Jackson beats Sikeston, 34-7
SIKESTON - The Sikeston Bulldogs knew they would have to play almost error-free to defeat the heavily-favored Jackson Indians in the season-opener on Friday night at Sikeston Public Schools Stadium.
It didn't happen as the Bulldogs turned the ball over five times, leading to a Jackson 34-7 win.
he Bulldog defense actually played admirably well.
While Jackson's 34 points looks like a lot, most of the Indians' drives started deep in Sikeston's territory. Jackson's first three scoring drives started at Sikeston's 11, 6 and 26-yard lines.
Another Indian drive in the third quarter started at the Bulldog 40. Jackson's only long scoring drive came late in the fourth quarter when they drove 71 yards against a worn out Sikeston defense.
"I thought their defense played really well," said Jackson head coach Carl Gross. "They're so physical, especially up front. They had some bad breaks early with some fumbles which gave us a shorter field, putting their back on the wall. That made all the difference in the world."
Sikeston also kept Jackson all-stater Mario Whitney in check for most of the night. The University of Missouri-bound senior did score three touchdowns, but he only managed 90 yards on 16 carries, many coming out of the shotgun formation on quarterback keepers.
Playing quarterback for about half the game, Whitney attempted six passes, completing two for 61 yards. He also threw two interceptions.
"He's an excellent running back, it's hard to contain him all night long," said Sikeston head coach Charlie Vickery. "In the first half they had two plays, the pass play and when we missed some tackles on Whitney on the touchdown run. Other than that I thought we kept them in check the entire first half. To me it could've been a 7-6 ballgame at the half."
Much like last year's season-opener with Jackson, Sikeston had an ominous start. Last year the Bulldogs fumbled on their first snap. On Friday Sikeston fumbled the opening kickoff, setting up the Indians the Bulldog 41.
"The first half we had too many turnovers, and our field position was poor all night," said Vickery. "You can't give a good team like that extra opportunities."
On the Indians' first play from scrimmage, Whitney attempted a halfback option pass but was intercepted by Andrew Lambert at the 3-yard line.
Two plays later, Sikeston fumbled the ball back to Jackson at the 11-yard line.
Whitney eventually scored on a 1-yard plunge at the 9:04 mark.
Sikeston answered on its ensuing drive. The Bulldogs marched 65 yards, churning six minutes off the clock on 11 plays.
Quarterback Drew Lawrence scored on a 1-yard sneak on 4th-and-goal. Andrew Lambert's extra point gave Sikeston a 7-6 lead.
One of the big questions entering the game was Sikeston's quarterback situation. Lawrence and sophomore Blake DeWitt split time. Lawrence saw most of the time, completing 6-of-11 passes for 48 yards with an interception. DeWitt was 1-for-6 for five yards with an interception.
"I thought both did just fine, but if you've got second and third-and-longs, that puts young quarterbacks at a huge disadvantage," said Vickery. "But I thought they did a very good job for the first time out in a varsity game, they got some experience and they're going to keep getting better and better."
Sikeston had seven penalties for 40 yards, but most came at the most inconvenient time -- on first down. The Bulldogs battled field position problems all night long.
Conversely, Jackson took total advantage of its superior field position.
"We had some timely turnovers that really helped us on some scoring situations," said Gross. "Sikeston's big and strong and well-coached. This is always a good measuring stick for us, anytime we play Sikeston. We know that they're going to block and they're going to tackle. We're glad we won but we're a long, long way from where we want to be."
The Indians didn't look like an area powerhouse, committing an unheard of 17 penalties for 115 yards.
"It was real disappointing," said Gross. "It wasn't so much the physical mistakes we made but the mental mistakes. The jumping off-sides, the flinching, the moving...that was disappointing."
After Sikeston took the lead, the Bulldogs held Jackson and got the ball back, but Brian Randolf intercepted a pass and returned it to the Bulldog 6-yard line.
Whitney scored on the first play to give Jackson the lead for good at 12-7.
Later in the second quarter, Lambert intercepted his second pass, also from Whitney, in the end zone to thwart another Indian drive.
But the Bulldogs fumbled again, setting up the Indians at the 26-yard line. On 4th-and-five, Whitney made some nice moves and scored a 20-yard touchdown run. The two-point conversion was good to make it 20-7 at halftime.
Jackson's James Love scored a touchdown at the 4:54 mark of the third quarter to make it 27-7. The Indians' final score came with 3:43 left in the game when Stuart McIntosh ran it in from the 4.
"Defensively I thought we played extremely well, especially in the first half, we got a little bit worn down in the second half," said Vickery.
But as tough as Sikeston was on defense, Jackson's was that much better. The Indians held the Bulldogs to 130 yards of offense. Sikeston only had 77 yards rushing on 33 attempts.
"They played outstanding defense, they got to the ball," said Vickery. "We mixed it up early on them and moved the ball down the field. Mistakes and turnovers really hurt us. We can't have second-and-12 and third-and-long, we've got to be able to eat up yards. We got a little tired at the end. But Jackson's an excellent football team, no doubt about it."
Whitney left the game in the third quarter with a cramp in his leg. Leading 27-7, Gross held his star out as a precaution.
Sikeston's top rusher was Josh Monroe, who gained 31 yards on five carries, including a 28-yard rumble which set up the Bulldogs' only score. Heath Hunter gained 23 yards on 13 carries before leaving the game with a minor injury. Travis Deere also suffered an ankle injury in the game. Both are expected to recover.
"I like our team, our kids fought hard and we're going to get nothing but better," said Vickery. "We've got a pretty good mix of young and old. I think we're going to be a pretty good football team before it's over."
Sikeston will host Charleston on Friday night at SPS Stadium at 7:30. Jackson will host Sumner on Friday.