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Saturday, Aug. 27, 2016

Dexter not backing down

Thursday, October 2, 2003

Assistant coach Gavin Miller talks to Dexter's defensive unit.
CAPE GIRARDEAU -- The Dexter Bearcats are not a team that will back down from a challenge.

Faced with the difficult task of taking on the Cape Girardeau Central Tigers - a quarterfinalist in last year's Class 4A state playoffs - Dexter is ready to strap on the pads.

Both teams come into the game sporting 3-1 records, but Cape is ranked No. 8 in the state and beat North County (No. 6 Class 4) 25-18 last week.

The game is slated for Thursday night at Houck Stadium on the Southeast Missouri State University campus. Kickoff will be at 7 o'clock.

Central's only loss came in overtime against New Madrid in the second game of the year. The Tigers led 17-0 at the half, but quarterback Mitch Craft went down with an injury in the second quarter and New Madrid pulled off the upset.

"They're a very good football team, and they are very solid in every aspect of the game - that's on offense, defense and in special teams," Dexter coach Aaron Pixley said of Cape. "Obviously, their offense is very good. Every aspect of this game is going to be a challenge."

On paper, Dexter is not supposed to even compare to the mighty Tigers as Craft is an early candidate for the Carr Trophy, presented every year to the best football player in Southeast Missouri.

Craft leads the Cape passing attack with 730 yards and four touchdowns on 38-for-68 passing (56-percent), and is also the Tigers' leading rusher with 48 carries for 192 yards. Despite leading the team in both categories, Craft has a strong supporting cast.

"He's the one that makes them go on offense," Pixley said of Craft. "But to make it even worse, he's surrounded by great athletes who can play the game, too. It obviously starts with Mitch Craft, but they have other weapons on offense to worry about as well. They've got good running backs and a good fullback. Whenever they get in the I-formation, they've got a good tailback who can run and is very athletic with good speed."

Brandon Twiggs has 176 yards on 37 totes for a 4.9 yard per carry average, while Mark Dunaway is Craft's favorite target. Dunaway has caught 11 passes for 284 yards in the first four games of the season.

"Their receivers run good routes and catch the football," Pixley said. "And that's the most important thing; Craft puts it in the correct spot, and they catch it and can run after the catch. They also have a very good kicker (Colin Schermann) who had a 51-yard field goal already this season."

Pixley added that the 'Cats will have to eliminate yards after the catch by swarming to the football and wrapping up the ballcarrier.

"I look to quit making mental mistakes," Pixley said. "I look for our offense to make more plays and to fly to the football on defense. That's what we try to do every game. We try to take care of ourselves and focus on what we need to do and not worry so much about what the other team is going to do. If we do what we need to do, then we'll have a chance."

The Tigers have outscored their opponents 97-54 this season.

"Coach (Lawrence) Brookins has just done a great job over there," Pixley said. "Their defense doesn't allow many points over there, and their offensive and defensive schemes are very sound, and they have good athletes to run the schemes.

"Defensively, they are very good and fly around really well.

When they get to the football, they are very physical, and their linebackers and defensive linemen are very active. They put good athletes on the field, and they tackle well."

Dexter has not been quite as dominating as the Tigers, outpacing opponents 54-46. However, 31 of those points came in a loss to Poplar Bluff in the first week of the season. Since then, the 'Cats have given up just 15 total points in three games as the defense has stepped up.

In addition to the defense doing it's job, Dexter's offense woke up in last week's 16-6 win over Malden. The 'Cats rushed for a season-high 255 yards on 49 carries (5.2 ypc) as Garrett Williams picked up 156 yards on the ground.

The Bearcats will need to continue to improve offensively while playing steady defense and special teams in order to pull off the upset.

Other than a few untimely penalties, the 'Cats looked good in last week's victory.

Dexter is also getting some good news on the injury front.

"We're starting to get a little healthier," Pixley said.

"Scottie Newell's got his cast off, and I just found out that Aaron Lavender might be able to come back for the last two football games. We've got the normal bumps and bruises, and an ankle or two, but we're just like every other team as far as injuries go."