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Saturday, Sep. 20, 2014

Improved SHS defense hoping to shut down new-look Dexter

Thursday, September 13, 2001

DEXTER - In 1989, Batman was the top box office draw, Milli Vanilli was on top of the pop charts and an earthquake rocked San Francisco, halting the World Series.

That was also the last year that the Dexter Bearcats posted a winning season on the gridiron.

Dexter will try to take a step towards wiping out that streak when they host the Sikeston Bulldogs tomorrow night at 7:30 at Charles Bland Stadium.

Since 1989, Dexter has posted six 5-5 records, defeating the Bulldogs only once (1994) in that span.

Second-year head coach Aaron Pixley thinks defeating Sikeston is the first step towards shedding the "average" label.

"I think it's a big game for us," said Pixley. "Our program's been a .500 program or less for the past 13 or 14 years now. We're looking to be better than that and we want to be better than that. For us to win this football game, that would definitely be great for our confidence and our attitudes. It's a big game for us and I hope our kids are up to the challenge."

After falling to Poplar Bluff in Week 1, Dexter slaughtered Westside (Jonesboro, Ark.) 55-7. But Pixley says the Bulldogs will present a much bigger challenge this week.

"The level of competition last week is nothing like it is this week," said Pixley. "It's quite obvious to us that Sikeston is a much-better football team than Westside was. They're going to create problems for us. But we've still got to go out and execute and if we can do that, then good things are going to happen to us. We're going to have to bring our A-game."

Sikeston lost to Jackson in Week 1, but the Bulldogs rebounded to defeat rival Charleston 36-15. After turning the ball over five times against Jackson, the Bulldogs had only one turnover last week.

And other than several costly penalties, Sikeston played better offensively against the Bluejays.

"I just think we've got to eliminate mistakes, we're still making way too many mental errors," said Sikeston head coach Charlie Vickery. "The (10) five-yard penalties last week really hurt us. We only had one turnover and that was a big plus for us, but we had way too many mental mistakes and we just can't have that."

Last week against Westside Dexter threw for 119 yards with three touchdowns. Vickery thinks the Bearcats will continue to open it up tomorrow night.

"I think they'll come out and I think they'll try to test us in the air," said Vickery. "I wouldn't be surprised to see them throw the ball between 20 and 30 times. But they have a good running attack as well. The (Matt) Burnett kid is back after a good sophomore season and their quarterback (Preston Clark) returns so they have some experience there."

Burnett, a junior, filled in for injured brother Derek last season and ran for more than 700 yards, including two 200-yard games. He is currently fourth in the area in rushing with 262 yards with three TDs.

Clark has thrown for 184 yards, completing 15-of-41 passes with one interception. Willie Dooley is his top receiver, catching nine passes for 129 yards with three TDs.

After facing two ground-oriented attacks in the first two games, Sikeston's secondary will get its first test this week with the Bearcat passing game.

"We've got to keep the ball in front of us with their passing game," said Vickery. "I think we've got to make them work the ball down the field and not give up any big plays. It goes back to turnovers and mistakes -- the team that makes less mistakes will win the game."

Sikeston's offense has spread the wealth in the first two games. Fullback Josh Monroe leads the team with 73 yards rushing with two TDs. Returning 1,000-yard rusher Heath Hunter has been hampered by an ankle injury, gaining just 60 yards on 28 carries.

A surprise last week was the play of junior Lavar Morgan, who, on his second varsity carry scored a 40-yard touchdown. He finished the game with a team-high 60 yards rushing on seven carries.

Quarterback Drew Lawrence completed some nice passes, including a 22-yard TD to Larry Newman.

But of all those weapons, Pixley is most concerned with the Sikeston offensive and defensive line, which both have the capabilities to dominate the war in the trenches.

"I've heard comments before about, 'they may be big but they're slow' -- but that's totally false," said Pixley.

"These guys are very large and they move very well. Of course that's going to create a lot of problems for us. Probably the biggest key to this game is how well our linemen can play for four quarters. If we play for three quarters then that's not good enough. So we're going to have to come to battle from the time it starts to the time it ends."

One of Dexter's big questions entering the season was the inexperience they had on the defensive side of the ball.

After keeping Poplar Bluff in check for much of the game, and limiting Westside to seven points (on a kick return), the Bearcat defense has looked fairly sharp.

"I think they're a typical Dexter team in that they swarm to the ball and they stunt and blitz a lot," said Vickery.

"They've got a little more size up front than what they've had the last few years. They're a good team defensively and I think we're a pretty good team defensively, so it's going to be come down to which team can hold the other offense down a little bit."