Craft entered the season as the most highly touted player in the area and the senior came through with another big season. He passed for a career-high 2,097 yards, completing 116-of-205 passes with 12 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He also set a career-high in rushing, leading all area quarterbacks with 456 yards on 120 carries with seven touchdowns. And for good measure, he might have been the top free safety in the area.
Playing in the deep Bootheel, Jackson has been a blip under the radar the last two years despite putting up big numbers. That all changed in 2003 when he became known around the state with his phenomenal senior year coupled with Caruthersville's meteoric rise to the state semifinals. With a running style that reminds us of Barry Sanders, he rushed for 2,645 yards on 266 carries, to average a whopping 9.9 yards per tote. Further showing his versatility, he caught 22 passes for 341 yards and he scored 35 touchdowns.
If Jackson is like Barry Sanders, then Willis is like Jim Brown. Willis quietly put together one of the greatest seasons by an NMCC running back ever. At 6-1, 220 pounds, he was bigger than most teams' offensive linemen as he ran through and over opposing defenses. He bulldozed his way to 2,002 yards rushing on 262 carries with 24 touchdowns.
Living up to his family's strong running back tradition, Tinsley provided the Mules with the breakaway rushing threat the team needed. With good vision and great cutback moves, Tinsley was a threat to break long runs at any time. He rushed for 1,082 yards on 139 carries with 13 touchdowns.
The Bulldogs entered the season lacking a go-to player on offense. But Keenan stepped up and became Sikeston's top playmaker this year. The senior broke school records with 44 catches and 786 receiving yards while catching five TDs. The totals are even more impressive considering the Bulldogs had an open date and the fact that the team didn't start throwing much until Week 4.
While Tinsley garnered many of the headlines, Heuiser may have been the team's MVP as he led the area with 840 receiving yards on 42 catches with 10 touchdowns. Heuiser simply didn't drop passes and his run after catch average was impressive.
Klaproth not only had the size, but he added agility and good footwork to that size which made him one of the top linemen in the area. Playing left tackle, QB Mark Gum never had to worry about getting blindsided. Klaproth was first team all-conference.
Neels was a three-year starter for the Tigers. He was a strong presence on both offense and defense, but his true value to the Tigers was on the offensive line. He gave Craft days to throw the ball and he also cleared plenty of holes for the Tiger running backs.
When Dexter coach Aaron Pixley said, "he's the best center I've ever had," that was enough for us. The stout, compact Grovenor was explosive coming off to block. Grovenor was selected first team all-conference and all-region.
The Bulldogs' offensive line was completely rebuilt this year, but Holt was the one that kept things from falling apart. The senior center was called on to lead the way for the younger linemen. He also was solid on shotgun snaps, which the Bulldogs used several times this year. Holt was first team all-conference and first team all-region.
Whether it be rushing or receiving, Givens was one of the most versatile players in the area. Whatever the Eagles needed, they simply plugged him into a spot and watched him go to work. But most of his damage was done at tight end, where he caught 23 passes for 442 yards with six touchdowns. He also rushed for 226 yards on 46 carries with three touchdown.
The Mules had one of their best regular seasons in school history, and one of the main reasons for that success was the kicking ability of Edington. His powerful and accurate leg booted 7-of-11 field goals, including a long of 51 yards. He also was 36-of-38 on extra points, setting a school record for most made PATs.
The Bulldogs knew they would go only as far as Scott would take them. Unfortunately for Portageville, Scott suffered injuries in the latter stages of the season. It resulted in the Bulldogs going 0-3 in district play, further showing his value to the team. He still rushed for 1,202 yards on 176 carries while scoring 18 touchdowns.
McNeely was the top reason for the Indians' turnaround year as the defensive end wreaked havoc on opposing quarterbacks. He had 62 tackles, with 21 going for a loss. He also had 11 sacks and blocked two punts. He is largely considered the top defensive player in the region.
At 5-11, 280 pounds, Johnson was an immovable object for opposing offensive linemen. The all-state wrestler is agile for his size and he's quick to the ball as he became one of the top run-stoppers in the area, recording 71 tackles and one sack.
Waters stats speak for themselves, 85 tackles, 10 sacks and four fumble recoveries. But sometimes there's more to players than a good stat line. Waters had a knack for coming up with huge plays and always having a knack of being in the right place. One that stands out what his play against Cape Central, when a fumble landed right in Waters' hands to seal the win in overtime.
The Caruthersville football team was one of the most athletic teams in the entire area. But perhaps the purest athlete of the bunch was Kimble on the defensive line. The senior recorded 75 tackles and had 12 quarterback sacks.
He may not have put up quite the numbers that he had in his all-state season last year, but Priday cemented his reputation as one of the top linebackers in the region with another stellar season. He recorded 109 tackles with two interceptions and terrified opposing ball carriers with his vicious, head-hunting hits.
Although he's not the biggest linebacker around, Covington was certainly one of the best in the area. The all-conference senior was more lauded for his offensive prowess last season. But this year he was a big difference-maker for the Indians, recording 45 tackles with one sack. He was first team all-conference.
At a mere 5-7, 155 pounds, Cecil wasn't an imposing sight on the football field. But watch him play and you'll understand. Trust us. He recorded over 100 tackles for the Tigers, but he is most remembered for his devastating hits. Some of his hits had such an impact on a game, that it turned the momentum in the Tigers' favor.
With a name like Thrower in Dexter, he had better be good. And he was. Thrower was easily the team's most consistent player, recording 70 tackles with one fumble recovery and one interception. He was first team all-conference.
Playing in Class 1, Moore was simply a man among boys. More known for his wide receiver skills, Moore could turn a whole game around from his defensive back position as well. He had 33 tackles with two fumble recoveries, two interceptions, three blocked punts and one sack. He may be the best athlete in the entire area. Whenever he did force a turnover, he would make it count as he had a couple defensive touchdowns.
Kennett's defensive front wasn't very stout this year, but whenever opposing runners would break through, Jones was the last line of defense. The 5-9 speedster also had four interceptions and broke on the ball extremely well.
Marshall isn't real fast or quick, but he simply got the job done from his defensive back position. The first team all-conference senior, who also played quarterback, recorded 72 tackles and had five pass break ups. On top of it all, he recorded five sacks, a rarity from a defensive back.
Overshadowed for most of his career by his field goal kicking twin brother Colin, Clay came into his own this season by averaging 38 yards per punt. He didn't just punt well for distance, he also had good hang time and good accuracy, capable of keeping it away from return men.
In a matter of two years, Gilmore went from an unknown coach to a hot commodity. After leading Hayti to a runner up finish in 2002, Gilmore took on the challenge of trying to turn a struggling Caruthersville program around. Mission accomplished in one year as he led the Tigers to their first conference and district title since 1994. The team eventually finished 11-2 before losing in the semifinals to top-ranked Centralia.