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Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016

Dexter rolls in Sikeston home opener

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Sikeston's B.J. Green is tackled by Dexter's Bryan Pennington.
SIKESTON - The Sikeston Bulldog football team's early season struggles continued on Friday night with a 46-7 loss to Dexter in their home opener at SPS Stadium.

The Bulldog offense showed signs up life at times, but the team defense had a major let-down, allowing 426 yards of offense to the Bearcats.

"We made a bunch of mistakes and they're a good team that capitalized on them. We didn't turn the ball over so much but we didn't maintain anything," said Sikeston coach Jerry Dement. "I thought we played a quarter and a half of pretty good football. But we played two and a half quarters of poor football. At times we looked a little better, but then we reverted back to our old ways of giving up things we shouldn't give up."

Sikeston (0-3) actually played its best football of the season when they had the score tied at 7-7 with 4:29 left in the first half.

But Dexter scored two touchdowns in the final 2:38 of the half and blew the game open in the second half.

Bearcat quarterback Kyle Espey threw for 255 yards, completing 12-of-19 passes with one interception and three touchdowns.

"I felt like our passing game might have gotten better than it did last Friday," said Dexter coach Aaron Pixley. "We were making good plays. The quarterback got flushed a few times and kept his poise and still threw the ball on the money."

And on top of that, the Dexter running game was strong as well, with 171 yards on 34 carries. Tailback Alex Becker had a game-high 146 yards rushing on 20 carries.

"He's a hard-nosed running back -- he's not blessed with a lot of talent, but he runs hard and he takes care of the football," said Pixley. "He's not very big, but they blocked well for him tonight and he had some holes to run through."

Sikeston quarterback Bryce Wibbenmeyer played his best game of the year, completing 11-of-16 passes for 102 yards. But more importantly, after throwing six interceptions in the first two weeks, he had none on Friday.

But while he played better, the Bulldog running game went backwards, literally -- netting minus-five yards on 28 carries.

Starting tailback Apollo Patterson didn't play due to an ankle injury.

His replacement, Brandon Williams, only had eight yards on eight carries and he also lost a fumble.

"I think our offensive line did a pretty good job, but we didn't run the holes very hard with our backs," said Dement. "If we get our backs to run holes a little harder that will open up more offense for us. We've got to be more aggressive in all facets of the game. We've been trying to teach that and the kids just have to buy into that philosophy."

The Bulldogs finished with a season-low 97 yards of offense on the night.

"That's amazing to hold Sikeston under 100 yards," said Pixley. "They've got good athletes out there and strong backs. For us to do that is a job well done. The one drive they scored on, Sikeston made some good plays, but I also felt like some bad penalties on us helped their cause."

Dexter led 7-0 after a Becker 8-yard run with 1:39 left in the first quarter. On Sikeston's lone scoring drive, they marched 64 yards, but the Bearcats gave them 35 yards in penalties.

Fullback Acie Dixon capped the drive with a 4-yard run, tying the game at 7-7 with 4:29 left in the half.

Dexter wasted no time on the ensuing drive as Espey needed just three plays to put the team in the end zone, finding Levi Rawson wide open in the end zone for an 18-yard touchdown with 2:38 left in the half to lead 14-7.

After forcing a Bulldog punt, Derek Roberts returned it 42 yards to the Sikeston 28.

On the very next play, Espey hit Jake Smith for a 28-yard scoring strike to extend the lead to 20-7 which they would take into halftime.

Espey was hitting his receivers with relative ease, but they were also getting wide open looks in the Bulldog secondary.

"These guys have been playing receiver for us for a few years," said Pixley. "They ought to know a few tricks of the trade by now. We stress sprinting routes -- we don't take routes off. We call very few routes where it's going to a certain kid. The quarterback's got to read the defense, they all have to be sprinting and they all have to expect the ball. I think that's the main reason (they were wide open)."

Dexter continued the onslaught in the third quarter as Becker broke a 49-yard touchdown run and Espey found Roberts for a 41-yard touchdown to lead 34-7.

The Bearcats tacked on two more scores in the fourth. Aaron Reese scored from two yards out and Zach Ventura scored from one yard out.

"I felt like we executed well for the most part," said Pixley. "The bottom line is our offensive line blocked well for us and that's the name of the game. We don't go anywhere without them so they deserve a lot of credit."

Dexter was led in receiving by Roberts' 99 yards on four catches. Tight end Aaron Lavender had 96 yards on five catches.

On the bright side for the Bulldogs, the team had their fewest penalties this year, tallying just four for 21 yards. Felante Larry led the Bulldogs with five receptions for 78 yards, including a season-long play of 42 yards on one pass play.

Dixon led the Bulldogs with 24 yards rushing on eight carries.

But other than that, there wasn't much from Friday night that the Bulldog coaches or players could enjoy.

"We have a tendency that when bad things happen we put our head down instead of fighting through them," said Dement.

"As this team matures more, we'll learn to fight through those things and do what we're supposed to do. Until then we'll continue to struggle. But we'll keep pushing, we'll keep battling and we're not going to back off on anything. We're going to do things right and teach them right until they do it right. It may take us six or seven games but we're going to keep doing it."

The loss marks the third year in a row that Sikeston has lost to Dexter, marking the Bearcats' longest winning streak ever against the Bulldogs.

Dexter will play at Malden next Friday at 7 p.m.

The road doesn't get any easier for the Bulldogs as they travel to play undefeated Jackson on Friday at 7 p.m.

"I know it was a bad butt whoopin', but at times we did some things better," said Dement.

"We've got a long way to go, obviously, that's no mistake. I'll tell you what, this coaching staff is going to redouble its efforts, and the kids that want to do it, redouble their efforts. Hopefully we'll be better as we go along. We've got a long way to go, but we're going to work our butt to get there, I'll tell you that."