Following the death of senior classmate Jason Schafer, who was killed in a car accident last Sunday, the Indians dedicated Friday night's Homecoming game against Sikeston in his name.
In what was a true test of Jackson's emotional fortitude, the Class 5 No. 3 ranked Indians held off SEMO Conference rival Sikeston 28-8 to improve to 4-0 on the season.
Jackson coach Carl Gross said his team didn't play with the same intensity as normal, but he said it was still a satisfying performance against a pesky Sikeston team that seemed up to the challenge of stopping the Indians' strong running game, holding them to a season-low 192 yards on 41 carries.
"Coach (Jerry) Dement's always going to have Sikeston ready to play and tonight he did," said Gross. "They played physical up front all night long -- you know we didn't run through them like crap through a goose. He's making them better and I admire him for that. We weren't picking up eight yards a whack like normal. I know I saw their big tackles in the backfield a lot tonight. They had a good scheme of putting all those people in the box and threatening us to throw it."
Similar to their two previous losses to Charleston and Dexter, the Bulldogs played tough for a quarter and a half as they trailed the Indians 7-0 late in the second quarter.
But a two minute stretch saw the Indians put 14 points on the board for a comfortable 21-0 halftime lead.
"I've been on that other sideline that Coach Dement's on, and when something like that happens to your football team and things haven't gone like you want, a lot of times you're thinking, 'here it goes again,'" said Gross. "That was a big momentum swing in our favor."
But Sikeston's defense hung tough in the second half, only allowing a touchdown on a short drive after a fumble set them up six yards from the end zone with 3:56 left.
Sikeston limited the Indians to 290 yards of offense, the lowest total the Bulldogs' defense has allowed this year.
"I thought our coaches did a good job this week of putting kids in positions to make the plays," said Dement. "Now we've just got to make them. I don't fault the kids' efforts whatsoever. We asked them to play as hard as they could every play and I feel satisfied that they did. It was a lot better effort defensively. We attacked instead of sitting back. We got a little bit better tonight and I told the kids that. We hate to lose, but we got a little better."
Jackson got on the board early in the game as they took the opening drive 69 yards for a touchdown.
Running back Austin Bock accounted for all of the Indians' offensive yardage as he ran eight straight times for 49 yards, capped by his 3-yard run for the score.
Sikeston also had 20 yards in penalties on the drive.
The Bulldogs would keep the Indians scoreless until Jason Meystedt capped an 85-yard drive with a 1-yard plunge with 4:34 left in the half.
The play was set up by a 43-yard pass to tight end Brad Crader.
After a quick three-and-out, a 16-yard Bulldog punt gave the Indians excellent field position at the Bulldog 38. A 37-yard pass to Neil Grossheider set up a 1-yard TD run by Bock to give the Indians a 21-0 lead heading into halftime.
Meystedt's 11-yard TD run late in the third quarter gave Jackson a commanding 28-0 lead.
Sikeston got its only score on an Acie Dixon 9-yard run with 2:55 left in the game.
Apollo Patterson caught the two-point conversion pass.
The play was set up by a Bryce Wibbenmeyer pass to Felante Larry, who shook three tackles and somehow stayed on his feet for a 52-yard burst down the sideline before being pushed out of bounds at the 9.
Larry finished with five receptions for 89 yards. He had 170 all-purpose yards on the night.
Wibbenmeyer played his second straight solid game despite turning the ball over twice -- once on a blindside sack which resulted in a fumble, and another on an interception in the third quarter.
He was 6-of-17 passing for 91 yards.
Dixon led the team in rushing with 42 yards on nine carries. "Their big fullback, Acie Dixon, ran hard and was a big old bull tonight," said Gross.
But the Bulldog running game sputtered all night, getting just 60 yards on 30 carries.
Dement was also displeased with numerous botched opportunities that could have resulted in points.
"We had a chance to make a couple big plays early to really get us in it," said Dement.
"We overthrew a possible touchdown pass. We dropped another one right in our hands. And then we had an interception chance that we didn't catch. Those three plays could've given us some momentum and some confidence against a good team."
Bock led the Indians with 66 yards on 14 carries. Meystedt had 55 yards on nine carries.
Quarterback Joey Starke was 4-of-11 passing for 98 yards. He was picked off once by defensive back Robbie Howard.
"I got a little bit conservative tonight and I probably shouldn't have," said Gross.
"But the first time we threw the football their corner almost picked it off on us. Gosh, we ought to be able to run the dad-gum football. (Dement) had a good plan, he put 10 people in the box and I should've thrown it 30 times tonight.
"But I got conservative on it, we had the lead and our defense was playing well."
Sikeston finished with 151 yards of offense and tallied just five first downs.
But the team had their fewest penalties of the year with just three and matched their lowest turnover total with two.
"We battled a good team well all the way to the end and I'm proud of our effort," said Dement. "We're still not running the football effectively and we dropped too many passes on the offensive side. We clean those things up, then we've got a chance to move the ball.
"Jackson has a class program. They probably had a chance to do a little more than they did against us. Their program and their coaching staff are class acts and I'm appreciative of that. My hat's off to them, they've got a good ballclub."