FARMINGTON - The Sikeston Bulldogs football team had its playoff hopes dashed on Friday night in Farmington, falling to the Knights 37-31 in Class 4A, District 1 action.
The Bulldogs entered the game with a slim chance to stay alive in the district hunt after losing to Cape Central two weeks ago, but a 29-point second quarter by Farmington was too much to overcome.
Farmington (8-1) will play Cape Central (48-14 winners over Perryville) for the district championship on Thursday at Houck Stadium.
Sikeston (5-4) will host Perryville on Thursday at 7 p.m. in the season finale at SPS Stadium.
"You can't get down in a hole like we did against a good team," said Sikeston head coach Charlie Vickery. "We started out with great momentum. The first two drives we got down there but we scored on just one of them. Maybe if we could've got a score on the second drive then it would've been a different ballgame."
Sikeston looked ready to pull an upset in the first quarter, dominating the start of the game.
The Bulldogs took a 7-0 lead but blew two other scoring chances on a missed field goal and an interception in Knight territory.
That shifted the momentum to the Knights, who reeled off 29 points in the second quarter to lead 29-7 at halftime.
"We were flat when we came out and Sikeston took it to us, throwing the ball and mixing up plays," said Farmington head coach Mike Thebeau. "But then we bounced back and had our best quarter of the year."
The game appeared to be on the verge of blowout status at the half, but the Bulldogs showed some tenacity by getting back into the game, outscoring Farmington 24-8 in the second half.
"They outplayed us in the second half," said Thebeau. "They played well, but we had three or four mistakes in the kicking game. We dropped a punt, we dropped a snap -- I don't know what else happened out there. I'll have to watch the film. The second half's a blur right now."
Sikeston got good field position in the third quarter when Lavar Morgan returned a punt 22 yards to the Knight 21. Drew Lawrence then found Andrew Lambert for a 15-yard touchdown reception with 4:10 left in the quarter, cutting the lead to 29-13.
The Knights answered with a 69-yard scoring drive, eating five minutes off the clock. Mike Hahn scored on the first play of the fourth quarter from six yards out.
The two-point conversion run by Dallas Bryant was successful, leaving the Knights with a seemingly comfortable 37-13 lead.
But the Bulldogs rallied, being helped by a few Farmington blunders.
One was a muffed punt that Myron Hardin picked up and raced to the end zone. Since a muffed punt can't be advanced, the Bulldogs took over at the Knight 25.
From there, Morgan scored on a 4-yard run. Lawrence then found Justin Freeman for the two-point conversion to cut the lead to 37-21 with 8:19 left in the game.
Later in the quarter, Sikeston drove 59 yards and had an apparent touchdown on a Larry Newman reception, but he fumbled the ball at the 1-yard line and it went out of bounds in the end zone.
Farmington then took the ball over on a touchback with 1:58 left in the game.
The officials spent several minutes trying to sort out the confusion.
"I couldn't see it, but Larry thought he might have been in," said Vickery. "I'll just have to look at the film. I can't comment on the call because I couldn't see it. But the officials made the call and that's what they saw."
It may have turned out to be a crucial mistake by the Bulldogs, who held the Knights on a three-and-out. Farmington then elected to run out of the end zone for an intentional safety rather than risking a blocked punt, making the score 37-23 with 48 seconds left.
Sikeston quickly worked its way up the field after the free kick. The game appeared to be over a couple of times. Farmington even stormed the field in celebration after an apparent game-ending interception, but defensive holding was called, giving the Bulldogs a second chance. And then an offsides penalty gave Sikeston a third chance.
The Bulldogs finally punched it in as time expired on a Morgan 2-yard run. Lawrence found John Fuchs for a two-point conversion pass to reach the final score of 37-31.
"I think it's important that we did come back," said Vickery. "Being down 29-7, we felt at halftime that we could come back and get back in the game. And we did. We had a legitimate shot in the fourth quarter. We were down 16 with eight minutes to go. We're not satisfied that we lost obviously, but the intensity in the second half was much better than in the second quarter."
The Bulldogs came out throwing the ball all over the field, from start to finish, racking up season-highs in completions, attempts and yards.
Lawrence threw all but one pass for the Bulldogs, completing 14-of-31 for 192 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
One of the reasons the Bulldogs went to the passing game was because standout linemen Kevin Keller and Justin Lowes were out with injuries, leaving a gaping hole on the offensive line.
"Their strength is their line and their inside backers so we thought we could get some one-on-one matchups on the outside which we were able to do," said Vickery. "We felt like we had to be in an attack mode the whole night whether we were ahead or behind. That's what we worked on all week."
Lambert (5 catches, 97 yards) and Newman (6 catches, 82 yards) were the top receivers.
Morgan rushed for 91 yards on 20 carries.
The Bulldogs piled up a season-high on offense with 359 yards and 14 first downs.
The Knights were led by rushing by Bryant, carrying five times for 77 yards. Quarterback Barry Watson carried seven times for 76 yards.
The Knights racked up 314 total yards with 261 coming on the ground.
Most of those yards came during the 10-minute span in the second quarter.
"They had us back on our heels," said Vickery. "They're a good offensive team. They're big up front and we missed some assignments. We didn't tackle very well. But we showed what we could do in the second half against the same team. We just played a lot better."
Now with the Bulldogs eliminated from playoff contention, they will host Perryville in the last home game for 22 seniors. Vickery said it shouldn't be hard to get the team motivated for the Pirates.
"You only have 10 games and that's 10 percent of our season," said Vickery. "Why would (Perryville) not be any more important than the third game of the season against Dexter? It's the same importance. It's a game that we've got to go out and win. In my opinion there's a lot of difference between 6-4 than 5-5. These guys deserve to go out on a winning note."