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Saturday, Dec. 20, 2014

Sikeston faces oldest rival

Thursday, September 11, 2003

(Photo)
A.H. Marshall
Bulldogs look for first win against Bluejays

SIKESTON - As far as longevity, no other rivalry tops the Sikeston-Charleston game, which is 117 games strong.

But it's the one-sidedness of the rivalry which takes some of the excitement away from the series. Sikeston leads 82-31-4.

And the Bulldogs don't appear to be slowing down as they've taken 12 of the last 13 games and 21 of the last 25 under Sikeston coach Charlie Vickery.

The Bluejays are hoping to change their fortunes on Friday night when they travel to Sikeston Public Schools Stadium for a 7:30 kickoff.

(Photo)
Scotty Keenan
"It's a long rivalry," said Charleston head coach Brent Anderson. "We're right up against each other on the map. There's a lot of bad blood, a lot of good blood and a lot of mutual respect. That's the way I look at it."

Things are certainly looking good in Bluejay Country after defeating SEMO Central rival Kennett 22-7 last week. The win was impressive enough to break into the Class 2 state rankings at No. 6 this week.

"They're a very dangerous team, like the Charleston teams in the past, except they have so much more experience on the line," said Vickery. "They are a very, very good football team."

Meanwhile the Bulldogs couldn't feel any worse after Week 1's 12-7 upset loss to Jackson.

Sikeston's offense managed just 109 total yards, leaving Vickery a little leery heading into tomorrow's game.

"We really struggled last week," he said. "I don't think right now we match up very well (with Charleston) at all. They've got so much more experience and they're bigger up front and they have a lot of quickness in their defense."

Much of the Bulldogs' problem was inexperience at the skill positions, particularly at quarterback where converted tight end Stephen Miller was making his first career start.

Vickery thought Miller's struggles last week were just a matter of him getting his feet wet.

"I don't know if he can shake off the cobwebs, but I think he's definitely got the ability to do the job," said Vickery. "We haven't lost confidence in him and I feel very comfortable with him back there. I think he's going to get better each week."

But it wasn't just Miller.

The Bulldogs couldn't sniff anything on the ground either as they accumulated just 83 yards rushing on 37 carries.

Anderson said it's just a matter of time before the Bulldog offense starts to click.

"I think they've got a good scheme," said Anderson. "They've got some new guys at new positions and they're still trying to feel each other out. But you can see the potential there for them to become pretty explosive. The Miller kid at quarterback is just a hair away from being a really good one. Offensively they'll be fine, but hopefully they won't be fine until after us."

The Bluejay offense wasn't exactly running on all cylinders either as they racked up just 64 yards rushing on 34 attempts and just 59 yards passing.

"We didn't feel like we played very well last week," said Anderson. "We shot ourselves in the foot with a lot of penalties. You can't do that and expect to compete with a team like Sikeston or Kennett. We really feel fortunate to have gotten out of there with a win."

Sophomore Bobby Clark led the Bluejay ground game with 21 yards on 15 carries. He along with Jeff Hemphill, Trentez Lane and James Williams shared the load in an effort to replace 2,000-yard rusher Orrice Stanback.

"Year in and year out Charleston is going to reload at running back," said Vickery. "I've never seen them have a poor running back in the years I've been here. Stanback was certainly a load and an outstanding player. But they're going to replace him just like they do every year."

Sikeston also ran a platoon system at running back last week. Apollo Patterson led the way with 31 yards on 10 carries. Nathan Eaves and Jacob Priday also carried the ball.

Excluding quarterback sacks, Miller carried nine times for 32 yards with a touchdown.

"Everyone they have seems like a pretty good athlete and can hit it up there pretty good, and if they need to get to the edge and use their speed," said Anderson.

Charleston quarterback A.H. Marshall was just 4-of-14 passing for 28 yards, but he did show some playmaking ability when he caught a 31-yard touchdown pass from Hemphill.

"He was young last year coming in, but now he's got some experience," said Vickery. "He's a tough, hard-nosed kid. He's going to make plays. If you sit back and try to play the pass, then he's going to run the football."

Lost in the talk of both teams' struggles on offense was the fact that they both had stellar performances on the defensive side of the ball.

The Bulldogs held Jackson to six points on offense and just 126 total yards. The Bulldogs also forced three turnovers, including two interceptions by Scotty Keenan, blocked an extra point and stopped a two-point conversion.

"Their defense is always a pretty good one," said Anderson. "They really rally to the football. They get 11 hats to the football nearly every snap. They have good kids that are aggressive and know football. You can tell they're very well-versed in their defense. Hopefully our defense can match them punch for punch."

Charleston held Kennett to 194 yards of offense, but they did allow 167 yards on the ground to the Indians.

Anderson is hoping his team can cut down on turnovers and penalties. Last week they lost two fumbles and were penalized 98 yards.

"It's just going to be one of those games where turnovers and penalties play a large part," said Anderson. "I think special teams will be important too. Those are going to be the three main ingredients to see who comes out on top."

As for the hoopla and the festivities surrounding the 118th game this year -- Vickery didn't mince words.

"This is a huge game for us and our backs are against the wall," he said.