With games against Phillipsburg and Smith Center behind them, there’s no questioning the level of competition the Thomas More Prep-Marian football team has faced thus far, but Friday’s opponent, Plainville, might possess the most talented individual the Monarchs have seen this fall.

Hayden Friend, the Cardinals’ quarterback, is a threat to bust a big play on each offensive snap, thanks to his speed.

“Watching him at the state track me last year and then seeing what he’s doing in the previous three games, I think about any team he plays against, he’s going to be one of the fastest guys on the field, if not the fastest,” TMP coach John Montgomery said.

That doesn’t mean he can’t put the ball in the air, either. With defenses forced to keep their eyes in the backfield and Friend’s ability to keep plays alive, it’s not uncommon to see the quarterback dump the ball off to an open receiver after extending a play, Montgomery said.

“You can’t help but look at his game and have respect for what he’s able to accomplish each Friday night,” the TMP coach said.

In addition to his two rushing scores, Friend passed for more than 500 yards and three touchdowns in a loss to Phillipsburg in Week 3.

The Cardinals will enter the game 0-3, but taking them lightly would be a mistake, especially on offense. The TMP coach told his players after practice Wednesday that there will be plays where they do everything right, but the Cardinals offense still makes something happen.

“They’ve played against some great defenses and offensively, every single week they’ve been able to put up points,” Montgomery said. “They’ve got some pretty explosive skill players.”

The key for the TMP defense will be keeping the frustration from those instances from impacting their play and effort level.

While Plainville has had little problem scoring, their opponents haven’t either, which gives the Monarchs hope they can hand the Cardinals their fourth straight loss to start the season.

The TMP coach expects to see an aggressive Cardinal defense looking to force the Monarchs into mistakes, but his team will need to hold on to the ball to have success Friday night.

“We have a feeling that’s what they’re gonna do, which will probably create some challenges for us,” Montgomery said. “We’re going to have to execute. I think offensively, though, if we can get some drives going, take up a little bit of clock and then finish those drives with scores, it does a few things. It puts points on the board, which is good, and it keeps their offense off the field.”

In last week’s loss the Smith Center, TMP turned it over five times, which is the recipe for a loss regardless of the level of play, their coach said.

“We can’t hurt ourselves,” Montgomery said. “I think that opposing defenses are going to do a lot to make it challenging, and one of the things we saw last week was we made some crucial errors that hurt ourselves.”

After a tough loss during TMP’s homecoming game last year, the Monarchs will make the trip north to Plainville this season.