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Goal line 'Dogs win again

Sunday, October 13, 2002

(Photo)
Sikeston quarterback Blake DeWitt scores a touchdown.
SIKESTON - When the Sikeston Bulldog football team has its back against the wall, it seems that's when they play their best.

For the third time this season, Sikeston's defense was called on to make a goal line stand. And for the third time they answered the bell.

The Bulldogs stopped the New Madrid County Central Eagles on a two-point conversion try in overtime to win the game 24-23 on homecoming night at SPS Stadium.

"It's a great win because they've got some athletes," said Sikeston head coach Charlie Vickery. "I think it was a heck of a high school football game. I think it was a well-played game. It's a real big win for us."

Sikeston, which improves to 5-1 on the season, will have an open date next Friday before hosting Cape Central to open district play on Oct. 25.

NMCC falls to 2-4 on the season. They will travel to Dyersburg (Tenn.) next Friday.

The Bulldogs scored on the first possession in overtime when Lavar Morgan took a toss sweep and reached the end zone from 12 yards out. Blake DeWitt's extra point made it 24-17.

The Eagles scored on quarterback Remond Willis' 6-yard run on 3rd-and-goal to pull to 24-23.

NMCC head coach Steve Rogers elected to try for the win instead of attempting the extra point and force a second overtime.

But Willis was injured on the TD run and was forced to sit out one play before returning. Rogers inserted backup Sherman Newsome to try for the win, but the play never materialized as the center-quarterback exchange was fumbled.

Newsome quickly recovered the fumble but the Bulldogs pounced on him for a one-yard loss to seal, yet another, heart-stopping win.

Sikeston also had goal line stands to preserve wins against Jackson and Farmington.

After the game Rogers didn't second-guess his decision to go for the win.

"It's nobody's fault but mine," said Rogers. "I'd do the same thing tomorrow. Our defense was tired. Sikeston had scored on them relatively easy and we wanted to win or lose the ballgame in the first overtime. We were gassed. We had four or five cramping up. It was my call. We had a play that we think would've scored. We just didn't handle the snap. I blame myself for putting that kid in that situation."

The Eagles had an opportunity to end the game in regulation but Brandon Fields' 50-yard field goal attempt fell just a couple feet short with four seconds remaining.

Fields, who kicked a 30-yard field goal in the first quarter, also missed a 27-yarder with 3:47 remaining in the game.

"He's made a 49-yarder in practice," said Rogers. "I wish we would've got a few more yards and got a little closer. He had plenty of leg from 50, he was just a little off."

Statistically, the Bulldogs had their second best offensive game of the year with 293 yards.

DeWitt threw for 132 yards and the Bulldog rushing attack had 161 yards, giving Sikeston its best balance of running and passing of the season.

"I thought it was a much better performance," said Vickery. "We had a good offensive night. We were able to mix it up. I think we definitely improved offensively. I was pretty well pleased with the offense."

Sikeston took the early lead when they capitalized on a Willis fumble. The Bulldogs marched 30 yards on six plays capped by a DeWitt 6-yard TD run with 9:08 left in the first quarter.

NMCC came back on the ensuing drive and pulled to 7-3 on Fields' 30-yard field goal with 17 seconds left in the first quarter. The Eagles, which used up almost nine minutes off the clock, ran 20 plays on the drive and had three first downs converted by Bulldog penalties.

Sikeston responded two possessions later when they marched 57 yards on six plays capped by a DeWitt 11-yard TD run. The point after made it 14-3 with 6:27 left in the half.

NMCC pulled closer on its ensuing possession when Willis scored on a 2-yard run on fourth-and-goal with 3:22 remaining in the half. The two-point conversion failed, leaving the score at 14-9.

On its next possession, Sikeston quickly moved the ball up the field, but a DeWitt 35-yard field goal attempt was short with 37 seconds left.

Sikeston out-gained the Eagles 156-to-109 in the first half.

The third quarter had an ominous start for Sikeston as they turned the ball over on their first two possessions and punted on the third.

NMCC took its first lead of the game when the Eagles went 69 yards on nine plays capped by Mack Kimble's 2-yard plunge with 35 seconds left in the third quarter, which also came on fourth-and-goal.

"I think that just shows right there the heart and the guts that we've got out there," said Vickery. "Even when a team gets down to the one, sometimes it takes them three plays to get it in there. We're not just giving up because they get inside our 10. They're having to fight for it."

Eugene Cooper caught the two-point conversion pass to increase the Eagles' lead to 17-14.

Sikeston answered quickly on its next drive when DeWitt booted a 27-yard field goal with 9:44 left in the game to tie the score at 17-17.

The play was set up by a tipped pass by an NMCC defender that landed in the arms of Jacob Priday, who juked his way for a 38-yard reception.

NMCC put together another impressive drive but it ended on a missed 27-yard field goal by Fields with 3:47 left.

After a Sikeston punt, NMCC had one last chance to win in regulation but Fields' 50-yard attempt fell short.

"We play to win and we had our chance," said Rogers. "I thought we played well. We're getting better, that's the main thing. The last three games are all that count. My guys gave it all they had. I'm not pleased with the outcome, but I'm pleased that we're getting better."

Willis played his best game of the year, throwing for 141 yards on 9-of-18 passing with one interception. He also ran for 53 yards on 18 attempts with two TD runs.

"Considering he was a second team all-conference guard last year, he's come a long way," said Rogers.

NMCC tight end Vaughn Shephard caught four passes for 100 yards.

The Eagles ended with 275 yards of total offense.

"I think they've got a quality team," said Vickery. "They've improved every week. They've got some weapons and they came out and played extremely hard tonight. Either team could've won it at the end. It was just a matter of who ended up making the play at the end. We were fortunate enough to make the play."

DeWitt completed 7-of-13 passes for 132 yards with one interception. He also ran for 74 yards on 12 carries with two TD runs. Morgan finished with 56 yards on 15 carries. Michael Colon caught five passes for 77 yards.

"They've got a good team -- I was hoping that maybe homecoming would distract them a little bit," said Rogers. "They play with a lot of intensity. There was some good hitting on both sides. They're well-coached -- I've known Charlie forever and he does a good job. It's a shame that one of us had to lose. But we'll bounce back. We're still the defending district and conference champs and we've still got a shot at both of those."

NOTES -- It's the second time Sikeston and NMCC have played each other in overtime. The first occurred in 1993 when NMCC prevailed 26-20. The Eagles went on to an undefeated regular season that year...Friday night's game marked Sikeston's first overtime contest since 1995 when the Bulldogs defeated Poplar Bluff 33-26 in double overtime to clinch the district championship.