But despite that fact, the Bulldogs still gave the Mules all they wanted for three quarters before running out of gas in the fourth quarter on Friday night, falling 42-3 at Morrow Stadium in a Class 4, District 1 game.
The final score may have the look of a blowout, but things were still up in the air heading into the fourth quarter as the Bulldogs trailed 21-3 and were driving.
Sikeston's last gasp drive ended on downs at the Mule 23-yard line. Poplar Bluff put the game out of reach with a six-play scoring drive to extend the lead to 28-3.
"The score wasn't even close to being indicative of how we played," said Sikeston head coach Charlie Vickery. "We played with a great effort tonight, we were in the ballgame."
The score got out of hand in the final six minutes as the Bulldogs were in desperation mode.
The Mules tacked on two final touchdowns on interception returns by Travon Battles and Parker William
s, the latter happening with 15 seconds left in the game.
"When you're trying to play catchup late in the game, you're either going to make some plays or they're going to backfire against you," said Vickery. "It doesn't matter if it was 7-6 or 42-3 -- when you lose, you lose. But our effort is something we can build on.
"The loss hurts, we're not satisfied with the loss. But I'll tell you what, our kids didn't quit, they battled hard. I just hate that the score ended up like it did, because it doesn't show how we played."
The Bulldogs entered the game riddled with injuries. Six players were either starting at different positions or were starting for the first time all year.
But for most of the night you couldn't see any difference. The Bulldogs were able to intercept Poplar Bluff quarterback Mark Gum three times, including two by safety Bryce Wibbenmeyer, who was starting for the first time.
Gum had thrown only four interceptions all season entering the game.
But after all three turnovers, the Bulldogs couldn't take advantage.
Three times the Bulldogs entered the red zone, but came away with no points, including once where they reached the 2-yard line.
"That was key, but that wasn't the only key," said Vickery. "We're a team and we don't blame any one thing. It's a team effort. The team wins and the team loses. There's things on both sides of the ball that we could've done better."
Poplar Bluff (8-0) took a 7-0 lead when Gum found Lucas Edington for a 20-yard touchdown pass with 7:29 left in the first quarter.
Sikeston (3-5) cut the gap to 7-3 on a 25-yard field goal by Ryan Dicus with 11:52 left in the half.
The Mules extended the lead to 14-3 on a Todd Tinsley 29-yard run down the right sideline with 5:04 left in the half.
That's where things stood until halftime.
The Mules scored on their first drive of the second half when Gum found Andrew Heuiser on a short route.
Two Bulldog defenders converged on Heuiser and appeared to have him tackled short of the first down. But the defenders collided with each other and Heuiser was able to break free with nothing but green ahead of him to score a 67-yard touchdown, extending the lead to 21-3.
"We were there, we just ran into each other," said Vickery. "We just didn't make the play. He made a good catch and made a good run."
Such a fluke play would normally deflate a defense, but the Bulldogs continued to stifle the Mules, intercepting back-to-back passes on their next two possessions.
After both interceptions the Bulldogs had starting drives at the Poplar Bluff 23- and 19-yard lines. But neither time they could punch it in the end zone as the Mules intercepted a pass at the 1-yard line and Dicus missed a 31-yard field goal.
"We weren't pretty at all," said Poplar Bluff head coach Mike Dormady. "We just didn't execute very well and we shot ourselves in the foot, but it still comes down to when you make mistakes you've got to have a great defense and right now we're playing pretty good defensively."
The Mules defense held the Bulldogs to 68 yards rushing on 39 attempts.
Jacob Priday, Sikeston's regular starting fullback, was limited to defensive duties only as a result of a shoulder injury. The all-state linebacker did intercept a pass in the second quarter, but his blocking talents were obviously missed on the offensive side of the ball.
Without Priday and starting tailback Apollo Patterson, who was out with a back injury, the Bulldog ground game couldn't get anything going.
Acie Dixon, starting at fullback for the first time, led the Bulldogs with 42 yards on 10 carries.
Quarterback Stephen Miller had 120 yards passing, but was intercepted three times. He completed 11-of-26 for the game.
Nathan Eaves led the way with 62 yards receiving on four catches. Leading receiver Scotty Keenan was held to 41 yards on five catches.
The Bulldog defense limited Poplar Bluff to just 88 yards rushing on 25 carries, a stat that Vickery took some solace in.
"I felt like coming in that we had to slow down the run and we were able to do that," he said.
Tinsley led the way with 97 yards on 19 carries with a pair of scores.
"He got a hard 100 yards tonight because defensively they did a nice job against the run game," said Dormady. "We didn't see the big play out of him but he was still grinding the football out, got the tough yards."
Gum threw for 244 yards, completing 12-of-21 passes with two touchdowns and three interceptions.
Heuiser led the way with 90 yards receiving on three catches. Kevin Chapin had 81 yards on two catches.
Poplar Bluff will host Cape Central next Thursday in the district championship game. Both teams enter the game 2-0 in the district after the Tigers defeated Perryville on Friday night 42-0.
Sikeston will host Perryville on Thursday in the Bulldogs' season finale at SPS Stadium.