PORTAGEVILLE - One year ago, the Portageville Bulldogs were winless and were heading nowhere.
But a year can make all the difference in the world as the Bulldogs entered Friday's Class 2A, District 1 opener with East Prairie as the favorites.
Even coming off an open date, the Bulldogs looked every bit as good as advertised, thrashing the Eagles 42-0 at Vic Reeves Stadium.
The Bulldogs (6-2) jumped out to a quick 22-0 lead in the first quarter and were never challenged throughout the game.
"I'm tickled to death with these kids," said first-year Portageville head coach Jim McKay. "Their attitudes are real good and they work hard. We've got 26 kids, two of them injured, and just about all of them play. East Prairie's got a young ballclub and they're struggling some. Portageville went through that same thing last year."
But as well as the Bulldogs played, the Eagles played that much worse.
East Prairie (1-7) attempted to punt on its first two possessions but two bad snaps were fumbled, giving the Bulldogs the ball at the Eagle 8- and 26-yard line.
The Bulldogs had no trouble scoring on either drive as Dantwan Chillers scampered in from 16 yards and one yard to lead 14-0.
The Eagles finally got off a punt on their third possession but the Bulldogs still had manageable field position at their own 47.
Portageville scored in about two minutes on a Chillers 22-yard run. Kyle Ezell took the two-point conversion pass from Lance Penn to make it 22-0 with 10 seconds left in the first quarter.
"We hurt ourselves early in the first quarter," said East Prairie head coach John Garner. "We had two fumbled snaps on the punt and that really hurt us and it got us down 12-0. There's no doubt about it, they're a good football. They're really good up front and they're pretty good on the defensive line. They don't have the most speed that we've seen, but they have enough and they play hard. They're a good football team."
The Eagles finally put together a nice drive right before halftime but it ended in downs at the Bulldog 35 with 1:56 left in the quarter.
Portageville wasn't through as they marched the 65 yards, including a successful fake punt on 4th-and-20, culminating with an Aaron Bidewell 5-yard TD run with just three ticks left in the half.
Chillers provided the two-point conversion run to make it 30-0.
Portageville scored on its first possession of the second half on a Paul Recker 39-yard TD run with 9:29 left in the third quarter.
The run enforced the 35-point running clock mercy rule. The clock ran the rest of the way.
Even with the solid performance, McKay says his team still has plenty to work on, including the 10 penalties for 85 yards.
"I was pleased with the hustle and the way we hit," said McKay. "We had way too many penalties. I don't know if that's because we had a week off or what. We've got some problems with that. But the kids played hard and I was well pleased with the game."
Portageville added one more score in the third quarter when Jordan Penn plunged in from the 1-yard line on a quarterback sneak, making the score 42-0.
"We've just got to talk to the kids and tell them that anybody can beat anybody on any given night," said Garner. "If we take care of our last two, maybe somebody will beat Portageville. And then maybe three of us will be 2-1. We've just got to take care of our business. Our kids kept fighting and playing hard and I was pleased with that."
Portageville was led in rushing by Chillers, who carried 12 times for 122 yards.
East Prairie never could get any offense going, gaining just 57 yards of offense. The Bulldogs held them to 13 yards rushing.
"Our defense has played pretty good for us all year," said McKay. "You take away the Gosnell game and we haven't given up that many points."
Gosnell defeated Portageville 39-20 in the season-opener.
The Bulldogs also had a player go down in the second quarter when Danny Scherer dislocated his elbow while diving for a pass.
His prognosis was unclear at press time.
"This is the second dislocated elbow we've had this year and I've only had one other in 38 or 39 years of coaching," said McKay. "It's very painful and it takes a while to heal."
East Prairie will play at Caruthersville at 7:30 p.m. next Friday. Portageville will meet arch rival Malden on Friday night at 7:30 in what could turn out to be the district championship game.
The Green Wave, who are the three-time defending district champions, handled Caruthersville 28-6 on Friday night.
"Malden's much-improved since the beginning of the year," said McKay. "They've got a real tough schedule early. They've got most of their line back and they've had a couple of backs return that were hurt. It'll be another tough football game for us."