MALDEN - Coming off one of the biggest wins in recent memory, the Dexter Bearcats will now set their sights on the Malden Green Wave.
The Bearcats got the area's attention with a 29-3 win against state-ranked Sikeston last Friday.
Including Malden head coach Kevin Collier, whose team will host Dexter at 7:30 Friday night.
Dexter has defeated the Green Wave three of the last four years, but Collier says his team is ready for the challenge against the larger school.
"Anytime you get a chance to play a bigger school with a quality program it's a tremendous opportunity," said Collier, who was the head coach at Dexter from 1996-1999. "It is a big deal with the closeness of the towns. Both teams will be fired up. We respect their program immensely and we just accept this as a challenge."
Malden (1-2) is in the middle of the toughest part of the schedule, facing off with Hayti, John Burroughs and now Dexter. The Green Wave opened the season with a 28-0 win against conference rival Scott City, but they have dropped two in a row against Class 1, No. 3 ranked Hayti 46-21 and traditional power John Burroughs 28-7.
Dexter meanwhile, just completed its most brutal stretch. After starting 0-2 with losses to Class 4 Poplar Bluff and powerful Gosnell, Ark., the Bearcats felt well-prepared in the matchup with Sikeston.
Now, after an emotional win against the Bulldogs, Dexter head coach Aaron Pixley is hoping his team isn't resting on its laurels.
"We've been real cautious this week about not letting down," said Pixley. "We won a big game Friday night, that's obvious. But we really haven't done anything yet. We just keep preaching the same things and hopefully we'll keep doing them."
Against Sikeston, Dexter got a huge game out of senior Matt Burnett, who rushed for a season-high 208 yards on 33 carries with two touchdowns. He also had an interception return for a score.
Collier, who coached Burnett's older brother Derek while at Dexter, knows his team will have to contain him to have a chance.
Last year, Burnett scored on three touchdown runs which proved to be the difference in a 21-6 Dexter win.
"He's able to run with power but he's got a lot of speed," said Collier. "He's a tough running back."
The Bearcats have other weapons, like three-year starting quarterback Preston Clark and senior wideout Willie Dooley. But in last week's game on a rain-soaked field, Pixley elected to keep the ball on the ground for the most part.
"It rained for two days and it was pretty sloppy out there," said Pixley. "I had made a commitment to the running game, I felt like we needed to get that going. But that doesn't mean we'll quit throwing the football."
Clark has thrown for 285 yards on 19 completions with two interceptions.
Dooley leads the team with seven catches for 159 yards with a TD.
"They're pretty balanced on offense," said Collier. "They present a lot of different problems. They can run with power, they've got enough speed to get outside and they can throw the ball."
But the Green Wave have plenty of weapons of their own. Seniors John Sutton (41 carries, 199 yards), Karrington Rogers (13-179) and Jamall Kilgore (30-152) lead the team on the ground.
Sutton is a 240-pound fullback, while Kilgore and Rogers provide a change of pace with their speed and quickness.
Rogers and Kilgore each have three TDs on the year.
Quarterback Scott Matthews has thrown for 145 yards with nine completions. But he is also a running threat.
"Their fullback is very big and once he gets going he's tough to bring down," said Pixley. "He was real tough on us last year. So he's a big threat. And they've got two or three backs in the backfield that can run like a deer. Their quarterback is a good runner and he can throw on the run. They've got threats everywhere."
Collier says his team must find a way to control Dexter's aggressive, attacking defense.
"They apply a lot of pressure and we've got to figure out ways to pick up the blitzes and get them blocked so we can get our running backs going," said Collier.
Pixley says if his team overlooks the Green Wave, it could be a long night for the Bearcats.
"If we're not prepared and if we're not playing real intense, then they have the threats to beat us," he said.