(Photos by David Jenkins, Staff)
SIKESTON -- Apollo Patterson ran for a career-high 225 yards with four touchdowns as the Sikeston Bulldogs defeated Cape Central 37-8 in the season finale for both teams on Thursday night at Public Schools Stadium.
It's the Bulldogs' first victory against Cape Central since 1999, snapping a streak of four straight losses.
"It's one of those nights where the kids really played with a passion," said Sikeston coach Jerry Dement.
"We've struggled this year but we appealed to their pride just to play hard and have fun and they came out and played very intense and played well together. It was nice to finally put everything together."
West Plains made it all a moot point anyway with a 41-27 victory against Poplar Bluff to cap a 3-0 run in the district.
The Tigers finished 2-8 on the season and 1-2 in both district play and SEMO Conference play.
The Bulldogs racked up a season-high 453 yards of offense, including 364 on the ground, also a season-high.
Fullback Acie Dixon added 59 yards on 11 carries.
"I thought Apollo had an outstanding night running the football," said Dement. "He ran with heart and determination. The line blocked well for him, and his fullback Acie Dixon blocked very well, and he in turn ran the ball hard. Our running game set the tone."
Cape Central head coach Lawrence Brookins knew Sikeston had the ability to control the game up front.
"We told our kids, 'do not take this bunch lightly,'" said Brookins.
"They don't throw it well and that's why they don't throw it much. But if they don't do anything else well, they still pound the ball on the ground. They never ran away from us. We were getting hats and shoulder pads on their bodies and they were running through arm tackles. Apollo and Dixon are strong runners, real strong runners. Gosh darn they're strong. They ran through people sometimes."
The Tigers, who have dealt with injuries for the entire season, saw much of the same on Thursday as leading rusher Brandon Twiggs went down in the second quarter with an ankle injury after just five carries for 45 yards.
Quarterback Tyrone Reece, who had replaced freshman signal-caller Garrett Stevens after a hand injury forced him out last week, ended up leaving the game in the third quarter with a leg injury.
For Sikeston, it was arguably the Bulldogs' top performance of the year.
They had zero turnovers, had their most prolific game on offense in terms of yards and also the team defense kept the Tigers out of the end zone for most of the night.
The Bulldogs intercepted three Tiger passes on the night.
The Bulldogs had penalties bring back two other scores, a 95-yard kick return by Felante Larry and a 68-yard pass to tight end Ross Merideth.
On Larry's return, which would have been his third for a score this season, he caught the kick and ran untouched through the wedge but a holding penalty well behind the play nullified the score.
The pass to Merideth was a tight-end dump in which he ran most of the way, but a block-below-the-waist flag brought it back.
The Tigers had 286 yards of offense but twice had drives of more than 10 plays end on downs in the red zone.
"We've seen that over and over this year," said Brookins. "We would have a good offensive drive going and then something happens."
Sikeston jumped out to a 12-0 lead when quarterback Bryce Wibbenmeyer found Larry for a 22-yard touchdown with 8:04 left in the first quarter.
Brookins was impressed with Sikeston's combination of power and speed.
"It's kind of a thunder-and-lightning thing," said Brookins. "You've got those other two kids (Patterson and Dixon) that run over you and slam you upside the head with a brick. And then you've got Larry, who's a little jitterbug out there. You can't get a bead on that little guy -- he's quick."
Patterson set up his 1-yard TD plunge with an 83-yard jaunt with 3:40 left in the first.
On his 83-yard run, which is the longest play from scrimmage by the Bulldogs in many years, Patterson broke numerous tackles, somehow kept his feet, and burst down the sideline before being tripped at the 1-yard line.
"He broke five tackles on that one play and that set the tone for everybody," said Dement. "The kids fed off that particular play and just wouldn't be denied. Apollo finally got a 100 percent the last half of the season and figured out what he wanted to do and we're really proud of his efforts."
Patterson had 117 yards in the first quarter alone.
The Tigers cut the lead to 12-6 on a 32-yard pass from Reece to Eric Ennis with 6:42 left in the second quarter.
Sikeston responded on the ensuing kickoff with Larry's exciting return. The penalty still set the Bulldogs up with excellent field position at the Tiger 41.
Patterson added his second touchdown, a 7-yard run to extend the lead to 18-6 with 4:09 left in the half.
A safety accounted for the Tigers' only other points with 31 seconds left in the half when bad shotgun snap went into the end zone as the score was cut to 18-8.
Patterson added touchdown runs of 30 and 13 yards in the second half. A Larry interception set up the Bulldogs at the Tiger 48. Three plays later, Patterson broke loose for a 30-yard TD run with 10:33 left in the third.
Patterson added his final touchdown with 7:47 left in the fourth quarter.
Sophomore Michael Geralds scored the Bulldogs' final touchdown with 2:10 left in the game on a 4-yard run.
Reece finished 11-of-30 passing for 141 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He also rushed for 45 yards on 11 carries.
Blake Slattery relieved Reece in the third quarter and was 4-of-10 passing for 61 yards with two INTs. Ennis led the Tigers with 84 yards receiving on five catches.
It is Cape Central's worst season since 1999, Brookins first year as Tigers' head coach when the team went 1-9.
This season snapped a four-year district championship run for the Tigers.
Larry caught three passes for 79 yards. Larry finished the year third on the Bulldogs' single-season receptions list with 38, coming up just six short of Scotty Keenan's record of 44 set last season.
He finished the game with 134 all-purpose yards.
"He's kind of Mr. Excitement," said Dement of Larry. "He makes things happen. If he touches the ball eight or 10 times a game, he's going to score once or twice. We're really pleased with him. Felante's had a nice year for us."
Geralds had 31 yards rushing on four carries.
Wibbenmeyer played mistake-free as he was 4-4 passing for 89 yards with a score. He also rushed for a career-high 30 yards on two carries.
"Later in the year we decided to quit trying to be quite as diversified throwing the football," said Dement.
"We wanted to establish a tough running game first and then throw off that. That suits Bryce's abilities best and he really put the ball on the money tonight, including the long one called back."
Sikeston avoided its first 2-8 campaign since 1986 as they wound up 3-7, winning three of its final five games.
It's the Bulldogs' first seven-loss season since 1989 and it's the fewest wins they've had in a season since 1997.
"It was just a good overall effort by a lot of different kids," said Dement. "It's a good way for a lot of our seniors to go out on a positive. Many of them played their best game tonight and you can't ask for more than that. It's a good tone-setter for our juniors and sophomores in the offseason to point this program in the direction we want it to take."