SIKESTON - The Farmington Knights aren't in the Sikeston Bulldogs' district anymore, but that doesn't make the game any less important in head coach Charlie Vickery's eyes.
Farmington, which enters Friday night's game at Sikeston Public Schools Stadium with a 1-3 record, has defeated the Bulldogs in all four years they've played since the series was renewed.
Sikeston still owns a 14-9-1 edge in the series history with Farmington, but it's what the Knights have done lately against the Bulldogs that has Vickery and his team looking forward to Friday night's game.
"It's another big matchup for us because Farmington's had our number the last couple of years," said Vickery.
But even more than that, the Bulldogs are wanting to impress the hometown fans after a subpar showing two weeks ago against Dexter.
"We need to redeem ourselves at home," said Vickery. "That's probably the biggest thing. We played the poorest game we've played in a long time at home and I think we need to show the people here what type of football team we really are."
And that type of team is one with a stingy defense, solid special teams, and an offense that has struggled at times this year.
The Bulldogs statistically have the top defense among large schools in the SEMO Conference. Only small schools Hayti and Portageville have allowed fewer points.
And it is that defense that has carried Sikeston to a 3-1 record. Sikeston's special teams have controlled field position in most games with tremendous coverage, good kicking and solid returns.
"To have an outstanding football team you've got to have a good defense and I think our defense has played extremely well all year," said Vickery. "Plus our special teams have played well. That's been a big part of our success too."
The only blemish for Sikeston was a 29-3 upset loss to Dexter two weeks ago, but the Bulldog offense got on track last week against Kennett in a 27-7 victory.
"The only thing I was really disappointed in last week was the two turnovers," said Vickery. "But other than that we cut back on our penalties, we only had one, and I think our intensity level was much, much higher at Kennett than what it was the week before against Dexter."
Farmington has struggled this year under new head coach John Bacon, who served as an assistant for five years under the departed Mike Thebeau.
The Knights started the season 0-3 with losses to large schools Ladue (19-6) and Francis Howell North (14-12) and Class 3 New Madrid County Central (24-21).
Farmington picked up its first win last week with an 8-7 victory against Perryville.
The fact that two of the Knights' three losses have come by three points or less makes Bacon think his team is close to where it needs to be.
"I don't think we need to turn it around," said Bacon. "We've been going in the right direction all along, we just haven't been going as fast as we wanted to."
Bacon said most of the players from last year's team graduated. And one of the team's standouts, Dallas Bryant, didn't play this year, making things even tougher.
"We're pretty young and fairly inexperienced, so the learning curve is pretty steep for some of the guys," said Bacon. "That's probably the biggest thing. We returned two starters on offense and defense so we've got a lot of young guys learning the role as we go along."
Sikeston, on the other hand, has plenty of experience all over the field except for the offensive and defensive line.
On offense, tailback Lavar Morgan is coming off a season-high game when he rushed for 146 yards on 25 carries. He leads the team with 297 yards rushing.
Quarterback Blake DeWitt has rushed for 222 yards with four touchdowns while throwing for 263 yards with two scores.
Scotty Keenan has been the top target at receiver, catching five passes for 100 yards.
"They've got a lot of speed, got a great quarterback, a good line and receivers that can catch the football," said Bacon.
On defense, Jacob Priday continues to put up mind-boggling numbers, recording 23 tackles last week to push his season total to 80 in four games.
Defensive back Tori Rose (43 tackles), linebacker Elgin Hunt (40 tackles) and Nathan Eaves (38 tackles, 2 sacks) follow up Priday.
"Sikeston is an excellent football team," said Bacon. "Defensively they really get after it and they pursue the ball really well. We're going to have to play as well as we possibly can just to compete."
Vickery says when his team plays with emotion, it can be tough.
But if not, then another performance like the one against Dexter is possible.
"We've got to maintain that intensity level, maintain our concentration and have some emotion and enthusiasm this week," said Vickery. "If we do that then we'll play a good football game."