SIKESTON - The Roosevelt Rough Riders have never been mistaken for being a football power.
But when they visit Sikeston Public Schools Stadium on Friday at 7 p.m., they will bring one of the best teams they've had in recent memory to Southeast Missouri.
Roosevelt, the last 20 years, has produced few winning seasons. The Rough Riders have won just 33 percent of their games since 1980 with their best season being 6-4 in 1984.
But under new head coach Sorrell Harvey, the Rough Riders are 4-2 this year, easily wiping out last year's 1-9 record.
They lost to North County 47-14 in Week 1, and fell to Beaumont 26-3 in Week 5.
But they are coming off a 44-8 whipping of Soldan last Saturday, which Sikeston head coach Charlie Vickery saw first hand.
"I think they're a much-improved team," said Vickery. "Last year they came in here 1-5, and this year they're 4-2. They're very big up front and they have a tremendous amount of speed. We're going to have to play very well."
Roosevelt boasts a starting offensive line that averages 6-foot-2, 291 pounds, even bigger than the Bulldogs' massive front. Three of them are 300 pounds or better.
Behind the line, they have two 230-pound fullbacks in Rynell Garrett and Terrell Jones, who has scored four touchdowns.
Speedy tailback Serron Roberts has gained 481 yards rushing on 81 carries with four TDs. Backup Corey Edwards has gained 185 yards on 37 carries.
Quarterback Jason Cook doesn't run much, but he has a strong arm. He has completed 24-of-51 passes for 476 yards with three touchdowns and five interceptions.
Ronnie Patrick is a lightning fast receiver who has caught 15 passes for 275 yards with three TDs. Karon Flenoid has caught 10 passes for 161 yards.
"I think they're very talented," said Vickery. "All of their skill people have a tremendous amount of speed. They're very typical to a lot of ballclubs we've seen so far. They're very dangerous and if you miss tackles against them then they're going to do a lot of damage."
Last year, Roosevelt gained just 109 yards of offense, resorting to several trick plays, including halfback option passes and hook-and-ladder plays.
While this year's team hasn't shown much trickery, Vickery says his team will still have to expect the unexpected.
"I think you've got to be ready for anything that they're going to do," said Vickery. "We've seen them run reverses and some other things, but I don't think they have to resort to that. I think they're good enough to just line up and play football. But we still have to be ready for anything."
Sikeston (4-2) ran 74 plays in last year's game, piling up 338 yards of offense. Only a few costly fumbles kept the Bulldogs out of the end zone.
Coming off a 25-14 upset of New Madrid County Central last week, Vickery thinks keeping the team focused against a St. Louis area Roosevelt team was the main goal this week.
"I think the most important thing is how well we're focused to play," said Vickery. "We've got to be as ready to play this week just as much, if not more, than in the previous weeks. That's the key for us. I think it's a huge game for us. It is the first game before districts and you want to be playing well going into districts. We're going to have to go in there and we're going to have to be ready to play and keep improving like we've been doing."
One player that has been improving is tailback Lavar Morgan, who ran for a career-high 182 yards on 34 carries last week against NMCC.
He leads the squad with 451 yards on 85 carries. Quarterback Drew Lawrence has completed 27-of-50 passes for 404 yards with three scores and three interceptions.
But Sikeston's biggest improvement has come from the defense, which, the last two weeks, limited two of the area's most prolific offenses (Poplar Bluff and NMCC) well below their season averages. The Mules' lone TD was set up by a kick return.
Friday's game will also be the Bulldogs' homecoming.