SIKESTON - Sikeston and New Madrid County Central both have probably had Oct. 8 circled on their calendar for the last few weeks.
For one, the game between the two has developed into a pretty nice rivalry.
But also the game offers perhaps either team's best chance at posting a victory so far this season.
Both will get a chance of trying to get their season turned around on Friday night at 7 p.m. at SPS Stadium.
"In the existence of our program we've won only one time at Sikeston," said NMCC coach Arlen Pixley. "It's boiled down to be a pretty good rivalry. Our kids are looking forward to the challenge. They're 0-5 and we're 1-4 and both of us are hungry for something to happen. Somebody's going to get better this week."
The Bulldogs have played one of the toughest schedules in the area in the first half of the season in two 5-0 teams, Caruthersville and Farmington, 4-1 teams Jackson and Charleston, and 3-2 Dexter.
While NMCC has posted one victory this season when they defeated Fredericktown 28-23 on a "Hail Mary" in the waning moments, the Eagles have struggled as much as winless Sikeston.
Partly because the Eagles' schedule has also been brutal, facing off against three undefeated teams, Caruthersville, Farmington and North County, and the aforementioned Charleston Bluejays.
Other than their one victory, NMCC has lost those four games by an average score of 40.8-to-9.
In an eerily similar statistic, Sikeston has lost all five of its games this year by an average score of 40.4-to-9.6
There are three common opponents between the two teams, Caruthersville, Charleston and Farmington. Both teams have lost by almost the exact same margin in the three games combined.
"(Sikeston is) on the verge of snapping through with some good things and that's what concerns me, when is it going to happen,?" said Pixley. "I hope it doesn't happen this week."
Despite their struggles, the Bulldogs have shown signs of life the last two weeks.
The Bulldogs' defense played its best game of the year in a 28-8 loss to state-ranked Jackson two weeks ago.
And in a 34-13 loss to Farmington last week, Sikeston's offense had by far its most impressive performance of the year, setting season-highs in nearly every category.
"I thought our production was good other than our scoring, and obviously that's the most important thing," said Sikeston coach Jerry Dement. "We moved the ball fairly decently, we just didn't get it in the end zone. We were very close on three or four plays that could've been scores. We didn't convert in the red zone and that's something we've put extra effort in this week. Moving the ball up and down the field is fine, but the most important thing is putting it in the end zone. We don't care if it's a long drive or a quick strike."
Even though they couldn't punch it into the end zone, Sikeston's offense was able to sustain several long drives last week, including one of 15 plays.
"You watch them on film and they move the ball effectively, but then they turn around and some major mistake will cost them," said Pixley. "Against Farmington their backs are against the wall on the first play from scrimmage on dropped coverage. We've been making the same mistakes this year too. We're in the same boat as they are."
Sikeston's top playmaker has been Felante Larry, who is second in the area with 23 receptions and is third in yardage with 315.
"He's a key player for them -- they've gone to him in certain situations," said Pixley. "They have certain tendencies and we're going to try to exploit those tendencies. I think that's our best hope of winning the football game. We've been breaking them down on computer and done some statistical analysis on them and we found some things they like to do. We're going to have to take advantage of some things we saw."
Bulldog quarterback Bryce Wibbenmeyer has shown improvement the last three weeks but he hasn't been able to direct the offense into the end zone.
He's completed 44-of-96 passes for 432 yards, but he has eight interceptions and just one touchdown.
On the ground, Apollo Patterson appeared to have fully recovered from an injury that had him sidelined three weeks ago as he rushed for a season-high 96 yards on 28 carries against Farmington.
The Knights exposed a suspect Bulldog secondary with 203 passing yards with three long scoring strikes in which the receivers got behind the defense.
NMCC quarterback Sherman Newsome was the team's original starter before being bumped to wide receiver in favor of Jordan Kimball.
Kimball then went down with an injury, forcing Newsome back into the role.
Pixley is hoping his team can take advantage of the Sikeston secondary, but it all depends on Newsome.
"If our quarterback can pull the trigger then it's something we can explore, that's for sure," said Pixley. "Newsome was a little hesitant to pull the trigger against Caruthersville because he was worried about making a mistake. He's been more relaxed this week and that's the most relaxed I've seen him in six weeks. He's looking forward to the game."
Wide receiver Eugene Cooper has shown a penchant for getting behind the defense as he caught the game-winning "Hail Mary" against Fredericktown for 83 yards and scored the Eagles' lone touchdown on a 44-yard pass last week against Caruthersville.
He has 279 yards receiving on 11 catches.
NMCC will welcome back running back Printice Willis, who has missed the last game and a half with an injury.
Willis was the team's leading rusher until being sidelined. He has 207 yards on 30 carries.
Fullback Antonio McIntosh leads the team with 290 yards on 48 carries.
"They concern us with their multiple formations on offense," said Dement. "We've had a little trouble adjusting to different formations. Their aggressive play on defense is also a concern. They come after you and we know we'll have our hands full. Our run defense has been solid but we've been very suspect to the long pass. We've held, held, held and then give up the big play. We've got to do a better job of stopping the big play on defense."