To know Tim Rulo is to like him.
If you know him and don't like him, well, you should probably look in the mirror.
The South Callaway football coach is a winner on the field. His Bulldogs have gone 10-2 the last two seasons --- both seasons ending with losses to Blair Oaks.
If you weren't sure, Blair Oaks is good. Really good.
This season, the Bulldogs are 5-1 and ranked No. 6 in Class 2, No. 1 in our KRCG Small School Power Poll. Another clash with the Falcons for a district title and a berth in the quarterfinals seems likely, if not inevitable.
But more than just football, Rulo understands the bigger picture. He "gets" it.
Here's just a sample of the Rulo Rules:
"In my mind, we have an awesome opportunity to teach them that football is not life," said Rulo, in his seventh year at the South Callaway helm. "You get an awesome opportunity in this little cauldron we have to not only practice football, but practice some life skills --- dealing with adversity, learning how to come together as a group, learning to serve, learning to lead.
"Especially the seniors, you try to help those guys understand that journey. You've got to pull the curtain back and expose that everything we're doing behind the scenes is to make every year very important.
"You only get one senior year, you want to make it the most memorable year you can. By doing that, you have to serve others and the more you do that, the better your senior year's going to be."
"Every year, we really try to do our best to maximize the senior leadership. We spend a lot of time in the offseason to hopefully train our seniors to be the best leaders they can be, and this year is no exception.
"Their maturity ... physically, mentally and emotionally, I'm really proud of what they've done. I'm not even talking about how they play on the field. We want to make an impact on our community beyond football. We want them to see things a lot bigger than themselves.
"On the field, yes, we've played well. But we want them to have the understanding that there's something bigger out there than wins and losses in high school football.
Here's a bit more:
"If you use the tool of sports properly, you can teach that stuff. I'm not saying we do it perfectly, but we're definitely trying to use the tool of football to impact these kids' lives. When they leave our program, we want them to be better fathers some day, better husbands, better people. That's the whole point.
"That's not just some line we use, that's what we're really trying to do at South Callaway."
It appears to be working.
"Coach Rulo, on and off the football field, is a great man," senior running back/defensive back Garner Rudroff said. "He values your character as a person and a football athlete."
Rudroff is one of 13 seniors on this year's team.
"Being an athlete under him is awesome; he's been a great coach for me and honestly, he's been kind of like a father-figure in a lot of guys' lives on our football team," Rudroff said. "He knows what he's doing and I've learned a lot from him.
"We have "character" meetings every Thursday and he'll talk about different things ... being a better man, being a better father in the future, making smart decisions.
"I can thank him for helping me be positive, making great decisions and building my character as a person."
You tell me ... what's not to like?
NOW YOU KNOW something about Rulo and the Bulldogs outside the lines.
Inside the lines, they've been equally good.
South Callaway started the season with five straight wins, outscoring their opponents by a staggering 207-12.
"It was a blast --- when you outscore opponents by that much, it's a lot of fun," Rudroff said. "I wouldn't say it was easy, but it was fun.
"As a team, we take pride in preparing for every opponent. I would say it was more of a good game plan and great preparation than anything."
207-12, that's impressive enough. Then there's this --- the defense didn't allow a point in those 20 quarters. Zero. One score came against the special teams, the other on a fumble return.
"The defense has been the stalwart of our team; it's been carrying us so far," said Rulo, 33, a graduate of Lutheran South High School in St. Louis and the University of Missouri.
Junior Cory Hanger leads the team in tackles (55.5, 30 solo) and is tied for the team lead with two interceptions.
"He just does an amazing job of reading, running downhill and making tackles and at the same time, being able to stop the pass," said Rulo, whose team hosts Cuba (1-5) at 7 p.m. Friday. (Rod Smith and KRCG will do their live Football Friday Night previews from Mokane, by the way, at 5 and 6 p.m.)
Junior Dakoda Ballard is second on the team in tackles (44, 14), and he's racked up 14 of the Bulldogs' whopping 75 tackles for a loss.
"Our linebackers and defensive line have done a phenomenal job," Rulo said.
On offense: "If you look at our stats," Rulo said, "so many kids are doing a great job."
Hanger leads the team in rushing with 385 yards, senior Zack Marty has gained 357 and Rudroff 267. Junior quarterback Troy Hentges has rushed for 214 yards and a team-high seven touchdowns, while throwing for 561 yards and seven scores.
The offense produced 450 total yards and 33 points last week, but it wasn't enough in a 38-33 loss to Class 4 Columbia-Battle.
"It was a tough game," Rudroff said. "I think we went in and competed and showed Battle what we had, a Class 2 school playing a Class 4 school.
"We lost, but as a team, I think we're taking it in a positive direction. We're using it as a mental preparation for the playoffs, because we're not going to be facing many teams in the playoffs like that."
Said Rulo: "It was a great football game, we just ended up short. That's not something they wanted to experience, losing, by any means, but they've handled themselves pretty well this week and I'm proud of them for that."
The loss wasn't from a lack of support.
"At the Battle game, it was just so impressive how loud our fans were," Rulo said. "Typically, I never notice that during the game, but I did that night.
"We've come a long way, I'm just so blessed by the community support. You can't deny that winning helps (the Bulldogs are 47-17 under Rulo), but it's so neat to see the community rally around this team, even if they don't have a kid playing. We have alumni coming back and telling me that this is awesome, what's going on here.
"That's what's truly awe-aspiring and humbling for me, that they understand what we're trying to do and are so supportive of it."
As they should be.