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Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2016

Jays give Bulldogs the blues

Monday, September 13, 2004

Charleston defensive back Justin Clark leaps for an interception.
CHARLESTON - For 26 years the Sikeston Bulldogs dominated the long rivalry with Charleston like never before, going 22-4 against the Bluejays and winning the last seven straight.

But the Bluejays ended a stretch of futility against the Bulldogs in a rare Saturday afternoon game at Marshall Stadium, winning 34-14 in the 119th game between the two.

The win marked the first time Charleston has started a season 2-0 since 1996.

It also marks Bluejay head coach Brent Anderson's first victory against Sikeston since taking over the program in 1999.

"I love winning football games," said Anderson. "I'm not worried about a monkey on my back, the school's back or the community's back. I don't care about no monkey. What I care about is winning football games. We hadn't beat Sikeston, big deal. That's one game in the scheme of things as far as I'm concerned.

Charleston's Joseph Watts runs through an attempted tackle by B.J. Green.
"It's nice to beat them, but again it's our Week 2 football game. That's the way I look at it. I know our community has a different view. But I have to stay focused for our kids to stay focused for our next opponent."

For the second straight week Sikeston turned the ball over five times, including three interceptions.

Also Sikeston's defense, which played fairly well for most of the game, finally wore down towards the end of the third quarter after being on the field for long stretches.

"Turnovers and big plays -- that was the story," said Sikeston coach Jerry Dement. "But we didn't play hard enough consistently. At times we played hard and at times we didn't. Plus their athleticism caught up to us on big plays. We didn't play tough enough."

The Bulldogs' offense shot itself in the foot on numerous occasions, with a drive killing penalty or a turnover. "We weren't as disciplined offensively and defensively because of penalties and some missed assignments," said Dement.

"We've got a ways to go before we're a good ballclub. The number one thing we've got to do is get tougher physically and mentally."

And while Sikeston moved the ball on the ground effectively -- rushing for 159 yards on 35 carries -- the passing game simply didn't work.

Quarterback Bryce Wibbenmeyer completed 5-of-17 passes for just 37 yards with three interceptions. Twenty-nine of the yards came on his final two completions of the day when the game was out of hand.

"He didn't throw the ball very well," said Dement. "He had pretty good protection. Our receivers didn't run their routes hard enough, but he had an off-day throwing the ball. He threw it into some coverage when he should've tucked it and ran with it. A lot of that's inexperience and hopefully we can get him through that."

Sikeston (0-2) came out of the gates looking sharp on their opening possession as they drove 39 yards on six plays -- all on the ground -- before fumbling the ball away at the Bluejay 25.

From that point on, the Bulldog offense never looked the same.

Both teams traded punts and turnovers for the rest of the first quarter and most of the second quarter until Wibbenmeyer was intercepted at the Bulldog 28 with 2:48 left in the half.

A 24-yard pass to 6-foot-3 receiver Justin Clark, in which he out-leaped the smaller Bulldog secondary for the catch, set up a Joseph Watts 4-yard run for the first touchdown of the game with 2:20 left in the half.

On the very next play of Sikeston's ensuing drive, Wibbenmeyer was intercepted again, this time by Bobby Clark who returned it to the Bulldog 15.

A 14-yard pass to Bluejay sophomore Jamarcus Williams set up another Watts TD run with 1:40 left to give the Bluejays a 14-0 lead which they would take into halftime.

Sikeston's first score of the game was set up by a B. J. Green interception which he returned 37 yards to the Charleston 29.

The Bulldogs reached the end zone on fullback Acie Dixon's 5-yard run.

Dixon then ran in the two-point conversion to cut the lead to 14-8 with 5:05 left in the game.

But, just as quickly as the Bulldogs took the momentum, Charleston got it right back on the ensuing kickoff as Watts returned it 42 yards into Bulldog territory.

The Bluejays needed just four plays to score as Williams made a sensational diving reception, in which he tipped the ball three times before hauling it for the 18-yard touchdown.

All of a sudden, Charleston extended the lead to 20-8 with 3:16 left in the third.

Watts' kick return turned the tide of the game according to Dement.

"That was huge…one reason they broke it was because we didn't hustle on the kickoff," said Dement.

"We had just seized the momentum, scored with a two-point conversion and made it 14-8. But instead of stepping up our game, we relaxed and boom, there they go."

As if things weren't bad enough, Sikeston's Brandon Williams fumbled on the ensuing kickoff after breaking free for a 30-yard return.

Charleston took over possession and scored on a 45-yard touchdown pass to Bobby Clark to extend the lead to 27-8 with 2:56 left in the quarter.

Then, after the Charleston defense forced a punt, Watts returned it 72 yards for a touchdown to put the game away, lifting the Bluejays to a 34-8 lead with 1:00 left in the third.

Sikeston made the score a bit more respectable when Dixon scored a touchdown with 1:53 left in the game, but it's back to the drawing board for the Bulldog team.

"I thought for three quarters we played pretty darn good defensively," said Dement. "We gave them a short field to work with on three possessions in the first half and they ended up getting 14 points out of it.

"Turnovers were huge, we had three picks and two fumbles and that's inexcusable. We've just got to get tougher."

Watts, a 1,000-yard rusher last season, only had 69 yards on 16 carries with 28 coming on one jaunt.

But he contributed in other ways as he tallied 114 yards on returns, played solid on defense and had three touchdowns.

Quarterback Josh Marshall had 155 yards passing, completing 9-of-17 with two interceptions.

But he was bailed out on a few occasions by the taller, more talented Bluejay receiving corps as they would simply out-jump the Bulldog secondary.

"He (Marshall) didn't throw the football very well and you have to credit Sikeston with that," said Anderson.

"They got some push up the middle a few times. We didn't protect him bad, but we could've protected him better. Josh is one of those kids, regardless of the situation, he's not going to quit on you. He's one of the leaders of our team and he makes us go. Our receivers made some great catches."

Ashton Farmer, a 6-foot-6 tight end, had 45 yards receiving on three catches and had a 31-yard run on a reverse.

"They're a big play type team and they hit some on us…there's no secret we're not very athletic back there," said Dement.

"Our linebackers aren't very fast and our secondary is smaller and they've got some big old tall athletes and there were some mismatches. We had people there a couple times and they just out-athleted us. We blew some coverages too. We've got to teach them better and they've got to learn better."

Charleston finished with 314 yards of offense while Sikeston tallied 196.

Both teams had the exact same number of rushing yards (159) and the exact same number of carries (35).

Sikeston was led in rushing by Apollo Patterson with 86 yards on 12 carries.

Sikeston is now 0-2 to start the season for the first time since 1983 and it's only the second time that's happened since 1975. Also, the 20-point loss is their worst to the Bluejays since falling 32-7 in 1974.

Anderson credited a huge home crowd for playing a difference in the ballgame, saying the players had a little extra fire to them.

"Wouldn't you be fired up?" said Anderson. "It makes all the difference in the world. When you've got people supporting you and rooting for you and yelling and screaming for you, or when it's 3rd-and-2 and that crowd starts up, the kids feed off it and it's huge. I'd love for it to be like this every game. This is a great win for our community, our school and our seniors."

Sikeston will host Dexter on Friday for their home opener at 7 p.m. Charleston will travel to Caruthersville in a Class 2 showdown of unbeatens.