Bearcats face Class 3 power in sectionals
STE. GENEVIEVE - It's been a dream season for the Dexter Bearcats.
The team won its first district championship since 1992. They won their first outright SEMO Central title since 1987. And, at 8-2, they posted the team's best record since 1987.
But the Bearcats will be put to the test when they face their toughest opponent since Week 3 when they travel to Ste. Genevieve tonight for a Class 3 Sectional game at 7 p.m.
Ste. Genevieve, 9-1 and ranked No. 6 in Class 3, has put together its best season in a number of years.
The Dragons, a perennial power in Class 3, have won 11 district championships since 1985 and they won a state championship in 1992.
Ste. Genevieve defeated the Bearcats in the sectional that year 40-20, the last time the two teams met.
The two teams' only other meeting came in the 1990 sectional, a 21-13 Dragon win.
This year's Ste. Genevieve team has posted three shutouts and have won by an average score of 43 to 8. The Dragons' only loss came to top-ranked Class 2 Lutheran North 41-27.
One of the Dragons' more impressive wins came against Park Hills Central, a 53-14 wipeout of the state-ranked Rebels.
Ste. Genevieve and Dexter only have one common opponent in Fredericktown. The Dragons beat the Blackcats 39-8 in Week 6 while Dexter won 15-12 last week in the district championship.
Dexter is averaging 29 points per game while allowing 10. The Bearcats lost their first two games of the year to Poplar Bluff (24-21 on a last second field goal) and Arkansas power Gosnell (28-7).
Dexter started its winning streak with a season-turning 29-3 win against state-ranked Sikeston. From that point on Dexter has allowed just 45 points.
Now the Bearcats will be going for their first sectional victory since 1987, but they will have to find a way to contain the balanced offensive attack of Ste. Genevieve.
"They throw the ball well and they have a power running game," said Dexter head coach Aaron Pixley. "Their quarterback doesn't have a great arm, but he's very accurate. He throws to big receivers and they catch it. Their offensive line is not huge, but they really get after you. They have a formidable offense."
Ste. Genevieve quarterback Brad Arnold has put together an all-state-type year. He broke the school passing record with 2,028 yards, completing an amazing 72 percent (138-of-192) while tossing 26 touchdowns to just two interceptions.
His 72 percent completion rate is the highest in state history according to the 2001-02 MSHSAA Records Book.
"He's been a tremendous asset to our football team," said Ste. Genevieve head coach Bob Stolzer of Arnold. "We're able to throw the ball and we've got very good running backs that can run. We've got a real great balance offensively."
Arnold's favorite targets are 6-foot-4 split end Matt Bader (47 catches, 687 yards, 9 TDs) and 6-foot-3 tight end Seth Fallert (28-404, 5 TDs).
Tailback Adam Schwent leads the ground game with 535 yards on 60 carries with 11 scores. Fullback Aaron Browne had 445 yards rushing with six scores.
"I've been pleasantly happy so to speak," said Stolzer. "We had a great number of seniors that we lost. And going into this year we had a lot of question marks. But we've had kids step into various positions that were vacated by graduation last year and they've gone beyond any expectations we had for them."
The Dragons have been just as stellar on defense where Schwent, Browne and Dave Armstrong lead the charge.
"Very, very solid," said Pixley of the Dragons' defense. "They have an excellent run defense. They play well across the defensive line and the linebackers do a good job of filling the gaps. It's going to take a great effort from our kids."
It may take an even greater effort since Dexter standout running back and linebacker Matt Burnett is not expected to play.
Burnett, who has 1,470 yards rushing with an area-leading 26 touchdowns this year, reinjured his knee in last week's game against Fredericktown.
Garrett Williams (59 carries, 231 yards) will most likely start in Burnett's place.
"I'm sure they're concerned with their injury problems," said Stolzer. "He's an awful big part of their offense, but in the event he's not ready I'm sure they'll make the necessary adjustments to do what they need to do in order to move the ball offensively."
With all of Ste. Genevieve's tradition and district dominance, the Dragons haven't won a sectional game since beating New Madrid County Central in 1998 14-0.
Stolzer is hoping that will change this year.
"In our jamboree this year our kids played very well and we were just running generic defenses," said Stolzer. "But our kids didn't give up a whole lot and right there it certainly showed that maybe we could be fairly decent this year. Lo and behold here we end up as district champions, 9-1 and playing in the sectional game."