FREDERICKTOWN -- New Madrid County Central won its seventh consecutive 3A District 1 title, beating Fredericktown 35-15 on a foggy Friday night in Madison County.
The Eagles will now play host to District 2 champion Ste. Genevieve in the state sectionals this Wednesday at 7 p.m. "Our guys got the job done like they've been doing all year," said NMCC coach Steve Rogers. "We're looking forward to Wednesday night. I know Ste. Gen is a well-coached, disciplined ballclub, but we think we've got a pretty good ballclub too. It should be interesting."
Again, the Eagles' speed overwhelmed their opponent, resulting in big plays against the slower Blackcats. Desmond Sims broke off a 75-yard touchdown run, Dereke Tipler had a 72-yard score, and Terrance Smith returned an interception 45 yards for another TD.
Tipler finished with 126 yards on nine carries while Sims collected 105 on just four attempts.
"They definitely outran us on several plays, but we also missed some tackles," said Fredericktown coach Kent Gibbs. "I can't say we played a perfect game, but we were pleased with the effort. We came out and played as hard as we could play. They are just a better football team than we are."
Fredericktown controlled the clock all night with its unorthodox swarm offense, running 62 plays compared to NMCC's 34.
"We felt if we could hold on to the ball, if nothing else, we could keep them from scoring 65 points," said Gibbs. "We did a pretty good job of moving the football, but we just couldn't stop their speed."
NMCC opened the scoring on its first possession. A 54-yard touchdown run by quarterback Brian Murph was called back for holding, but it didn't matter.
The Eagles chipped the ball down to the Fredericktown 4, where Tipler ran it in for a touchdown. NMCC botched the snap on the PAT, but Murph was able to run in the conversion off a lateral from kicker Jake Kimball for an 8-0 lead.
Fredericktown's first possession started with 7:27 left in the opening quarter on their own 21. Fourteen plays later, the drive ended early in the second quarter as quarterback Kyle Tesreau hooked up with Luke Nickelson for a 14-yard touchdown pass. Kyle Stephens ran in the two-point conversion to make the score 8-8.
"We didn't look real sharp tonight," said Rogers. "I don't know if it was the two-hour bus ride or what. A lot of times when our guys look at a team on film they feel we should beat, we seem to play down to their level."
NMCC's second possession of the game also resulted in a touchdown, as Murph capped off an eight-play drive from the 1. Kimball kicked the PAT to make the score 15-8. Terrance Smith then intercepted a Tesreau pass and returned it 45 yards as the Eagles took a 22-8 lead into the locker room at halftime.
"They've got great athletes and they swarm to the ball on defense," said Gibbs. "The thing they're not doing now that they did in the past is turn the ball over. I think they've got a real good chance this year in the playoffs."
A heavy layer of fog covered the field in the second half, but it didn't slow down NMCC. Tipler returned a Fredericktown punt 50 yards for a touchdown, but it was called back for clipping.
Again, it didn't matter.
Sims followed up the error with a 75-yard jaunt to the end zone to put the Eagles up 28-8. After Fredericktown's offense turned the ball over on downs, their defense allowed another monster run as Tipler broke loose for a 72-yard score.
"We're trying to spread the ball around a little more," said Rogers. "We're trying to be less predictable. The guys have stepped up all year. There have been some question marks in the line, and I thought they played better tonight. Our backs are always going to run hard."
The Blackcats were able to score in the fourth quarter on NMCC's second string to shave the lead to 35-15, which turned out to be the final score.
"They scored on our jayvee team there at the end," explained Rogers. "They've got a good ball team, and they're going to be a team to be reckoned with in the future. Our future is right now."
Fredericktown ends the season with a record of 3-7. They started six sophomores on offense and six on defense. Sophomore Kyle Stephens led all rushers with 141 yards on 25 carries.
"We only had about five seniors that played a lot this year, so the future looks good if we do what we're supposed to do between then and now," said Gibbs.
NMCC improves to 9-1 heading into Wednesday's sectional game. The Blackcats played both Ste. Genevieve and the Eagles this season.
"I think Ste. Gen is going to be able to match up a little better with them up front, and they've got a good running back with Tyson Gegg," said Gibbs. "It's going to come down to how many big plays New Madrid has, and if Ste. Gen can control the football."