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Friday, Aug. 26, 2016

Dexter Bearcats vs. Charleston Bluejays

Wednesday, October 8, 2003

CHARLESTON - Nearly every year when Charleston and Dexter meet on the gridiron, it's a battle of two completely different styles of football.

More often than not, it's Charleston's speed versus Dexter's strength.

That will be apparent again this Friday night when the Bluejays host the Bearcats for a 7:30 SEMO Conference game.

As usual, the Bluejays (2-3) are blessed with fast and quick players, capable of breaking big plays at any time.

And as usual, Dexter is stock-full of big, huge linemen that clear holes for running backs and provide ample protection for the quarterback.

The two contrasting styles has given Charleston a slight edge in the series at 16-12, when it was renewed in 1976.

But since 1991, speed has given way to power as Dexter has won seven of the 12 meetings, including last year 44-13.

"They're very talented at the skill positions and they're big up front," said Dexter head coach Aaron Pixley. "Charleston creates a challenge for us everywhere. Just the speed factor is a big challenge for us."

Both teams enter Friday night's game banged up. Charleston will be without starting quarterback A.H. Marshall, who suffered a shoulder injury against Malden last week.

Junior Jeff Hemphill will replace Marshall under center.

The 6-foot, 190-pounder performed well in last week's 34-19 win against Malden. In a little more than three quarters of action, he threw for 112 yards with a touchdown and rushed for 52 yards on three carries with a TD.

"He did a good job last week and I expect him to keep doing well," said Charleston head coach Brent Anderson. "We've always felt throughout the whole season that we had 1-A and 1-B. Jeffrey anytime could give us what we need at the quarterback position. He gives us a true threat running the football, he's got a wonderful arm, and he's got control of the offense."

Meanwhile, Dexter (3-2) will be without leading rusher Garrett Williams who has an elbow injury.

He will be replaced by sophomore Alex Becker, who has 172 yards rushing on 47 carries with a TD this year.

"He's a sophomore and he's still learning," said Pixley. "He doesn't slight you on effort. He runs the ball hard every time and that's what we expect out of him."

Both teams have had ups and downs this year. Dexter started the year on a sour note when starting quarterback Kyle Espey was injured on the first offensive series of the season, leading to a 31-8 loss to Poplar Bluff.

Espey has since returned, leading Dexter to three straight close wins, defeating Gosnell, Ark. (16-2), Sikeston (14-7) and Malden (16-6) before falling to heavily favored Cape Central (27-14) last week.

But in the loss to Cape, the Bearcats opened some eyes by giving the Tigers a run in the fourth quarter.

"Even with playing Cape tough like that, we still made a lot of mistakes," said Pixley. "One thing we're having problems with is putting the ball in the end zone. Our defense has been playing well all year."

Espey has thrown for 417 yards, completing 40-of-91 passes on the year. He has three touchdowns and 11 interceptions, throwing five picks last week.

Derek Roberts is the top receiver on the team, hauling in 20 passes for 234 yards.

After spending much of the preseason searching for a tailback, the Bluejays have now settled on freshman Joseph Watts, who leads the team with 348 yards on 65 carries.

He had his coming out game last week against Malden, rushing for 131 yards on 17 carries and adding a 43-yard touchdown on a screen pass.

"He's been our No. 1 guy since the second week at Sikeston," said Anderson. "We just think he gives us that home run threat. He's quick, he's hard to tackle and he takes care of the football."

If Hemphill is called on to throw, his top receiver so far has been tight end Ashton Farmer, who leads the team with 20 receptions for 279 yards.

"Farmer is a talented player and the backup quarterback, he's very talented too," said Pixley. "He throws the ball well. I was impressed with how he came into the game against Malden. He looked like he had been back there all year long."

Anderson said the Bearcats are similar to Sikeston, who beat the Bluejays 21-12 in Week 2.

"They both play really good defense, and offensively they do a lot of the same stuff," said Anderson. "I see a lot of similarities. We're just going to have to play a lot better against Dexter than we did against Sikeston, obviously."

This will be Dexter's first conference game of the year. Charleston currently stands 1-2 in league play.

"This is our first conference game and most of the schools in the conference have already played two games," said Pixley. "So we have to play well and treat this as a big game."

NOTES -- Charleston leads the all-time series with Dexter 33-14. The Bluejays won 17-of-19 against Dexter from 1928-1947. The two never played again until 1976.