NEW MADRID -- New Madrid County Central picked up another ugly, yet impressive victory on Friday night, defeating Farmington 28-13 in a highly-touted matchup between two state ranked teams.
The Eagles botched two punts deep in their own territory, and gave up 110 yards on 15 penalties. But in the end, speed overcame all shortcomings as the Eagles held off the Knights to improve to 3-0.
NMCC entered the game ranked eighth in Missouri 3A, while Farmington was No. 8 in Class 4A.
"I think we've got a good shot to go where we want to go," said NMCC coach Steve Rogers. "We just want to keep improving every week. If we ever get to hitting on all cylinders, we're going to be something to watch."
NMCC's Dereke Tipler put on a show, rushing for a season-high 164 yards on 28 carries. He also led the team in receiving, catching four passes for 58 yards, and had 50 return yards. On the night, the returning all-stater finished with a whopping 273 all-purpose yards.
"After the game, Dereke gave the game ball to the line," said Rogers. "They opened up some huge holes for him, and Dereke is going to make the moves. He's an all-state running back and he looked like one tonight against a quality opponent."
NMCC's first two offensive possessions ended with punting tragedies. The first attempt was blocked and recovered by Farmington on the Eagle 23. The second snap sailed over George Stricklen's head, giving the Knights the ball on NMCC's one-yard line.
"We didn't help ourselves any," said Rogers. "We've got to cut out all the silly penalties and take care of the ball a little bit better."
Farmington's Michael Hahn took advantage of the excellent field position with a one-yard touchdown run, and 260-pound place kicker Jarred Bonnell kicked the PAT to give the Knights a 7-0 lead.
NMCC managed to tie the score early in the second quarter with an impressive nine-play drive that covered 75 yards. After moving the ball down to the 10-yard line, the Eagles were faced with a 4th-and-six. Quarterback Brian Murph reversed a busted pass play, finding Tipler in the flat on the opposite side of the field.
Tipler caught the pass at the five, dove, then stretched the ball over the goal line.
"(NMCC) has a lot of good athletes," said Thebeau. "They've possibly got two or three Division-I players. I've coached football for 28 years and have had just one, and they've got two or three on one team. My 4.9 (40-yard dash) kids just can't cover their 4.6 kids. Anybody can figure that out."
Two possessions later, Farmington methodically moved the ball down the field, but ran into a 4th-and-2 on the NMCC 42. The Knights went for it, and Hahn appeared to cover the distance with a dive up the middle, but a questionable spot turned the ball over to NMCC.
"We've been making those fourth down plays in our first two games, but we didn't make it tonight," said Thebeau. "You have to give them a lot of credit, they're a good football team."
The Eagles took the momentum and ran with it, marching 58-yard to take a 14-7 lead. Tipler capped off the seven-play drive with a four-yard touchdown run off an option pitch.
NMCC's defense then forced Farmington to punt from their own 18, and Tipler returned the kick 40 yards to give the Eagles the ball at the Farmington 6 with under a minute left in the second quarter.
"Tipler is a good player, I would sure like to have him," said Thebeau. "What else can you say, New Madrid kids play hard. They get after the football. Sometimes they have some busted plays, but they really play hard. That's all you can ask for as a coach."
After being pushed back by procedure penalties, Murph found Desmond Sims for a 13-yard touchdown pass to give NMCC a 21-7 halftime lead.
Farmington opened the second half with its most impressive drive of the night. Led by the hard-nosed running of former Sikeston resident Dustin Wiles, the Knights chipped the ball 77 yards up the field, where Wiles scored from three yards out. Bonnell missed the PAT as Farmington shaved the lead to 21-13.
"(Farmington) was huge in the line and moved well," said Rogers. "They got in there foot-to-foot and tried to blow us out. They've got a good ballclub. I knew it wasn't going to be a blowout like it was last year. I'm just real glad we got the win."
Wiles led all Farmington rushers with 71 yards on 16 carries. "Dustin had a great game for us," said Thebeau. "He ran the ball hard and played pretty good defense. He plays hard all the time, that's just the type of person he is. As a team, I thought we played a much better second half."
The Knights were able to open the fourth quarter with another impressive drive, but failed to convert on 4th-and-3 at the NMCC 28. The Eagles took control with 8:29 left on the clock, and managed to bleed it down to 30.5 seconds before Tipler scored the final touchdown of the game on a seven-yard pass from Murph.
"Dereke (Tipler) stepped up big time, Brian (Murph) had another good ballgame, Chad Nolen had a great game at defensive tackle, and our line played well," said Rogers.
"Desmond (Sims) is a Division-I player, and you know he's going to make plays. I thought he played real well at defensive end. I'm real happy with the coaching staff and the kids. This is a big win for us against a school twice as big. We kind of like playing that giant-killer role."
Murph threw for 74 yards on 7-of-15 passing and rushed for 60 yards. Farmington quarterback Barry Watson completed just two passes on 13 attempts for 21 yards.
NMCC (3-0) will host Charleston this Friday at 7:30 p.m. Farmington (2-1) will host Ste. Genevieve in Week 4.
NOTES: NMCC has scored 28 points in all three wins this season...The Eagles were called for 15 penalties, while Farmington was charged with four... NMCC place kicker Jake Kimball was a perfect 4-for-4 on PATs. NMCC mustered just four all of last season...Both NMCC and Farmington fumbles happened on consecutive plays late in the third quarter...NMCC has opened the season 3-0 five other times in school history ('85, '86, '93, '99, '00) Three of those times the Eagles went on to win district championships.