SIKESTON - Heading into Friday night's 116th game with Charleston, head coach Charlie Vickery knew his Sikeston Bulldogs would have to find some way to limit the Bluejay big-play offense.
Charleston was able to break off a couple of long runs, but the Bulldogs contained the Bluejays enough to win 36-15 at Sikeston Public Schools Stadium.
While turnovers plagued the Bulldogs in last week's loss to Jackson, the roles were reversed on Friday, with Charleston turning the ball over five teams deep in their own territory.
Sikeston (1-1) had scoring drives start at the Bluejay 27-, 43-, 32- and 11-yard lines.
Meanwhile, Sikeston's coverage on special teams was nothing short of outstanding, keeping the Bluejay offense pinned deep the entire night.
"It looked like a carbon copy of (Sikeston's) game last week," said Charleston head coach Brent Anderson, whose team falls to 1-1. "You can't play defense inside your 20. If they get it that deep then they're tough to stop. We talk about ball security all the time. I don't know why we have trouble fumbling the football, we've had trouble for years. It's just unsound fundamentals on our part."
After Charleston's impressive season-opening win over Kennett last week, many felt this year would be the Bluejays' best chance to beat the Bulldogs for the first time since 1996.
Predictably, Sikeston's size and depth wore down the undermanned Bluejays in the second half.
Trailing 28-15 midway through the third quarter, quarterback Dontay Clark and tailback Jordy Mixon went down in a 30-second span with cramps and a thigh bruise respectively.
The Bluejays weren't the same after that.
"It's tough to win without those two," said Anderson. "After they went out, our offense shut down big time. (Sikeston has) more depth than what we do, but that's not an excuse. We have to be well-conditioned enough to play these kids. We've got a long way to go. I think we thought we were pretty good last week. We came out flat and took it on the chin."
After forcing a Sikeston punt to start the game, Charleston fumbled on its first play from scrimmage at their own 27. That set up a 29-yard field goal by Andrew Lambert to give Sikeston a 3-0 lead with 8:11 left in the quarter.
A 20-yard Bluejay punt gave Sikeston good field position again, leading to a three play, 43-yard scoring drive. Larry Newman caught a short pass from Drew Lawrence, got a nice downfield block from John Fuchs, and scored from 22 yards out with 5:06 left in the quarter. Lambert's extra point made it 10-0.
Later in the quarter, another Charleston fumble set up a career-long 45-yard field goal from Lambert to give the Bulldogs a 13-0 lead with 1:43 left.
Sikeston's offense was improved from last week, gaining 222 yards, but head coach Charlie Vickery thinks there is still room to get better.
"We did better offensively but we didn't get as many (points) as we should've gotten," said Vickery. "We sputtered a little bit but I think we'll get better there. The same thing happened to (Charleston) tonight that happened to us last week. They had poor field position and we were fortunate enough to get some scores."
After the Bulldogs appeared poised to run away with the game, Charleston's big-play offense struck. They scored on an unbelievable 75-yard run by Clark, in which he was backed up near his own end zone on a busted play. After a series of jukes and jives, Clark was able to elude everybody. Paul Brown's kick made it 13-7 with 1:13 left in the first quarter.
Neither team was able to get much going for most of the second quarter.
But Sikeston scored with 1:16 left in the half when they drove 51 yards in five plays. Junior Lavar Morgan, who was switched from receiver to tailback this week, scored on a 40-yard run. The TD run was his second career varsity carry.
On the night, Morgan led Sikeston in rushing with 60 yards on seven carries.
He provided a much-needed boost to a punchless offense in the second quarter, giving the Bulldogs a 20-7 lead.
"(Morgan) just gives us an added dimension with some extra speed back there," said Vickery. "He's still learning -- he started out as a wide receiver and he played some in the jayvee game on Tuesday night for his first carries. Heath (Hunter) is the power runner and Lavar can turn it on outside, but he also runs well inside. He's going to keep getting better as he gets more experience."
Charleston wasted little time scoring in the second half, with Mixon bursting through the line of scrimmage on their second play for a 77-yard touchdown run. Clark's two-point conversion run on a fake extra point attempt trimmed Sikeston's lead to 20-15.
But after that, Charleston's offense was bottled up for most of the night by the Bulldog defense.
"I thought our defense again played extremely well," said Vickery. "A team like that is going to be hard to hold down the entire night. They had a couple of big plays on us but other than that I thought defensively we played a heck of a ballgame."
Besides Clark and Mixon's long TD runs, Sikeston held the Bluejay rushing attack to 133 yards on 45 carries.
Mixon had a game-high 170 yards on 16 carries. Clark had 93 yards on 13 carries.
"Sikeston's got a lot better ballclub than everyone's going to give them credit for," said Anderson. "But those boys can play, period. They kicked our butts and made us like it. I think we're a pretty decent football team, we made some mistakes, but I tip my hat to them. Coach Vickery and (defensive coordinator Jerry) Dement had them ready to go. That's as good a front eight as we'll see all year -- and they handed us our lunch."
After Mixon's long run to start the second half, Sikeston answered right back with a five-play, 58-yard drive. Josh Monroe's 11-yard run capped the drive. Hunter scored the two-point conversion run to open up a 28-15 lead for the Bulldogs.
Later in the third quarter, with Mixon and Clark out of the game, Charleston fumbled the ball at their own 11-yard line. Sikeston scored in two plays, with Monroe recording his second TD, this time from four yards out with 11 seconds left in the quarter. Lawrence's two-point conversion pass to Justin Freeman made the score 36-15.
Hunter, still bothered by a bad ankle, rushed for 37 yards on 15 carries. Monroe had 42 yards on seven carries.
Lawrence was 5-of-10 passing for 68 yards with one TD and one interception. Rotating quarterback Blake DeWitt was 0-3 passing.
Newman caught three passes for 60 yards.
"We like to throw a little bit more than that, but we got the lead on them," said Vickery. "We're going to have to be able to continue to mix it up. We've got good receivers and the protection's been good. Charleston's a good football team, there's no question about that. They're much-improved up front and they're loaded in the backfield. This was a huge win. It wasn't a Charleston team that we felt we could dominate. We knew we would have to play very, very well to win the ballgame."
Sikeston will travel to Dexter next Friday while Charleston hosts Caruthersville.