SIKESTON - Many observers in the Bootheel area say the Sikeston-Charleston football rivalry, which is the oldest west of the Mississippi River, is the best in Southeast Missouri.
The series has been going on for so long that there is probably not a person alive that can remember the first Sikeston-Charleston game.
Others argue that the series is too lopsided, with Sikeston winning 80 of the 115 meetings, including four ties. Charleston head coach Brent Anderson is one of them.
"I know that a lot of people call it a rivalry, but in order to call this thing a rivalry we're going to need to win some games -- and it's been a while," said Anderson. "I told the kids that rivalries go back and forth and this thing hasn't done that very often. In order for this to be a rivalry, we're going to have to win a football game before too long."
Anderson and his Bluejays will get another chance on Friday night at Sikeston Public Schools Stadium at 7:30.
Charleston has managed to keep many of the games close, but usually don't have enough against the larger school.
Charleston's last win over Sikeston was in 1996, when the Bluejays went 11-1 and reached the Class 3A Quarterfinals. Other than that, Sikeston has won 10 of the last 11.
Sikeston head coach Charlie Vickery is 19-4 against the Bluejays.
The last two times Charleston has visited SPS Stadium, the Bulldogs have held on in the fourth quarter to win, 32-30 in 1998 and 38-26 in 2000.
With one of the strongest senior classes in a few years for Charleston, Vickery sees Friday night's contest as a serious challenge.
"I think they're an excellent ballteam," said Vickery. "They have a tremendous amount of speed but they're also very improved up front. Both sides of their line do a good job. They're pretty solid everywhere. Trying to contain their speed is probably the biggest concern we've got. They can score at any time from any place."
Charleston ran rampant on Kennett in Week 1, rushing for 444 yards en route to a 35-32 win.
Meanwhile, Sikeston's offense struggled against a stout Jackson Indian defense. The Bulldogs managed just 131 yards of offense. But Jackson's defense is considered one of the best in the area.
Vickery hopes that Sikeston will win the war in the trenches this week against the Bluejays.
"We've got to rely upon our line to try to dominate play," said Vickery. "But their line is much improved and their better up front than what they have been. Kennett had a lot of big plays on them and we don't have near the speed that Kennett did. We're just going to try to grind it out and hopefully we can break one or sustain some drives."
Charleston quarterback Dontay Clark is a weapon with his legs, rushing for 213 yards last week. He attempted only four passes, but he ran for three touchdowns.
Running back Jordy Mixon ran for 163 yards with a TD.
But Anderson isn't as concerned with his offense as he is his defense, which allowed 335 yards of offense against Kennett.
He knows his defense will get a test against a large Sikeston offensive line that averages 250 pounds.
In last year's 33-14 win against Charleston, Sikeston's big line was able to wear down the smaller Bluejay defensive front in the second half.
"It's not just the fact that they're big, they're well-skilled kids too," said Anderson. "Everyone makes a big deal out of how big they are. They're not big bulky guys that can't do anything. They're athletic and they can run, they use their hands well defensively and they come off the ball offensively. We're going to have to find a way to nullify that somehow."
One way to do that is with speed. Anderson's crew is one of the fastest in the area, but he also thinks his team can run inside behind an underrated line.
"We're going to have to use our quickness and speed but we also have some kids that can do some things up front too," said Anderson. "We're just going to stick to what we do well. We're not going to do anything different and I know that Charlie's not going to do anything different. We're just going to line up and we're going to play football Friday night and the best team is going to score more points."
Sikeston will again be without the services of starting linebacker Jacob Priday, who suffered a knee injury in the jamboree on Aug. 24. Defensive lineman Travis Deere (ankle) is also questionable for Friday night.
Vickery will again rotate quarterbacks this week with junior Drew Lawrence and sophomore Blake DeWitt taking the snaps.
For the third year in a row, Sikeston is in a must-win situation after losing in the opening week.
"This game is huge," said Vickery. "This is a game that we really have to win. Each week presents a different challenge, but especially after the loss last week, we've got to go in and play well. This is a very, very important ballgame for us."