(Photos by Tim Jaynes, Staff)
SIKESTON -- With nothing to play for but personal pride, the Sikeston Bulldogs showed they still had some fight left in them.
In a game that had no playoff ramifications, the Bulldogs shocked a Cape Central Tiger team that had already clinched the Class 4, District 1 championship, 25-14 on Thursday night at SPS Stadium.
Even though Cape Central's season is still going and Sikeston's is over, one couldn't tell after Thursday's game.
Sikeston's players were celebrating. Cape Central looked depressed.
"Fortunately they've been able to walk off the field for the last time with their heads held high. To our kids' credit, they came out and played with a lot of determination. We talked to them all week about the only thing we had to play for was pride in themselves, the school and the team. That was enough to motivate them to play hard."
And on the other side of the spectrum, Cape Central coach Lawrence Brookins was left searching for answers as his team heads into a Wednesday sectional matchup against Farmington.
"I have no excuse for why we played like this," said Brookins. "I don't have any answer. I have no idea. We had a good week of practice. I can't explain it. We're 4-5 coming into this thing and now we're 4-6. We're fighting for our life, fighting for our name. We haven't earned the right to look past anybody. We warned against that and we kept them focused on the Bulldogs. We never even mentioned Farmington.
"We were hoping to use this as a springboard into that playoff game next week against a great Farmington team. If we play like this next Wednesday night, they'll beat us by 100."
While it was a disappointing season for the Bulldogs with a 2-8 record, going out on a winning note gives Dement and his players some hope for the future.
"We've been a struggling program and hopefully this will help a little bit," said Dement. "Cape might have overlooked us because they were already playoff-
bound and here we had been struggling. That's human-nature sometimes."
After playing to a 7-7 tie at halftime, Sikeston totally dominated the second half.
Following a Tiger fumble on their opening possession of the half, Sikeston took control of the game.
Junior running back Gavilan Bland punched in a 3-yard touchdown and he scored later in the quarter after a 13-play drive with another 3-yard run to push the Bulldog lead to 19-7.
Sikeston iced the game in the fourth quarter after an 11-play drive capped by a Jerod Scott 1-yard run to give the Bulldogs a 25-7 lead with 1:56 left.
Cape Central (4-6) tacked on a touchdown with 35 seconds left to reach the final margin.
"In the second half I was really pleased that the offensive line came to life and got off the football and that let us do some things with clock management," said Dement. "Once we got the lead, we were able to move the chains, keep the clock running and score."
Cape Central started the scoring on the night after Sikeston roughed the punter to keep a drive alive.
The Tigers eventually scored on a 1-yard plunge by Derek Walker with 11:16 left in the second quarter.
Sikeston tied the game later in the quarter when quarterback Charlie Bohannon hit Joey Williams for a 39-yard touchdown pass. The play capped a 10-play, 91-yard drive in which, at one point, Bohannon scrambled for his life to avoid a safety only to find Michael Payne for an 18-yard gain.
Bohannon threw for 95 yards by halftime.
He only attempted one pass in the second half as Sikeston was trying to run out the clock after taking the lead.
Bohannon finished with one of his most productive games, going 7-of-9 passing for 100 yards and a touchdown.
His only mistake was a fumble in the second quarter.
"Charlie did a good job of managing the game," said Dement. "He made very few mistakes and I think he grew up some tonight."
Scott and Bland both finished with 47 yards rushing. As a team, Sikeston rushed for 154 yards and finished with 254 yards of total offense.
The Bulldog defense, however, may have been the star of the game, limiting the Tigers to just 128 yards of total offense, including 25 yards rushing on 25 carries.
The defense also recorded five quarterback sacks, intercepted three passes and recovered a fumble.
"I really think the story of the night though was our defensive line putting pressure on the quarterback," said Dement. "We not only got some sacks, but we pressured them into some interceptions. The defense really rose to the occasion tonight. I thought our defensive coaches (Andy) McGill, (Jay) Eckert and (Terrance) Sterling put together a good plan against their spread offense and I'm very pleased with that aspect of it."
Sikeston's defense pressured Cape Central quarterback Blake Slattery all night long.
The area's leading passer, Slattery finished with just 46 yards on 4-of-10 passing with two interceptions before leaving the game in the third quarter with an injury.
Despite his team's struggles, Dement said his team never gave up.
"The key to success in any season, you can't control talent, but you can control the will to prepare to win," said Dement. "That's something we have to reemphasize and get our kids to believe in. Everybody wants to win, but you have to want to prepare to win."
The victory marks the second time Sikeston has won the final game of the season against a team that had already clinched the district championship.
Sikeston defeated Poplar Bluff 34-14 in 1993 after the Mules had clinched the title.
The Tigers' loss denied the team a share of the SEMO North Conference title. Jackson and Poplar Bluff will share the conference championship.