2020 saw COVID take a chunk out of Boonville's season. Now the Pioneers have to replace a bigger chunk of their offense in 2021.
"It's always been TPW for us," says Boonville Head Coach Darin Ward. "TPW."
"Tough people win," says Boonville senior quarterback Mason Phillips. "Coach Ward says that a lot."
It's Boonville's mantra under head cach Darin Ward, and it's one that got put to the test during last year's season of COVID, as the Pioneers were forced to sit out part of their 4-and-4 campaign.
"There was just a lot of uncertainty," says Philips. "We were trying to be confident and have a lot of energy, but it was always in the back of our mind that our season could be ended at any moment."
"The resiliency of our guys, if you really think back," says Ward. "The protcols we had t go through, wearing masks all the time, social distancing, staying in pods. The tough part too, is that we had a group of seniors that missed a couple games too."
One of those seniors was Devin Mockobee, who despite missing those two contests, managed to rush for more than 18-hundred yards and 24 touchdowns. Now off to Purdue, the Pioneers weill need to find a different way to replace him.
"Number one, you replace him by committee, with several guys," says Ward. "We like the toughness of our running backs with Reese Wilder and Carter Wolfe and Marques Ballard was a dynamic player as a freshman for us. He'll get more touches. We've got a veteran quarterback coming back in Mason Phillips. We return four guys out of our front six offensively up front, with the tight end included there. Tweaked some things offensively that we're going to do it by committee and we're going to get the ball, throw it around to some different guys, Not be so one dimensional, like we've been the last few years with Devin."
"I think it's really good because we're not relying on as much one guy carrying the ball," says Phillips. "We can spread the ball around to a couple different guys, that can get the same amount of yards. We can just spread it around and it will be hard for the defense to play off of."
Speaking of defense, the Pioneers, who gave up nearly 30 pints per game in 2020, have switched things up, moving to a 4-3 defense, which five returners will man.
"We've tweaked some things there," says Ward. "We've got experience in our secondary. We were pretty young there last year and inexperienced. With Clay Carter coming back as a safety. Marques Ballard again, Jacob Heidorn, Cooper Aigner. Our linebackers are probably our toughest guys on the team. Big nose tackle, that's Andrew Zacer Lacer, that will return. He's 6-4 350. He played a lot of downs for us. We like our depth there. We like our athleticism and I think it will be one of the fastest teams we've put on the field in a number of years."
"It's different than I've ever played against before," says Phillips. "You have more linebackers than normal. It's harder to read. Before I was comfortable in practice going up against the same defense ten years in a row. Now it's kind of uncomfortable because it's a whole new ball game."
One thing that hasn't been altered in this season of change, is Boonville's hard hat, blue collar mentality.
"We do things just a little bit different, maybe," says Ward. "We're morning guys. I'm tweeting six o'clock in the morning, three days a week that it's a great day to attack because guys are coming in at 6:15 in the morning to work."
"He's super serious about guys doing hard things," says Phillips. "He doesn't like lazy people. He doesn't want our football team to be lazy people that don't do hard things. If you go out, give your all every day and be a tough person, you're going to succeed. You're just going to feel better about yourself at the end of the day."