McDonald County looking to build on 'gritty' 2022 season

Aug. 24—ANDERSON, Mo. — The 2023 McDonald County Mustangs are hoping to build on a 2022 season that saw a number of close games and a taste of playoff success.

McDonald County went 6-5 last year with five of those contests decided by one touchdown or less, including the last minute, 7-6 road win over Marshfield in the first round of the playoffs.

"Last year's team was a gritty group," said head coach Kellen Hoover. "We knew we would have to scratch and claw our way to some wins, and I was proud of our team for so many moments where they came through. We won close games against Logan-Rogersville, Nevada and Cassville during the regular season, and scored a TD on third and long with a little over a minute left to go up by one against Marshfield in the opening round of districts.

"That was just another example of our team staying together through a hard-fought defensive battle and doing their job when we absolutely needed it the most. I was extremely proud of our kids for all the grittiness they showed in 2022."

This year's team looks to build on that success despite the loss of 10 lettermen and 13 starters on offense and defense. Hoover said the nine returning starters and 18 returning lettermen are working to build a physical and versatile team to compete in the always-tough Big 8 Conference.

"We hope to be a physical offense that can run the football effectively," Hoover said. "It's hard to be competitive in our conference if you don't bring a good rushing attack with you. But we also have built our offense to attack teams in other ways if they over-commit to stopping the run, and we hope to be able to utilize our playmakers in space if that happens."

The 2023 Mustangs bring back last years honorable mention All-Conference quarterback Destyn Dowd and honorable mention All-Conference offensive guard and defensive end Jayce Hitt, first team All-Conference offensive guard and second team All-Conference defensive end Toby Moore, and first team All-Conference defensive back Josh Pacheco — all seniors — who are hungry to build on their stellar performances in 2022.

"With the guys coming back from last year, combined with the new guys stepping in, we've got the potential to have a really good year," Moore said. "We're going to have to be consistent every day to accomplish what we think we can."

"As seniors, it's our last year together and we just want to go out and bring the best team we can be and leave a great legacy behind," Pacheco said. "We have some pieces coming back to build on from last year and we're excited to get things going."

The Mustangs will travel to Mount Vernon for their season opener against the Mountaineers at 7 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 25.

"We're really excited about this year's team and what we hope to accomplish," Dowd said. "Every game is a tough test and we've got to be at our best every day if we want to reach our potential."


Aug. 25: vs. Mount Vernon

Sept. 1: at Marshfield

Sept. 8: vs. Logan-Rogersville

Sept. 15: at Nevada

Sept. 22: vs. Cassville

Sept. 29: at Lamar

Oct. 6: vs. Monett

Oct. 13: at Seneca

Oct. 20: vs. East Newton