Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home.
No one probably knows that better than the Harrisburg football team.
After a three-game road swing, which saw the Bulldogs go 2-1 with wins at Du Quoin and Murphysboro and a physical loss at Marion, there's no doubt Harrisburg is chomping at the bit to return to the friendly confides of Taylor Field.
Bulldog head coach Jason Roper more than admitted that it will be nice to be back playing in front of the home crowd, but has warned his team, this is no time to relax.
Harrisburg will take on a winless Massac County (0-4) team that with the exception of Black Diamond Conference member Hamilton County has given up the most points of any team in southern Illinois with 177.
The Patriots may have hit an all-time low last week when they suffered their fourth straight loss in a 21-14 beating by West Frankfort.
Despite what the win-loss column shows, Roper says that Massac County always gives his teams problems.
"It'll be another challenge for us.," Roper said. "They always play us tough it seems like and our kids have been on the road, but this is going to be one of those games where our kids can't relax. We're back home, playing in front of our home crowd and we have to show up and play."
Massac County has eight returning starters back this season and most of the workload has been given to Daz Nickerson, a 5-foot-11, 160 pound senior and Jordan Troutman, a 5-10, 185-pound junior. Both running backs present a split backfield for the Patriots that has had Roper scheming all week.
"They're really good players and Kelly Glass has done a good job down there trying to get the ball in their hands almost every snap. They went to a little more of an athletic backfield and that's what we have been preparing for all week."
Junior Cameron Koch is under center for the Patriots and is helped out by four returning starters on the offensive line.
The Patriots went 0-5 in conference play last season, giving up an average of 38.2 points per game. So far, Massac County is 0-1 in conference play and is giving up 44.2 points per game.
That could prove to be beneficial to a Harrisburg squad that is currently struggling to crack the endzone. The Bulldogs have had more than their fare share of red zone opportunities, including 11 in the past three games with only a couple of scores.
Roper acknowledges the concern, but also understands the competition he's been playing.
"It ended up with a situation where we got in the endzone four or five times and we're unable to convert last week against Murphysoro," Roper said. "We let them hang around and they made a game of it, but I thought they played extremely well. Their program is one the rise and I think their coach has done a fantastic job and Murphysboro is going to be a team in our conference that is going to be much, much improved."
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