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Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016

Eagles look to take back district crown

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Alex Becker
NEW MADRID - After years of dominating their district, the New Madrid County Central Eagles hit a low point last year going 2-8, including 0-3 in district play.

After last week's 21-8 victory against Fredericktown, NMCC appears to be back on track and ready to reclaim the Class 3, District 1 title.

But they will have to take down defending district champion Dexter to do it.

The Eagles host the Bearcats on Friday night at 7:30.

"Dexter always plays us tough," said NMCC head coach Steve Rogers. "We have a lot of respect for their team, coaching staff and players. Aaron (Pixley) has done a good job since he's taken over as head coach. He's really got that program turned around."

Dexter enters the game with a 5-3 record, but has struggled somewhat the last two weeks.

They suffered a 32-20 loss to Caruthersville two weeks ago and barely held on to defeat a rebuilding Kennett team 7-6 last Friday.

Rogers says it isn't as much Dexter's fault as it is what the other two teams have done this year.

"Caruthersville has beaten a lot of people and Kennett is playing good football lately," said Rogers. "Dexter is still a very tough team and we're not taking them lightly."

Dexter snapped the Eagles' seven-year stranglehold on the district last year with a 21-7 victory, which marked the Bearcats' first championship since 1992 and the first time they had beaten NMCC since 1991.

But with the way the Eagles have performed this year, Dexter will be heavy underdogs on Friday night.

NMCC (6-2) boasts one of the most talented teams in the area regardless of classification, including 6-foot-1, 220-pound running back Remond Willis.

He is second in the area with 1,543 yards rushing and second in the area with 19 touchdowns.

Fullback Larry Kirby serves as Willis' blocking fullback, but he also is a running threat, carrying 44 times for 151 yards with a TD.

Tight end Edgar Givens is a multi-purpose player that has 157 yards rushing and 321 receiving with nine touchdowns.

Dexter (5-3) doesn't have a high-powered offense, but they stayed in games with a stingy defense.

They've allowed an average of 17 points per game, but much of it can be attributed to turnovers and an offense that has trouble moving the football.

Bearcat quarterback Kyle Espey has a strong, accurate arm, but his numbers don't reflect it. He is 63-of-162 passing (39 percent) for 747 yards. But he has thrown an area-leading 15 interceptions to only four touchdowns.

The Bearcat offense runs through Espey as he has attempted more passes than any other quarterback in the area.

"I'm really impressed with the way he throws the football," said Rogers. "Their line does a good job of protecting him. With the couple films I've watched, he's had a couple receivers that have dropped a few on him. He throws it really well. We're expecting them to put the ball in the air against us."

Derek Roberts has been Espey's top target, catching 30 passes for 374 yards.

When the Bearcats aren't throwing the football they are handing the ball off to sophomore tailback Alex Becker, who leads the team with 475 yards rushing on 115 carries with seven scores.

The Bearcats run a multiple offensive set which involves plenty of passing, but Rogers said the team resembles a ground-oriented team, such as Fredericktown and Mater Dei.

"There's a lot of similarities with Fredericktown," said Rogers. "They both have good running backs, good passing attack, strong defense and a good kicking game. I think us playing Mater Dei with their power running game has really got us ready for the districts, because all three of our district opponents are predominantly running teams."

The Eagles haven't lost two straight years to Dexter since the 1986 and 1987 seasons, but Rogers isn't taking anything for granted.

"They're 1-0 in the district as well as us," he said. "They have to figure if they can come in and knock us off that puts them in the driver's seat for the district championship.

We've been talking about it since the district started. It's basically a seven-step journey. We've got one step out of the way with Fredericktown and this is just another step from where we want to be."