CHARLESTON - Friday night's football matchup between Charleston and Caruthersville will feature one program that's on the rise and another that's trying to stay on top.
Charleston, owners of three straight district championships, have laid claim as one of the premier Class 2 teams in Southeast Missouri.
Caruthersville, with two impressive victories to start the 2003 season, are hoping to keep the resurgence going at Marshall Stadium Friday night at 7:30.
David Gilmore, who guided the Hayti Indians to the Class 1 state championship game last season, is running things in Caruthersville now.
"We're no-huddle and we try to move the ball as quickly as we can," said Gilmore. "We preach to our kids that we're playing basketball on grass. We're full-court pressing. We call our offense the machine and we just want to keep the machine rolling."
So far, so good for Gilmore's offense.
The Tigers have eclipsed the 50-point mark in each of their first two games.
But they will be hard-pressed to turn that trick against the Bluejays, who broke into the Class 2 state rankings after Week 1, but lost to arch rival Sikeston last Friday 21-12.
"Sikeston was able to run the ball pretty effectively on (Charleston)," said Gilmore. "With our running back Jimmy Jackson, we hope to get him enough touches to do some similar things that Apollo (Patterson) did last week against them. With our spread offense, we ought to be able to utilize some space and get some key blocks to spring Jimmy a couple times."
Jackson, a 1,500-yard rusher last year, has picked up where he's left off. He has 531 yards rushing on 36 carries for nearly 15 yards per carry. He broke out of the gates in Week 1 against Lone Oak, Ky., for 323 yards on 20 carries.
Also, quarterback Rogers VanAusdall has throw for 338 yards, completing 23-of-31 with four touchdowns and two interceptions.
"We try to wear people out by the third and fourth quarter," said Gilmore. "If you look at our record so far, we've out-scored our opponents 75-15 in the second half. That's where we've won our first two ballgames."
Meanwhile, the Bluejays have struggled offensively.
Freshman Joseph Watts has found the most success after two games, rushing for 56 yards on 15 carries with a touchdown last week against Sikeston.
Bobby Clark, Trentez Lane and quarterback A.H. Marshall have all run with minimal success, combining for 99 yards on 43 carries.
But the Bluejays were able to move the ball through the air last week as Marshall was 12-of-24 passing for 145 yards.
Tight end Ashton Farmer, at 6-foot-6, provides matchup nightmares for smaller defensive backs, as does 6-foot-3 freshman receiver Justin Clark.
Farmer leads the team with nine catches for 93 yards.
"They've got probably the tallest receiving corps that we're going to see this year," said Gilmore. "Anytime you've got two kids like that, it causes problems. I know Coach (Brent) Anderson is used to playing power football, but I can see he's trying to utilize those big guys in the passing game."
While Caruthersville's offense has been rolling the defense has allowed 21 points per game, something that Gilmore thinks will improve.
"We're putting people on the field that can run to the football," said Gilmore. "We're not concerned about what grade they're in or how big they are -- we want 11 guys to the football, and be mean when you get there. That's what I lived on my four years at Hayti and that's what we're doing here at Caruthersville."
Charleston's team has been carried by its defense so far this year. The Bluejays limited Kennett to just seven points in Week 1. And they contained Sikeston's offense for the most part.
The team allowed 21 points to the Bulldogs, but two drives started deep in Bluejay territory.
Although Caruthersville defeated Charleston 46-27 last year, Gilmore thinks this year's game could solidify his team as a major player in Class 2.
"I think this is a statement game for our program because it's going to set the tone for our conference," said Gilmore. "If we can get on top and beat Charleston this week, it will put us in the driver's seat in the conference with New Madrid and Dexter coming up down the road. The next five weeks of our schedule are going to be brutal, but it's going to get us in tune to play our district and get us ready for the state playoffs."