SIKESTON - The Missouri State High School Activities Association announced its new football district assignments on Wednesday.
With the new assignments, schools throughout the state had to juggle their schedules for the 2004 football season.
Local Southeast Missouri schools were not exempt as Sikeston, Dexter and New Madrid County Central will have some new faces on the schedule for next season.
Sikeston, which has had an open date the last two years, filled its slot with Caruthersville, a team that went 11-2 and reached the Class 2 semifinals.
"We ended up having an open date that we needed to fill from the last season," said Sikeston athletic director Brent Keefer. "We were able to maneuver some stuff around. We picked up Caruthersville. We initially were trying to get Vianney to worked into that spot, but they had a conference shakeup and we weren't able to get that done."
The state assigned district change will have West Plains replacing Perryville on the final date of the season.
Sikeston has never played the Zizzers, who were 4-6 last season.
West Plains is more than two hours to the west, as opposed to the easy, Interstate 55 drive north to Perryville.
"Idealistically, West Plains wouldn't be a good fit just because of the geographical situation with the travel," said new Sikeston head football coach Jerry Dement. "But they're in there so we'll prepare for them just like everybody else. We're not overly pleased with going that far, but we'll deal with it and it won't be any kind of factor."
Cape Central and Poplar Bluff will remain in Sikeston's district.
The schedule has been shaken up a bit as well. Instead of opening with Jackson, Keefer said the Indians have been moved to Week 4. Sikeston will open with Caruthersville. Kennett, the previous Week 4 opponent, has been moved to the open slot in Week 7.
Dement said getting Jackson off the season-opener was a welcome sight.
"I think moving Jackson was probably a good move because it's the area's largest school with a highly respected program," he said. "Getting them off the first date lets us get a couple games under our belt, especially with the new staff coming in. It gives us a little more prep time before we have to play a school with the stature of Jackson."
Sikeston was just 2-4 against Jackson when opening the season with them.
The Bulldogs will now play Caruthersville in the opener, a team they haven't faced since 1977.
Sikeston is 31-7-1 all-time against Caruthersville.
"I don't want to undersell Caruthersville because they're really an up-and-coming team," said Dement. "They had a tremendous amount of success last year with making the semifinals in Class 2. I'm glad we've got a full schedule. It's a schedule with some challenges on it and one that will hopefully prepare us for the end of the year."
Dexter athletic director Gavin Miller revamped the Bearcats schedule as well.
Perryville dropped from Class 4 to Class 3 and was placed in District 1 with Dexter, NMCC and Kennett.
Dexter will no longer play Fredericktown, who was in their district since 1998.
"We think Perryville and Fredericktown are very similar teams," said Miller. "It's not a big change to the district, but it's a different look. They've been down for a while, but from my understanding this new coach they have will get them going."
Dexter picked up traditional power Ste. Genevieve, who they will open the season with.
"Ste. Gen typically is the team that our district plays in round one," said Miller. "We've been trying the last three years to get them on our schedule. We know they're a very quality team and we know it'd be nice to see a team like that early in the year to get a taste of what we've got to do by the end of the year."
Their traditional Week 1 opponent, Poplar Bluff, has been moved to Week 5, replacing Cape Central.
Dexter hasn't beaten Poplar Bluff since 1989, losing 14 straight to the Mules.
"Cape Central was a one-year deal and they called back and said they were going to look for a bigger school, and we completely understand that," said Miller. "Our games have been relatively close with Poplar Bluff the last couple years, but we think this gives us a better opportunity to present a better game to Poplar Bluff."
NMCC's schedule will have a different look in 2004. With the addition of Perryville to the district, NMCC managed to keep Fredericktown on the regular season schedule to replace Jonesboro.
NMCC also added North County to replace Cape Central and Ste. Genevieve will replace Breese Mater Dei.
NMCC has never played North County.
"We were sorry to lose Cape Central, who had some larger schools they wanted to play around St. Louis," said assistant athletic director Diane Fowler. "We had to look around and North County happened to be open."
The Eagles will open the season with Farmington followed by North County and Fredericktown in Weeks 2 and 3 respectively.
The Eagles will play Ste. Genevieve in Week 7. The rest of the schedule remains unchanged.
"The Ste. Gen game just kind of happened (Wednesday)," said Fowler. "We had date seven open and we were worried that we weren't going to be able to fill it or we were going to have to look out of state. We just happened to get in contact with each other and we both had the date open."