(Photo by Tim Jaynes, Staff)
DEXTER - If there was one game that propelled the Dexter Bearcats into their best football season since 1988, it was the team's 29-3 upset victory against state-ranked Sikeston last year.
After starting the season 0-2, not many gave the Bearcats a chance in the game.
But they scored 19 points in the final 6:05 of the game to snap a seven-game losing streak to the Bulldogs.
Dexter went on to finish 8-3 while winning the district championship for the first time since 1993.
Tomorrow night at 7:30, Sikeston will try to get some payback when they take on the Bearcats at Charles Bland Stadium, a place the Bulldogs haven't lost since 1989.
While many players return for the Bulldogs that might be itching for some revenge, Sikeston head coach Charlie Vickery says it hasn't been a motivating factor.
"We're just looking to play good," said Vickery. "I don't know if revenge is something you can rely on because you have new guys every year. We're just looking to play a good ballgame and try to improve."
After the Bulldogs' Week 1 loss to Jackson, the team improved by leaps and bounds against arch rival Charleston last week in a 21-12 win.
Sikeston churned out 281 yards of offense and showed some balance with the run and the pass.
Apollo Patterson had the top night, rushing for 150 yards on 15 carries with two scores, including a 68-yarder. Nathan Eaves finished with 41 yards on four carries.
In his second start ever, quarterback Stephen Miller threw for 50 yards on 6-of-14 passing with a touchdown.
But his best throws were wiped out with penalties.
"They spread you out all over the place on offense," said Dexter head coach Aaron Pixley. "They like to get the ball outside, and that's something we're going to have to take away from them. If we can't take that away, it's going to be a long night."
Dexter opened the season with a 31-8 loss to Poplar Bluff, but the Bearcats rebounded to take down traditionally strong Gosnell, Ark., 16-2 last week.
"The Bluff game was a little bit deceiving because they lost that quarterback (Kyle Espey) after the first series," said Vickery. "That made a big difference because you change your gameplan a little bit when you lose somebody like that. Then they went to Gosnell and thumped them pretty good and that's no easy task."
Espey, lost with a knee injury against the Mules, returned to the lineup in last week's win and threw for 130 yards on 13-of-21 passing with a touchdown.
"He still won't be 100 percent. He's at about 85 to 90 percent right now," Pixley said. "So he's one of the ones we're nursing back to health."
Derek Roberts did the most damage receiving last week, hauling in eight passes for 97 yards.
But the Bearcats did lose second leading receiver Aaron Lavender to a broken arm, which could sideline him for the remainder of the season.
"It's just one of those years where we're getting a lot of injuries and we're trying to fight through it," said Pixley. "Hopefully, at some point we'll all be healthy."
Dexter lost last year's Carr Trophy winner Matt Burnett to graduation. His replacements so far, Garrett Williams and Alex Becker, have combined for 172 yards on 61 carries.
Aaron Reese, five carries, 26 yards, could also see some time.
"They're pretty balanced," said Vickery. "They can run it and throw it. They're throwing it more than they have in the past."
While Dexter's offense is still trying to work out the kinks, the Bearcat defense appears to be strong once again -- limiting Gosnell to 70 yards of offense last week.
"They get after you defensively," said Vickery.
The Bearcats held the Bulldogs to a season-low 88 yards of offense last year, which allowed Dexter to score 29 unanswered points in the second half.
"We definitely didn't dominate the whole game," said Pixley of last year's contest. "We played a much better second half than we did in the first half."
Sikeston has some things to clean up after last week's win -- namely 129 yards in penalties which erased over 100 passing yards.
The sloppy play allowed the Bluejays to get back in the game after falling behind 21-0.
"We've just got to stay intense for the full four quarters," said Vickery. "I don't know if we got frustrated after we had those long plays called back or what. But regardless of what it was, we've got to maintain our focus and play four quarters of good football."
In Week 1, Poplar Bluff used a balance of running and passing to defeat the Bearcats. Last week, Gosnell's Wing-T offense gave the Bearcats a different look.
The Bulldogs will give Dexter yet another offense to prepare for.
"It goes from a double-tight, foot-to-foot set to spread-you-out from sideline-to-sideline set," said Pixley. "In my mind, it's a more challenging threat because there are so many lanes to be run through now. They work multiple formations and really make you prepare for a lot of different things. Defensively all facets are going to have to be clicking."