Sikeston, Charleston to hook up for No. 117
CHARLESTON - The Sikeston Bulldogs and the Charleston Bluejays will meet on Friday night at Marshall Stadium for the 117th installment of the oldest rivalry west of the Mississippi River.
The Bulldogs opened the season with an inspiring 21-14 win against perennial power Jackson, while Charleston is still shaking its head after losing to SEMO Central rival Kennett 21-7 in Week 1.
Sikeston enters the game ranked No. 2 in the Southeast regional poll, and they also broke into the MSHSAA state rankings this week for the first time since 1998, at No. 10 in Class 4.
Charleston received votes for the top 10 area poll, but they didn't make the rankings.
While on paper, Sikeston appears to be a solid favorite, Bulldog head coach Charlie Vickery knows the Bluejays won't be any kind of pushover.
"I think they're a typical Charleston ballclub," said Vickery. "They're a very dangerous team. They're going to fly around defensively and they've got good team speed just like Charleston's teams always do. The only difference is they've got more size up front. And on both sides of the ball they've got a lot of experience than what they've had on the line."
Charleston head coach Brent Anderson was disappointed with the way his team performed last week against Kennett. The Bluejays fumbled nine times and had some poor tackling that led to touchdowns.
He says he's wanting to get that corrected in time for the braggin' rights game with Sikeston.
"We just got to get back to the basics," said Anderson. "We weren't very physical last week and we kind of got our butts kicked up front. I just didn't anticipate that happening. We also have to hold onto the football. All around we just have to get back to the basics of playing football. We've got a lot of things to iron out. We're a very raw ballclub right now."
Charleston's returning 1,000-yard rusher, Orrice Stanback, had a nice game in the box score, carrying 28 times for 144 yards. But he also put the ball on the turf three times inside the red zone.
Vickery says he expects Stanback and the rest of the Bluejays to be on top of their game tomorrow night.
"They've an outstanding running back in Stanback," said Vickery. "They had nine fumbles last week so that's definitely something they can correct. They moved the ball up and down the field on Kennett, it's just a matter of the errors they made. I think they'll take care of those errors and once they do that they'll be a tough ballclub."
Anderson also settled the quarterback debate by default, due to an injury to Andrew DeField.
Although DeField isn't expected to miss any action, A.H. Marshall will get the start behind center.
Marshall was 4-of-9 passing for 63 yards last week. He also rushed for 14 yards on eight carries.
While Marshall isn't the breakaway threat all-stater Dontay Clark was a year ago, Vickery still thinks the junior is a very capable quarterback.
The Bulldogs settled their own quarterback situation last week when junior Blake DeWitt turned in a stellar performance against the Indians.
He ran for 151 yards on 19 carries with two TDs, including the game-winner. He also threw for 74 yards on five completions.
His performance caught Anderson's eye on the game-film.
"DeWitt definitely causes some problems," said Anderson. "He's a good-looking kid on the field. You can just tell that he's got control of what's going on. He can run the football and he can throw the football."
Senior Drew Lawrence, who threw for more than 700 yards with four TD tosses last year, is a more than capable backup. Senior tailback Lavar Morgan carried 20 times last week, fighting for every inch of his 70 yard game.
He scored the team's first touchdown with a determined run in which he appeared to be stuck in a huddle, but broke free for an 18-yard run.
Defensively, the Bulldogs were strong for a half. The team, which, like Charleston, starts many players both ways, wore down in the second half against the Indians.
"When we got tired we didn't take good angles and we didn't tackle as well as we're capable of," said Vickery.
The defense got standout performances from Jacob Priday (17 tackles), Tori Rose (16 tackles), Nathan Eaves (12 tackles) and Michael Colon (10 tackles).
The overall effort was noted by Anderson.
"They played great defense and they got 11 guys around the football," he said. "They're doing right now what we're trying to get to. They've got good team speed, especially on defense. They really run to the football well and they tackle well. There's no kid that stands out above any other to me, because they are all fundamental in what they do and they're all good athletes. We're just going to have to play a great football game Friday night."
The Bulldog offensive and defensive line also passed its first test against a bigger, stronger, more experienced Jackson line.
"I think the reason Sikeston beat Jackson was due to some of the things they did up front," said Anderson. "They had to fill some big shoes and they played well. That was one of my main focuses when I looked at the film was to see how well they played up front."
Another area Anderson will need to focus on is the Bulldog offense. Mainly, what will they do?
Vickery entered the Jackson game vowing to throw the ball as much as 20 to 25 times. But instead the Bulldogs threw 12 times and ran more option than the team has run since 1998.
Vickery said it was a result of what Jackson did on defense.
"Each week presents different problems," he said. "Jackson was really playing off and playing the pass, so we ended up running the option more than what we thought. We actually went in with the idea of throwing the ball a little bit more. We're just going to try to take what the opponent gives us. We told the kids that we're either going to get better this week or we're going to get worse. We're not going to stay the same."