NEW MADRID - When the Sikeston Bulldogs and the New Madrid County Central Eagles hook up on Friday night, it will be more than a game between two rivals.
It will also be the first game between two former high school teammates -- Chaffee High School's own Charlie Vickery and Steve Rogers.
"It brings back some memories," said Rogers. "We had some real good times together in high school. I have a lot of fond memories, he was an excellent quarterback and I think he's an even better coach."
Vickery and Rogers graduated from Chaffee High School in 1970.
The two were both three sport stars for the Red Devils. They were perhaps at their best on the gridiron, where they led the Red Devils to an 8-2 season in '69. Vickery was the quarterback and Rogers was his wide receiver.
Since that time, they have taken different paths, but they haven't strayed far from football.
Rogers went to the University of Missouri on a football scholarship and Vickery attended SEMO where he played baseball.
Rogers eventually transferred toSEMO where he finished up his college football career.
"I've known Steve since grade school and he was one of the best athletes I've ever seen," said Vickery. "He could do it all."
He was considered such a good athlete that he signed on as a free agent with the NFL Atlanta Falcons in 1976. But he fractured his wrist in training camp and returned home where he started coaching as an assistant in Blytheville.
Vickery graduated from SEMO and was immediately hired as Chaffee's head football coach in 1974. After four years at his alma mater, he became the head football coach at Sikeston in 1978.
Now, 23 years later, Rogers has his first head coaching job with the Eagles, where his team will host Vickery's Bulldogs at 7:30 Friday night.
"I'm really glad for Steve," said Vickery. "He's already done an excellent job and I think he'll continue to do so. He's a good coach and he gets along with kids well. I have nothing but good things to say about him. He knows a lot about the game and I knew he would do a good job."
Rogers has led the Eagles to a 5-0 record, marking the third year in a row that NMCC has accomplished the feat.
NMCC has dominated every opponent so far, winning by an average score of 39-10.
Sikeston is 3-2 on the season, losing in Week 1 to undefeated Jackson and falling last week to an undefeated Poplar Bluff squad 8-6.
"I think they're improved from last year," said Rogers. "They're playing real good defense, they're fundamentally sound, their special teams are excellent -- when you get in a game with Charlie it's going to be a well-coached, hard fought battle."
The Bulldogs have gotten it done with defense while the offense has struggled. Sikeston is averaging less than 200 yards per game.
"We don't have an abundance of speed -- we're okay, but we're not as fast as they are," said Vickery. "New Madrid's traditionally a very good defensive team -- they play very hard against the run. It's going to be a huge challenge for us."
Sikeston is led in rushing by junior Lavar Morgan, who has 269 yards on 51 carries.
Junior quarterback Drew Lawrence threw for a career high 135 yards last week. He has completed 26-of-46 passes for 354 yards this year.
Andrew Lambert (4 catches, 127 yards) and Larry Newman (11-122) are his top receivers.
Sikeston hasn't had too many long offensive drives this year, but Rogers is still concerned about that aspect.
"I think if we let them control the ball with long sustained drives and get some points on the board, then I think we could be in for a long evening," he said. "If we can get out and get ahead then it would be to our benefit. Turnovers will be a key. If we can keep our turnovers and our penalties down, then we've got a good chance to win the ballgame."
NMCC thrives on big plays. The Eagles are led in rushing by senior all-stater Dereke Tipler, who has 702 yards on 87 carries with 11 TDs.
Strong-armed quarterback Brian Murph has thrown for 533 yards on 25-of-55 passing with 10 scores.
Wide receiver Desmond Sims is his top target, catching seven passes for 196 yards with five TDs.
"They're just a super talented team," said Vickery. "They've got tremendous skill people everywhere and good linemen. And they have tremendous overall team speed. You've got to stop big plays. They're very difficult to contain, because if you miss a tackle then they can improvise and reverse field. They've got the athletes to do that. It's really tough to keep them from getting big plays."
Vickery's Bulldogs have been successful against the Eagles in the series, posting a 9-4 record. But NMCC has won three of the last four meetings. And some believe that this year's team is the best NMCC has ever fielded. They are currently ranked No. 4 in Class 3A.
"Like last week (against Poplar Bluff) or against Jackson, you're going against one of the best teams against the state," said Vickery. "We just consider it a huge challenge and we're looking forward to it to see how we stack up."
But Vickery downplays any personal motivation against his former teammate.
"We haven't been in high school for 30 years," said Vickery. "Really it's no more emotional than if you coached against a former assistant. We want to win them all. We want to win regardless of who's coaching."
But Rogers has a different view.
"I think you could probably ask (Vickery) at the start of the year if you were going to go 1-9, which game you would want to win," said Rogers. "I know on our schedule it's a game we look forward to because it's such a big rivalry and we're so close to each other in proximity. I would think that it's a game that we both look forward to playing, especially since I've got the job here."