CAPE GIRARDEAU - For about a year, the Sikeston Bulldog football team has pointed to Thursday night's matchup with Cape Central at Houck Stadium.
This one game meant more to the team than any other during the season. especially with it being the Class 4A, District 1 opener.
But for some reason, the Bulldogs played probably their worst game of the year, falling to the Tigers 32-9.
The Bulldogs (5-3) didn't perform well in any aspect as the Tigers scored three touchdowns in a 3:15 span in the second quarter to put the game away.
"They got the momentum early and that made the difference in the ballgame," said Sikeston head coach Charlie Vickery.
"We're not going to get down on the kids -- we just picked a bad time to not play as well as we're capable of. I can't pinpoint why because we've had good practices. I expect these guys to bounce back and I think we will."
Cape Central piled up 302 yards of offense as Sikeston never really found a way to stop the Tigers' misdirection offense, which was a stark contrast to the passing attack they have shown for most of the year.
The Tigers rushed for 250 yards, including more than 100 apiece for Marcus Klund and Monroe Hicks.
"I was surprised that we were able to have as much success up front offensively and defensively," said Cape Central head coach Lawrence Brookins. "I know they missed (Kevin) Keller, but our kids did a pretty good job. We were trying to use more misdirection. There was no way we could try to blow them back off the ball because they're too big and strong. We let them use their own momentum against them with the misdirection and it worked."
The Tigers jumped ahead 7-0 at the 3:32 mark of the first quarter when quarterback Mitch Craft hit Chris Conrad on a 23-yard screen pass for the score.
After taking over at the Bulldog 45, the Tigers scored on Klund's 16-yard run with 9:15 left in the first half. The kick was blocked leaving the score 13-0.
The Bulldogs appeared to have something going on their next possession. A 40-yard pass play to Jacob Priday got things going. But Lavar Morgan, who appeared to be down, fumbled after a 10-yard run.
Andrew Eaton picked up the ball and raced 72 yards untouched for the touchdown to give the Tigers a 19-0 lead with 8:31 left in the half.
It proved to be a backbreaking play that the Bulldogs could never recover.
Sikeston's offense continued to falter as Monroe Hicks intercepted Drew Lawrence's pass two plays into the ensuing drive.
The Tigers marched the 24 yards in three plays, capped by Klund's 3-yard run to make the score 25-0 with 6:00 left in the half.
The rest of the game was a defensive battle, but the damage had already been done by the Tigers in a little more than three minutes.
"(Our) intensity level was much higher tonight," said Cape Central head coach Lawrence Brookins. "I don't know what the magic trick was. All I know is we didn't do anything different in our preparation than what we've ever done. Tonight the kids just executed better. (Execution is) what killed us in prior games. Tonight we didn't have as many breakdowns or penalties."
The Bulldogs had horrible field position the entire night. Their best drive started at the 50 when they recovered an onside kick with 48 seconds left.
Other than that, Sikeston's average drive started at their own 22. The Tigers on the other hand had three scoring drives start in Bulldog territory.
"That happens when your offense doesn't get you out of a hole," said Vickery. "They were pinning us down at the 20 and we're not getting first downs and obviously (Cape is) going to have good field position on that."
After a scoreless third quarter, the Tigers got on the board on an 18-yard run by Hicks with 3:16 left in the game. But the play came after an inadvertent whistle negated a blocked field goal by the Bulldogs.
Instead of the Bulldogs taking the ball over near midfield, Cape retained possession and eventually scored.
"I think we bounced back in the second half," said Vickery. "Basically we shut them out -- the inadvertent whistle gave them the score. We had the field goal blocked but sometimes that happens."
It could've possibly been a more costly blunder than originally thought.
After the Tigers scored, backup quarterback Blake DeWitt engineered a seven-play, 79-yard drive, scoring on a 33-yard TD pass to Andrew Lambert.
Sikeston then recovered the onside kick at the 50, moving the ball down to the 8-yard line before settling for a 25-yard field goal by Lambert with four seconds left.
Had the Tigers never scored their final touchdown, then the Bulldogs would have tried to score one last time instead of a field goal, which probably would've brought the final score under 13 points.
The most points any team can receive in a district matchup is 13, no matter how big the blowout.
But nevertheless, Sikeston will need help from either Farmington or Perryville to have any shot at winning the district title.
Morgan was held to 48 yards rushing on 14 carries. The Bulldogs managed just 62 yards rushing in the game.
DeWitt provided a spark in the final three minutes, throwing for a season-high 114 yards, completing 7-of-12.
Cape Central's Craft completed 3-of-6 for 52 yards.
"This is the best we've played this year," said Brookins. "Now the challenge is, can we do it in the next couple of three weeks? It's our turn for a little bit of good luck and good fortune. We've had our share of bad luck. I'm glad we had our time tonight."