NEW MADRID -- Three fumbles, two interceptions and a solid performance from Fredericktown handed New Madrid County Central its first district loss in three years on Friday night.
The visiting Blackcats ran their traditional double tight offense close to perfection, racking up 315 yards in a 21-14 win.
"You can't have five turnovers, penalties at crucial times, and expect to beat a good, fundamentally-sound team," said NMCC head coach Steve Rogers. "That's what happened tonight. We turned the ball over, we made a lot of silly penalties and mistakes, and we missed a lot of assignments. We didn't play very well. (Fredericktown) made very few mistakes, were real methodical, ran the ball hard, blocked and tackled. The better team won."
Kyle Stephens and Nick McDaniel did the most damage, rushing for 160 yards and 119 yards respectively. McDaniel carried the team on his shoulders in the fourth quarter, scoring the go-ahead touchdown with two minutes left in regulation.
"We were able to execute our gameplan on offense, and you've got to talk about our defense too," said Fredericktown head coach Kent Gibbs. "Our running backs did a good job running the football. Number one, they didn't fumble. That's the big thing. Number two, they had a lot of help tonight. We had good blocking up front."
Turnovers plagued NMCC from the outset. The Eagles fumbled the ball away on their first possession, setting Farmington up for a seven-play drive that resulted in a 13-yard TD run by Stephens.
Joaby Sikes threw a conversion pass to McDaniel to make it 8-0. The Blackcats then recovered an on-side kick. NMCC's defense forced the Blackcats to turn the ball over on downs, but another crucial fumble by the Eagles gave the ball right back to Fredericktown.
The Blackcats were able to cover 67 yards in eight plays, scoring early in the second quarter on a 15-yard reverse handoff from McDaniel to Stephens. The conversion run failed, making the score 14-0.
"They run a double-tight with two wings," explained Rogers. "They will motion one of the wings. They've got a power game, a trapping game, they can sweep out of it, they can run a reverse out of it. It's one they've run before, they ran it last year. It's nothing we haven't worked on in practice or haven't seen. They blocked at the point of attack real well and their backs ran hard."
NMCC was finally able to score on its third possession of the game. Lawrence Smith set up the score by returning a kickoff 40 yards. Five plays later, he scored on a fullback plunge from two yards out. Brandon Fields kicked the PAT to make it 14-7 with seven minutes left in the half.
NMCC got the ball back late in the second quarter, but the drive stalled at the Fredericktown 30 when a pass from quarterback Remond Willis was intercepted.
The Eagles opened the second half in impressive fashion, driving the length of the field. But an interception at the goal line turned the ball back over to the Blackcats.
"The kids played with a lot of heart and a lot of effort," said Rogers. "They've done that all year. We're just killing ourselves with silly penalties, mistakes and turnovers."
NMCC's defense was able to hold Fredericktown deep in its own territory, but Edgar Givens fumbled a Kyle Tesreau punt, keeping the Eagle defense on the field.
NMCC was able to get the ball back with 1:32 left in the third. Willis hooked up with Givens on a 32-yard screen pass, then four plays later, Bryan Williams scored from two yards out early in the fourth quarter. Fields kicked the PAT to make it 14-14.
NMCC got the ball back after a three-and-out from Fredericktown. After eight plays, the Eagles were faced with a 4th-and-3 on the Blackcats 37 yard line with 4:20 left in the game. Willis kept the ball on an option run, but fell a few inches short of the first down.
Fredericktown got the ball on their own 36 and put together the game-winning drive. McDaniel broke off a 32-yard run, caught a 21-yard pass, then scored on an 11-yard TD run with 2:10 left. Tesreau kicked the PAT to give the Blackcats a 21-14 advantage.
The Eagles attempted to tie the score with two deep bombs, but both passes were incomplete. Fredericktown took over on downs and ran out the clock to preserve the victory.
"You've got to be pleased," said Gibbs. "(NMCC) got second in the state last year. Our season hasn't gone like we've wanted it to go. It's nice to win your first district game, and it's double nice to beat New Madrid. They've got a good program and a good team."
Fredericktown improves to 3-5 on the season and 1-0 in Class 3 District 1 play. They're a plus seven in the standings and will travel to Kennett on Friday. NMCC falls to 2-6 overall and 0-1 in the district. They're a negative seven in the district standings and will travel to Dexter on Friday.
"We're a little disappointed, but we're still not out of it," said Rogers. "We've got to beat Dexter, beat Kennett, then hope some things happen. Stranger things have happened. We've put ourselves in a bad position, but it's far from being over with. Dexter is still the team to beat. If we can go over to their place and beat them, we're right back in the hunt."