Eldon Football Goes All In
ELDON, MO -- As the sun dropped below Mustang Memorial Stadium, November began to make its presence known. The temperature chilled the players on the field, causing some to physically shiver.
Coach Shannon Jolley would have none of that.
"If you can't handle the cold, how will you handle Saturday?"
Saturday is the Eldon Mustangs' quarterfinal playoff game against the Monett Cubs. It's the farthest Eldon has ever been in the state playoffs, having only appeared five times prior--1986, 1987, 1988, 1993 and 2011. The Mustangs have only won one time in those five appearances, in 1986.
Things are different this year. The team has won three straight games en route to its first Class 3 District 3 title since 1993. After letting up 23 points per game in the regular season, the Mustangs haven't surrendered more than seven points in a contest this postseason.
"We all have responsibilities and everyone is taking care of those responsibilities. We don't have to worry about covering each other," senior linebacker Beau Roseblock said.
It was Coach Jolley that was doing the pushing at practice. He shifted the offensive formations, pointed out exposed gaps and made sure the ultimate message was heard.
"There are eight teams left, you know what I mean? Eight of them. And they're all good."
It's Jolley's fifth season as head coach of the Mustangs, and his second postseason appearance. Prior to Eldon, Jolley coached at Nevada and Jefferson City High School.
"I don't know if I've brought in anything, I think it's just a collective effort of our staff, our players and our parents. What we've brought, as a staff, is a strong work ethic, and discipline and high expectations. But without people buying in or exercising those kinds of philosophies, they can't materialize."
What has materialized is back-to-back winning records, after winning just one game from 2008 to 2010. With the new experiences playing this late into the season, both players and coach have learned valuable lessons. Roseblock in particular has bonded with his teammates.
"Everything is as a team. That's why we are district champs this year."
"You're going to dedicate yourself. You can't stop. You have to keep your motor going," senior running back Sheyne Stafford said.
That nonstop action is new for Jolley, as well.
"When you get to this stage, everything happens so fast."
So with little time to rest, and another win-or-go-home match ahead, the players echoed two words to remember.