CHARLESTON - The Charleston Bluejays and the Portageville Bulldogs will meet tomorrow night at Marshall Stadium at 7:00 in a rematch of last year's Class 2 sectional game.
Charleston won last year's game 27-6, but the Bulldogs will enter tomorrow night's contest as the favorite after rolling to an 8-1 record and a No. 7 ranking in the state.
"They're obviously a great football team, their record shows that," said Charleston head coach Brent Anderson. "Their one loss was to a great football team."
Other than a 28-7 loss to Bruceton (Tenn.), the Bulldogs have hammered every opponent on the schedule, including SEMO South rival Hayti 20-7.
Portageville has won by an average score of 36 to 13 this season. They won the SEMO South division and swept Class 2, District 1 for the second straight year.
"The first thing that comes to mind for me is that they are extremely disciplined, which is a component that comes from the head coach," said Anderson. "Everything they do, they do real well. They don't make many mistakes and they force you into a lot of mistakes."
Charleston on the other hand started out 1-5 before winning its last four to even its record at 5-5. The Bluejays have won three straight Class 2, District 2 championships.
The Bluejays win by an average score of 28 to 25.
But an impressive run through the district has Portageville head coach Jim McKay worried.
"They somewhat remind me of Caruthersville," said Portageville head coach Jim McKay. "They've got good speed, good size, they're physical and they're hot right now. They look pretty good on film. But we are look forward to playing them. Last year they came to our place and beat us. Maybe we can return the favor."
The Bulldogs use a rotating system with their running backs. Sophomore Antonio Scott leads the charge with 828 yards with 11 touchdowns. Aaron Bidewell follows up with 625 yards with 12 TDs. Kyle Ezell, who has been nursing a sore ankle but is expected to play, adds 577 yards with six TDs.
Bidewell is also the leading receiver, catching 18 passes for 336 yards and three scores.
Quarterback Lance Penn has been efficient, completing 29-of-60 for 500 yards with five scores and three interceptions.
But even with all these weapons, Anderson says stopping the Bulldogs' offensive line is Priority One.
"They've got four or five kids that do a great job of running the football, but the key to them is what they do up front," said Anderson. "We want to neutralize their offensive line and try to get to the football."
But the Bluejays have been crowing on their own offensive line this year. The front five dominated the district championship game against Scott City to the tune of 384 yards on the ground.
The most notable ball carrier is senior tailback Orrice Stanback, who is one of the state's leaders in rushing with 1,979 yards with 21 TDs.
"We'll have a hard time stopping him," said McKay. "But that's what we're going to try to do. We've got to stop Stanback, everybody I've talked to said that's who you have to stop. But that's not as easy as it sounds."
Fullback Paul Brown helps keep the pressure off Stanback with the dive play. Brown had 98 yards last week to lift his season total to 401 yards rushing with five TDs.
Backup fullback Dadrian Jones follows up with 167 yards rushing.
Quarterback A.H. Marshall has thrown for 779 yards on 39-of-91 passing with five scores and six interceptions. He also has run the option effectively for 278 yards with three scores.
"They've got outstanding speed in that backfield and that concerns me," said McKay. "They've got a pretty good sized bruising fullback, he's a good runner and a good blocker. They run the option quite a bit. We'll have our hands full but we're looking forward to it."
And with all the talented skill players that will be on display, Anderson thinks the real show will take place in the trenches tomorrow night.
"They're every bit as good up front," said Anderson. "It's going to be a real war there. They've got excellent offensive and defensive lines, but I wouldn't trade ours for anybody else's either. It's going to be a great matchup up front. There's going to be two great offensive lines going against each other."