PORTAGEVILLE - The Charleston Bluejays are used to playing Bulldogs on the gridiron -- the Sikeston Bulldogs, whom they have met 116 times over the years.
But Wednesday night will be the Bluejays' first meeting with the Portageville Bulldogs since 1974 when the two play in a Class 2A sectional game at Portageville's Vic Reaves Stadium.
Charleston and Portageville met eight times in the 1950s and 1970s with the Bluejays winning six of those matchups.
But history will have nothing to do with Wednesday's game which features a Portageville team that went 0-9 last year, only to turn it around and finish the regular season 7-2 this year.
And garnering most of the credit for the resurgence of Portageville football is first-year head coach Jim McKay, who was also the head coach of the Bulldogs in that last meeting with Charleston in 1974.
Charleston (8-2) head coach Brent Anderson knows he will be facing a savvy head coach that stresses fundamentals.
"One word comes to mind and that's discipline," said Anderson. "They do things in a very disciplined fashion, offensively and defensively. They're pretty basic, they don't try to make you guess, they're just going to do what they do well."
Heading into the season, many felt the Bulldogs were still at least a year away from being a district contender.
After falling to powerful Gosnell 39-20 in the season-opener, the Bulldogs started turning heads with a shocking 58-0 win on Scott City's home field, snapping an 11-game losing streak.
From that point on, the Bulldogs seemed to top themselves every week. They defeated favored Kennett and were leading undefeated Hayti entering the fourth quarter before falling 14-6.
No other team has come close to Hayti, which is a squad that McKay compares to the Bluejays.
"As far as speed and the way they play the game, they're similar to Hayti," said McKay. "I think Charleston's going to be tough on us. They've got a real good record (8-2) and they've played real good competition. They've got good speed in several spots and good size and they play good defense. It'll be a tough ballgame for us."
In a conservative offense, Dantwan Chillers has been the star. He has scored 120 points with 17 touchdowns, while rushing for 1,064 yards.
Quarterback Lance Penn has completed 16-of-52 passes for 300 yards. Mark Mudd has done most of the damage in receiving, catching eight passes for 194 yards.
"They're a hard-nosed type team, very similar to Dexter," said Anderson. "They like to get in there on offense and mash you, and then mix in a play-action pass here and there. Like Dexter, they do things real well, but they have quite a bit more speed than Dexter. We may have a little more speed than what Portageville has, but what we have in speed, they make up for in toughness."
But the true star of Portageville has been its defense this season.
The Bulldogs have outscored their opponents 31 to 7 this season and they have posted five shutouts.
The Bulldogs and the Bluejays have several common opponents this year in Scott City, Malden, East Prairie, Caruthersville and Kennett.
Portageville swept those five teams by a combined score of 165-7. Charleston did it 177-47.
Charleston's only losses came to Class 4A Sikeston 36-15 and 3A District 1 champion New Madrid County Central 54-0.
The Bluejays have now won six games in a row.
They are led by a trio of running backs in Jordy Mixon, Dontay Clark and Orrice Stanback.
Mixon has rushed for 1,167 yards with 16 TDs, the fullback Stanback has 895 yards with seven TDs and quarterback Clark has 672 yards with 13 TDs.
Clark has only passed 16 times this year, completing three for 37 yards.
So how does McKay expect to stop the explosive Bluejay offense?
"We're going to try to keep the ball away from them," he said. "We need to grind out long drives because with the speed they've got and the good athletes with that speed, it's going to be tough on us. We've had pretty good luck controlling the ball this year."
Neither team features much of a kicking game but they are both dangerous on returns, particularly Charleston. "If they don't kick to us, well, we're used to that," said Anderson. "We haven't been kicked to in about six weeks now."
The Bulldogs haven't been to the playoffs since 1997, when the current seniors were eighth graders, but they do have home-field advantage.
"I think (having the game at home) works in our favor," said McKay. "You always like to think in your mind that the home field is worth a touchdown to you. I think the kids are excited about getting this far and doing this well. But they're just naturally nervous -- if they weren't you'd think something was wrong with them. Our ultimate goal is to win the state. But we're tickled to death to win the district and everything here on out to us is icing on the cake."
Portageville has seven playoff appearances. This is Charleston's ninth playoff appearance overall and their second in Class 2A.
The Bluejays were in the playoffs last year when they lost to Malden in a torrential downpour 34-14.
"I think having experience in this kind of game will play a role in this game, you know, being here before and not having those first-time jitters, kind of the way we had last year against Malden," said Anderson. "I think that may play into our favor. The kids are looking at this now and they're taking it personal. We want to take the next step, that's what good programs do."