.
Can the Spartans maintain its focus, enthusiasm and will to win coming in to this game with the Bulldogs or is this a date to be taken more lightly as greater attention is being placed against Week 10 opponent Marshall for the district playoffs?
"Of course we must prepare, compete and play this game like any other team we've come up against this season. You can't take any game lightly. Our only focus this week is on our game against Mexico and nothing else matters," said Spartans football coach Jason Ambroson.
"This is a huge rivalry game, so much that we have a couple of coaches (offensive coordinator Sam Richardson, defensive coordinator Tony Stoneking) who are former Spartans football players and once played against Mexico teams. They have been here with me all this time, and they are always fired up about our games with Mexico. This game is a big deal between the schools.
There is a lot of competition between the kids of both schools because they know each other, they do things with them in the off-season or see them hanging out at the Columbia Mall and such. Those kind of things add to the rivalry."
Last week Mexico had its annual meeting with Fulton in what the pair of neighbors call the Highway 54 Bowl. Both schools were winless in the conference standings until Fulton came out on top winning 35-19 at home.
Page 2 of 3 - The Bulldogs yielded nearly 450 total offensive yards - including 362 from the ground - to Fulton. Meanwhile Mexico's offense would generate only about 240 total yards behind the leadership of senior quarterback Matt Ridgeway.
"Mexico is young football team with a new coach, and they had some tough times, losing some football games this year. Last week against Fulton, they looked like a much improved team and were very aggressive, and they showed they have some skilled players like Ridgeway who are capable of breaking things open for a big play," said Ambroson. "They would like nothing better than come out and just beat the tar out of us, ride that momentum into the first game of the district playoffs and carry that momentum over into next year."
"I am expecting Mexico to be very fired up about playing us and we must do the same with them."
The Spartans meanwhile are enjoying their first win against Boonville in the football program's history when Moberly sank the Pirates ship winning 24-6 at home during Senior Night on Oct. 12.
Among the highlights of that celebration was a school record field goal of 48-yards booted by senior Ricky Webb, and the defense coming up with three turnovers.
Defense has been Moberly's staple of success this football campaign, yielding an average of around 14 ppg under the direction of defensive coordinator Stoneking.
Also, the Spartans have been successful in valuing possession of the football as Moberly has turned the ball over six times. Meanwhile, the Spartans have 14 interceptions and 9 fumble recoveries to its name.
Ambroson said he does not believe this year's squad has over-achieved in its play considering the Spartans were considered by many to be about a .500 team at best this football season when it comes to wins and losses.
"One thing that I really like about our football team and our coaching staff is that we are all very realistic in what we can and cannot do. Before this season began we understand that our football team is not gifted athletically with any overwhelming talent. Many football teams have at least one if not three or four really athletic and super talented football players that clearly stand out. We really don't have that at Moberly this football season. We knew that and we're fine with that," said Ambroson. "What we have is that the sum of our parts is what's making us an effective and efficient football team. What we need to do as a team is to continue to do that at a high level. We need to be playing on the edge so that every snap of the football, it matters. Not to where a player just reacts too crazy or low enough that it prevents you from not giving your best effort, but rather right in the middle to where you are very alert to everything that is going on around you so that you are competing at a level as if the score is always zero-to-zero instead of a 17-0 or 24-0 score and then you get too comfortable."
Page 3 of 3 - "I think this has happened a couple of times. Got sloppy in some play. We need to play on the edge every single snap and moment of a football game. When all of our players do their job and get the little things done right, all of those things come together to benefit a single unit and that is what makes us a good football team."
"It's kind of like if Sampson and his hair. If it was important for Sampson to keep his hair in order to give him the kind of strength he needed to survive, then Sampson always needed to make sure his hair was right and taken care of properly," Ambroson said. "Even though his hair is still there, he needed to take care of it properly and not cut it but he did not do that and you know what happened from there."