Their timing couldn't have been worse for Sikeston as the Bearcats shocked the Class 4, No. 10-ranked Bulldogs 29-3 on a rain-soaked Public Schools Stadium.
It's the first time Dexter has defeated the Bulldogs since 1994, snapping a seven-game losing streak to Sikeston.
"It breaks a string of seven years so that's a big-time football game for us," said Dexter head coach Aaron Pixley. "Anytime you can beat Sikeston, it's a big-time win."
The Bulldogs led 3-0 at the half, but Dexter exploded for 29 points in the second half. The Bearcats scored 19 points in the final 6:05 of the game.
But the story of the game was Sikeston's inability to move the football.
The Bulldogs were held to a season-low 88 yards of offense. "That's huge," said Pixley. "If you would've told me we were going to hold them under 100 yards before this game I would've said you're crazy."
Even though Dexter turned the ball over on its first three possessions, Sikeston was only able to come away with three points.
It was at this point that Sikeston head coach Charlie Vickery knew his team had left the door wide open for the Bearcats.
"That was probably the difference in the ballgame," said Vickery. "We weren't able to capitalize on their errors and that gave them a lot of confidence. When we couldn't put the ball in the end zone we were in trouble."
Even with superior field position for most of the night, Sikeston couldn't get much going.
Plagued by an ineffective running game, dropped passes and inopportune penalties, the Bulldogs were forced to punt eight times on the night.
"Penalties hurt us badly tonight," said Vickery. "We were just out of sync the entire night. We didn't play nearly as well as we're capable of playing. We missed some balls, we didn't have protection, we didn't tackle well. It was just a combination of things. We're at the point now where it's time to get better. And we will."
Pixley said his defense focused on containing Bulldog quarterback Blake DeWitt, who had shown a proficiency of throwing and running in the first two weeks of the season.
Dexter limited him to 24 yards passing, completing 4-of-14 attempts. And they sacked him three times to hold him to negative-17 yards on six carries.
"The key was not letting DeWitt get outside of the pocket," said Pixley. "I believe he got outside on us maybe one time there and he came up with a 15-yard gain on us. That's just a credit to our defense and how hard they play."
Dexter's offense was carried, literally, by senior stalwart Matt Burnett. The 6-foot-1, 195-pounder rushed for a season-high 208 yards on 33 carries. He had two touchdown runs and he also had an interception return for a score late in the game.
The Bulldogs limited Burnett to 51 yards rushing on 12 attempts in the first half. But the Dexter offensive line controlled the line of scrimmage in the second half.
"He showed what type of player he really is," said Pixley. "We all knew that he was capable of that. He had to break some runs, Sikeston had him there and he had to fight off some stuff. Whenever you hold your blocks for Matt Burnett, he's going to bust through and have good games."
Vickery echoed Pixley.
"Tough back -- he does an outstanding job," he said. "He has good balance, he doesn't go down very easily. I think he's a very quality back. Anybody that gets 1,700 yards (last season) is a good back."
Burnett gave the Bearcats the lead when he scored on 4th-and-goal from the one to break a 3-3 tie with 41 seconds left in the third quarter.
The touchdown capped a six-play, 65-yard drive.
After two straight Bulldog possessions ended in punts, Burnett broke the game open with a 44-yard TD run with 6:05 left in the game to push the lead to 17-3.
Just 12 seconds later, Burnett intercepted a Drew Lawrence pass and returned it 43 yards for a touchdown. The extra point failed, keeping the score at 23-3.
Dexter added one more touchdown with 1:58 left when Aaron Reese hit paydirt on a 28-yard run to reach the final score.
Sikeston scored its only points when they recovered a Burnett fumble at the Bearcats 25.
The Bulldogs had to settle for a career-long 41-yard field goal by DeWitt with 4:25 left in the first quarter.
The lead would stand until Dexter's Tyler Grovenor tied the game with a 22-yard field goal at the 5:51 mark of the third quarter. The field goal capped a 13-play drive that ate more than six minutes off the clock.
Pixley said part of Dexter's problem with Sikeston over the years was psychological, starting with the pregame festivities that surround Bulldog football at Public Schools Stadium, such as sky divers and Red Peppers circling the stadium with car horns blaring.
"Here in years' past, the field, the stadium, what they do before the game -- we told the kids to not let that stuff bother you," said Pixley. "Just come out and play football. And that's what our kids did. We haven't won any championships around here in a long time. So I don't know if you can say Dexter football has arrived, but I think this win is a step in the right direction, hopefully."