Today's NCMC clash in Dr. Larry K. Noell Stadium will pit two opponents whose aspirations have risen during the course of the season, neither more than those of the Owls.
"The kids have played hard and they've been rewarded for it," noted Marshall head coach Jon Stockman. "They've been building confidence every week."
The Spartans (4-1, 2-0 NCMC) may have had question marks heading into the campaign after losing more than half their starters to graduation, but have found their stride after starting off with a respectable 24-14 loss to state-ranked Blair Oaks.
"They're a good, good football team, very disciplined and block very well," Stockman noted. "We're going to have to do our jobs all across the board, and we're going to have to do them well."
Junior quarterback Justin Connaway has taken controls of Moberly's multi-dimensional offense, passing for 652 yards and six touchdowns and running for 233 yards and a pair of scores. However, the Spartans have also run well -- senior Joe Galaske and sophomore Gregg Bain combining for 647 yards and eight TDs -- behind a skilled offensive line.
"Up front they're big and very athletic," Stockman explained. "They get to linebackers well and stay on them."
Moberly is also tough with its front seven on defense. Junior Colton Tremain has 46 tackles, including five sacks, and he's joined on the line by 272-pound junior Jeff Kinder with 42 stops and three forced fumbles.
"Their linebackers are running to the ball well and making tackles," Stockman said. "They don't make mistakes."
The Spartans have allowed only 39 points over the last four games -- like Marshall, posting a shutout against Kirksville -- but will be taking on an offense which has been gaining momentum. The Owls (4-1, 3-0) racked up 441 total yards -- 284 on the ground -- during last week's 45-14 Homecoming win over Fulton.
Marshall is averaging 236.8 rushing yards and 318.8 total yards per game -- a huge jump from the last year's anemic 147.0-yard mean -- with senior halfback Jake Plummer running for 627 yards and six touchdowns and senior quarterback Alex Maupin accounting for 695 combined offensive yards and 13 TDs.
"We switch it up a little," Stockman said. "We want to give other teams different things to look for."
Besides being a tilt between two of the league's three unbeaten clubs -- sixth-ranked defending champion Hannibal being the other -- this is also for position between the current fourth and fifth seeds in Class 4, District 6.
Stockman's focus is more immediate.
"We've got to try to be 1-0 after Friday night," he declared. "All that other stuff will play itself out."