WEST PLAINS -- The Sikeston Bulldogs football team got off the winless streak last week.
Now it's time to get off the district streak.
The Bulldogs, which have been shut out of the playoffs every year since 1995, will try to forget a tough regular season with a district run starting with a road game at West Plains tomorrow night at 7 p.m.
"This is the first stepping stone to try to win your district and make the playoffs and we've got a tough one on the road with the long road-trip to West Plains," said Sikeston coach Jerry Dement. "Our kids have taken it as a challenge. We've got a chance to salvage some good things out of the season and that's what we're going to try to do."
West Plains is the two-time defending Class 4, District 1 champion and the Zizzers will enter district play this year as a serious contender once again, despite a 2-5 record against brutal competition in the ridiculously tough Ozarks Conference.
The Zizzers have defeated Springfield rivals Parkview (41-6) and Kickapoo (9
-7), but have struggled against the rest of the competition, falling to Lebanon (20-27), Joplin (20-49), Rolla (7-31), Camdenton (28-35) and Glendale (13
Camdenton and Waynesville are perennial state-ranked teams. Joplin is undefeated this season.
West Plains and Sikeston have only met twice on the gridiron with the Zizzers winning both matchups in convincing fashion, 35-0 in 2004 and 49-7 last season.
This week will mark the return of Zizzer quarterback Tyler Schmitt, who has been injured most of this season but is expected to start tomorrow.
Schmitt torched the Bulldogs last season on the ground and through the air as he rushed for 88 yards on six carries with three touchdowns and threw for 91 yards and a touchdown.
"He's been injured most of the year and he's back this week," said Dement. "They've lost to some really good people that are ranked in the state. They play a very competitive schedule. They've got a multi-dimensional offense that can hurt you with the run or the pass. They're particularly good at home."
The Zizzers also return their top two running backs from last year, Evan Moffis and Jerrod Ostoff. Ryan Mears, the top returning receiver, hurt the Bulldogs on end-arounds last year, gaining over 80 yards rushing.
Sikeston (1-6) will have a different look Friday as junior running back Gavilan Bland will get the starting nod after rushing for a Bulldog season-high 136 yards with two scores in last week's 21-13 win against Kennett.
"He definitely earned himself a start," said Dement of Bland. "He ran well -- he's a hard north-south runner."
Byron Davis, Sikeston's top playmaker this season, is no longer with the team due to personal reasons.
Sikeston sophomore quarterback has continued to progress after taking over the reigns midway through the season. He's throw for 351 yards, completing 28-of-51 passes in three starts and four appearances.
Even though wins have been hard to come by this season, Dement is hoping last week's victory can be a sparkplug for his team.
"I hope we carry the momentum over," said Dement. "We've been telling the kids the last couple weeks that we're playing better and better and that we were due a win and we got one last week against Kennett. Hopefully we can build off that. We've had a good week of practice. The kids have continued to work hard even in a year in which we've struggled. They haven't given up and they have been trying to get better."