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Monday, Aug. 29, 2016

SHS, Tigers to play final game

Thursday, November 4, 2004

Sikeston head football coach Jerry Dement gives instructions to quarterback Bryce Wibbenmeyer.
SIKESTON - When a team has no shot at making the state playoffs, sometimes it's hard to get them motivated to play in the final game of the year.

But the Sikeston Bulldogs, who have played in seven straight season finales with no playoff implications, have actually fared well in these games lately as they've won their last six in a row.

The Bulldogs will try to keep that trend going when they host Cape Central tonight at 7 p.m.

"We're just playing for pride against one of our rivals -- there's nothing to play for outside of that," said Sikeston coach Jerry Dement. "It's difficult for a coach to keep this team focused and motivated when you don't have anything to play for other than pride. But our kids have done a good job of preparing and I think we're going to play hard."

Dement's first season as the Bulldog head coach hasn't gone as well as he would've liked.

The Bulldogs have struggled all season as they enter tonight's game with a 2-7 record and are 0-2 in district play.

But the Tigers have had a season to forget as well. The four-time district champions are also 2-7 this season, but they picked up a conference and a district win against Poplar Bluff two weeks ago.

The Tigers can still force a three-way tie in Class 4, District 1 if they win against the Bulldogs and if Poplar Bluff can defeat West Plains.

However, the complicated MSHSAA tie-breaker dictates that there is no way Cape Central will win the district this year.

The first tie-breaker goes to common opponents among the three tied teams, which there are none. And the second tie-breaker is overall record, which would go to West Plains.

"We have a chance," said Cape Central coach Lawrence Brookins. "But it's a snowball's chance."

The Tigers have an injury issues all season and it continued to haunt them in last week's 35-14 loss to West Plains. Lineman Andy Matthews went down for the season with a leg injury and talented freshman quarterback Garrett Stevens will probably not play due to a hand injury.

In just seven games this year, Stevens had thrown for 669 yards, completing 53-of-100 passes with three touchdowns and eight interceptions.

If Stevens doesn't play, his replacement will be Tyrone Reece, who was the starter in the preseason until an injury sidelined him.

In late game action last week, Reece threw for a 69-yard touchdown. He also brings a running element to the table with the speed to scramble out of the pocket.

"Reece is more of a run-pass threat," said Dement. "He's a little better runner as a quarterback, not that he doesn't throw the ball effectively. But he's more likely to take off and run with it. That gives us a little bit more to prepare for with his ability."

The Tigers' top player is senior running back Brandon Twiggs, who has rushed for 531 yards on 121 carries. He leads the team with nine touchdown, including a fumble return last week.

He also has 125 yards receiving on eight catches.

Twiggs hasn't had as strong a season as he had last year, but he still is a dangerous weapon as he almost single-handedly led the Tigers past Poplar Bluff two weeks ago.

"Brandon was surrounded by a more experienced, stronger team last year and he was asked to carry much more of the load this year," said Brookins. "That's a lot to ask for a kid and he's had some struggles."

Ty Craft leads the team with 235 receiving yards on 14 catches.

Marcus Rice leads the team with 17 receptions for 208 yards. "They're kind of a finesse type team and at times they've struggled running the football and have had to throw it quite a bit," said Dement. "I think we do a good job against the run game, but we're going to have to stop their passing game and not give up the big play on defense."

Sikeston's best offensive style has been smashmouth. The Bulldogs put together a 22-play, 92-yard drive last week against Poplar Bluff that used up 12:06 of clock.

"Offensively we have to be able to run the ball effectively and get some positive things through the air and keep our mistakes down," said Dement. "But mainly we have to do what we do best and that's move the ball on the ground."

Apollo Patterson leads the rushing attack with a career-high 546 yards on 136 carries.

Speed merchant Felante Larry leads the team with 1,127 all-purpose yards.

He has two kick returns for touchdowns and is the team's leading receiver with 421 yards on 35 catches.

Larry's 35 receptions this season is the fourth most in school history and is just two behind Leven Cox's 37 in 1986.

Scotty Keenan set the school record last year with 44 receptions.

Junior fullback Acie Dixon has 401 yards rushing on 81 carries and he leads the team with six rushing touchdowns.

Senior linebacker Wayne Guthrie leads the team with 82 tackles.

The game could be an opportunity for some younger players to see some action but Dement said winning the game is the first priority.

"We're going to play to win the football game and we'll get some young kids in if we can," said Dement.

"Our seniors have done a good job of practicing well, even in a tough, frustrating season. So we're not going to abandon them. We're going to do everything we can to win this last game."