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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Bulldogs starting from scratch

Thursday, September 25, 2003

(Photo)
Sikeston receive Scott Keenan is tackled by a Dexter defender.
SIKESTON - After disappointing seasons on the gridiron the last two years, the Kennett Indians felt it was time for a change in leadership.

Enter Ronnie Jones, who coached at New Madrid County Central for 18 years and built the team into a force in Class 3 in the late 1990s.

Jones has found the going tough so far at Kennett this year as the Indians are off to an 0-3 start.

But after graduating most of the top players from last year, expectations weren't through the roof.

"We're putting in a new system at Kennett," said Jones. "Our kids are somewhat adapting to it, but it's taking a little bit more time than what we had anticipated."

Jones and his Indians will try for their first win on Friday night at 7:30 when they take on the Sikeston Bulldogs at SPS Stadium.

On the flip side, Sikeston has been struggling this year too. The Bulldogs enter the game 1-2, having lost to Jackson and Dexter by a combined score of 12 points.

"They're a team that's hungry for a win right now," said Sikeston head coach Charlie Vickery of Kennett. "They're kind of like us. We're trying to scrap and find a way to win a game."

While the Bulldogs are a couple plays away from being 3-0, the Indians haven't been close -- losing by an average score of 38-14.

Vickery says it's just a matter of time before the players adjust to Jones' system.

"He's going to build a solid program,' said Vickery. "He's going to do things the right way and build it from the bottom up. They're going to be a very sound, fundamental football team."

Jones has installed a more wide open, option-based attack in place of the double-tight Wing-T the Indians ran for years.

So far it's worked with minimal results, in part because of personnel change. Starting quarterback Dontavis Jones sat out last week due to disciplinary reasons.

Jones said he will return to the lineup this week, but he isn't listed as the starter.

He also said no position is dead-set -- everything is still up for grabs.

"I would say that right now we're doing a musical chairs-type deal because of the offense we're trying to establish," said Jones. "We're trying to run the option. There's times that we look pretty good, then there's times where we make the silly mistakes."

David Wilson leads the team in rushing with 144 yards on 26 carries. He filled in for Jones at quarterback last week and is listed as the starter for Friday night.

Last week he threw for 64 yards, completing 4-of-8 passes with one touchdown.

Fullback Jeff Bailey has rushed for 129 yards on 17 carries. Frank Thompson, the starting tailback, has just 46 yards on 20 carries.

Jones, before sitting out last week, was actually ineffective running the ball, carrying 27 times for negative 27 yards. He threw for 81 yards, completing 9-of-21 passes with three interceptions.

"They have some dangerous kids -- they always have good skill people," said Vickery.

Like Kennett, the Bulldogs' main problem this year has been an ineffective offense, averaging just under 12 points per game. Most of the blame goes to inopportune penalties and costly turnovers.

The team's five turnovers against Dexter was the last straw for Vickery.

"We came in this week and said, 'hey, we're just starting the season over,'" said Vickery. "We've started from scratch. We're not as good as we want to be in any area. That was our goal this week, to be intense and focus in on every phase of our game. Our practices have been a little bit more up-tempo. We've definitely tried to be more intense in our practice."

The Bulldogs are led in rushing by Apollo Patterson's 218 yards on 43 carries with three touchdowns.

After a shaky Week 1, quarterback Stephen Miller has shown steady improvement at his new position, completing 16-of-40 passes for 170 yards.

Scotty Keenan has been his top target, hauling in nine passes for 129 yards.

Sikeston's biggest bright spot of the season has been its stingy defense, which has allowed just over 12 points per game.

Three of the five scoring drives against the Bulldogs this season have been less than 40 yards. The other touchdown the Bulldogs allowed was a defensive return.

"I'm real impressed with their defense," said Jones. "They've got a lot of kids that run to the ball awful well. As usual they strike you when they arrive. That's something we haven't done very well at this point."

With Vickery starting the season over from a mental mind-set, he said the team has responded with its best practice week of the season.

"You play like you practice and we've had three really good days of practice," said Vickery. "Tuesday and Wednesday were as good a days as we've had all year. So I expect that to carry over. We're coming out and we're going to be ready to play football Friday night."