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Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016

Charleston faces tough Dexter

Wednesday, October 6, 2004

Dexter's Alex Becker (30) leads the Bearcats in rushing.
CHARLESTON -- Charleston may face its toughest test -- Class 2's top-ranked Caruthersville, everyone's biggest challenge, excluded -- in Friday night's contest with Dexter.

The Bluejays (4-1, 2-1 in the conference) meet the Bearcats (3-2, 0-0) in a SEMO Central Conference matchup at Dexter.

Charleston comes off a sound whipping of Malden, 40-14, while Dexter's vaunted passing game was neutralized in a 24-0 defeat to previously winless Poplar Bluff last week. However, the win-loss record of Poplar Bluff (1-4) is deceiving due to a tough early schedule against three solid Arkansas programs and the Jefferson City Jays. The Jays proved their mettle by knocking Jackson out of the Class 5 rankings with a dominating 48-21 victory last Friday.

Obviously, to give themselves a chance, the Bluejays must find a way to slow down Dexter's prolific passing attack, triggered by rifle-armed senior quarterback Kyle Espey. Espey, the area's leading passer, has thrown for 1,082 yards with 11 touchdowns.

Although Espey threw for 177 yards (18-of-32 attempts) against the Mules, he was harassed into 12 sacks and three interceptions.

Whether or not Charleston's defense is capable of pressuring Espey remains to be seen. Espey's favorite receiver, Derek Roberts, also leads the area with 29 catches for 537 yards and six touchdowns. He has a punt return for a seventh score.

Alex Becker adds another dimension to the Bearcats' arsenal. The six-foot, 170-pound tailback has rushed for 456 yards -- in four games -- with seven touchdowns.

Dexter's defensive unit has allowed 14.4 points per game overall, but that average rises to 29 in its two losses. The Bluejays' quick-strike ability and penchant for big plays will give the Bearcat defense cause for concern. In Charleston's win over Malden last week, the Bluejays featured a balanced attack with 193 yards rushing and 202 passing.

Bluejays' quarterback Josh Marshall had a hot hand with eight completions in 11 attempts for three touchdowns.

Sophomore jack-of-all-trades Bobby Clark hauled in two scoring strikes (45 and 46 yards) and scored another on a 12-yard run. Clark has three rushing and three receiving touchdowns, along with an interception return for a score.

Another sophomore, 6-3 wideout Justin Clark, had a touchdown catch of 29 yards.

Add sophomore running back Joseph Watts, 6-6 senior receiver Ashton Farmer, who had two catches for 60 yards against Malden, and 6-4 sophomore receiver Jamarcus Williams and the Bluejays field an imposing set of skill-position players.

Watts, a 1000-yard rusher as a freshman, leads the Charleston ground game with 438 yards and seven scores, including a punt return for a touchdown. As for common opponents, both teams own wins over Sikeston and Malden. Dexter pounded Sikeston 46-7 while Charleston upended the Bulldogs 34-14. Dexter romped 56-0 over Malden two weeks ago and, as previously mentioned, the Bluejays topped Malden 40-14.

Dexter certainly looks to rebound against a conference foe in front of the home fans, while Charleston attempts to tighten its hold on the second spot, behind Caruthersville, in the Central Division race.