There will certainly be no shortage of offensive firepower for the Mount Zion High School football team to throw at Marion County when the two teams meet in round two of the Class A Public School state playoffs this Friday.
A vital part of the No. 8 Eagles' success throughout the fall has been the sheer number of players that opposing defenses need to account for on any given night, and that'll be the case once again at 7:30 p.m. on Friday in Eagle Country.
From the athleticism of quarterback C.J. Ackles to the speed and power of running backs Kareem Walker, Que Beasley, Breon Henderson and Ray Cheeks, to the over 500 receiving yards of wideout Iaan "Mike Mike" Cousin, MZ (8-2) has soared above opposing defenses by averaging 33.2 points per game this season.
Knowing that any one of them can catch fire on any given Friday gives confidence to the Eagle play-makers week-in and week-out.
"It makes us more comfortable because you can't stop all six of us," Walker said. "If you shut down one, you have to stop the other five. There's a lot other teams have to prep for and it makes it harder for them."
First-year MZ head coach Brad Gordon lost some key personnel to graduation last year, but the skill players were the deepest group he had coming back and they haven't disappointed this fall.
"We take what you give us," Gordon said. "We don't come in and say, 'We're going to feature this back this week.' We're going to take what the defense gives us and that's what makes us good."
The success of the Eagle offense this season has not only been a matter of utilizing their arsenal of weapons, but adjusting and featuring the right ones at various points throughout the ballgame.
"Our offensive coaching staff does a really good job at making in-game adjustments," Gordon said. "If the defense takes something away at first, that means something else has opened up. That's what we pride ourselves on and usually after two or three series, we know what they're trying to do and then it's on."
The Eagles were last seen in a back-and-forth battle at Mount Paran Christian for the Region 6-A championship two weeks ago, where a touchdown in the final moments of the game sent them home empty-handed. Even after the ballgame, the senior Walker and company knew that they had to keep a short memory as a greater goal was still in sight.
"We were telling ourselves that it was the start of a whole new chapter," Walker said. "We just kept telling ourselves that now we're on a whole different path trying to get to Mercedes Benz Stadium."
And having a first-round bye has allowed the MZ stars to rest up and regroup for the next challenge.
"We feel like we had a good, focused practice last week," Walker said. "We're just ready to play and keep it going."
Ackles noted that a big emphasis for the offense has been taking care of the football, something that needs to be done against No. 9 Marion County, which is capable of capitalizing on mistakes. For Beasley and company, getting past Marion County will be a matter of just doing what they've done all season long.
"Put points on the board, make plays on defense and just play our game," Beasley said.