CHARLESTON -- Charleston has had its problems with Dexter in recent years, losing five of the last six to the Bearcats under coach Aaron Pixley.
The Bluejays (4-1), ranked ninth in Missouri's Class 2, look to break a string of three straight losses to the 'Cats when they host Dexter on Friday.
"It's a big game for us; it's a must win," said Charleston coach Al Marshall. "It's our last conference game (SEMO Central Division) and we've still got a shot at getting a piece of the conference (title)."
The Bearcats (2-3) will undoubtedly have their claws sharpened after a heartbreaking 27-20, last-minute loss to Poplar Bluff last week.
Charleston, on the other hand, had little trouble, dominating Malden on the ground and through the air, in a 33-16 win.
Wary of a letdown after a big win, Charleston coach Al Marshall said, "You live and learn and I think we learned from that other fiasco (the New Madrid County Central loss following a huge victory over Caruthersville) and they came back with their minds on their business."
Senior quarterback Josh Marshall triggered a 393-yard offensive show by tossing three TD passes to junior wide receiver Justin Clark and running in another score. Marshall connected on 7-of-10 passes for 121 yards, 116 of those to Clark on six receptions.
The Bluejays also unveiled freshman running back Jerquawn Sherrell who rushed for 119 yards. A bruising power runner, the 190-pound Sherrell subbed for injured leading rusher Joseph Watts and bulled for tough yardage between the tackles.
Senior fullback James Williams, hobbled by injury much of the season, saw considerable playing time and turned in his best performance with 89 yards on 18 carries.
The Charleston defense limited Malden to 173 yards.
"We had a lot of them (defenders) play well," said coach Marshall, "but James (Williams) came in with a bad ankle and did a heckuva job defensively at linebacker and noseguard Richard Jackson had a tremendous game along with defensive tackle J.B. Small. He got penetration and messed up a lot of their plays."
The Bluejays, like most teams at this juncture, are hampered by injury.
Said Marshall, "We've got walking wounded everywhere."
Their prime outside threat, Watts, who is suffering from a hip pointer, may see limited action, so expect the Bluejays to pound with Sherrell and Williams, then mix in the pass to a stellar corps of receivers, which includes the return of tight end Jamarcus Williams after a one-game absence.
On Friday's opponent, Marshall said, "Dexter's got a fine football team. Coach Pixley does a good job--they're fundamentally sound and they don't make very many mistakes. They're going to go hard whether they're ahead or behind."
Dexter has primarily been a running team, with Alex Becker leading the charge behind a strong offensive line.
"Becker's been their main gun, but he's not their only gun," said Marshall. "They've got a good quarterback (Josh Stevens) and a good tight end (senior Josh Davis) and tough, hard-nosed defensive players with tremendous line play on both sides of the ball."
Becker, one of the area's leading rushers, has averaged 5.7 yards-per-carry for 744 yards and 10 TDs.
Dexter's junior quarterback Stevens, in his first year as a starter, has completed nearly 50 percent of his attempts for 431 yards and four TDs. He's spread it around to four receivers with six or more catches each, led by Davis with 102 yards on eight receptions. Junior Drew Pixley has seven grabs for 87 yards, senior Eric Rinehart, six for 96 and junior Logan Swindle, six for 90 with two TD catches against Poplar Bluff.
As for common opponents, Charleston and Dexter both hold wins over Sikeston and Malden this season.
Dexter won last season's matchup 19-7, but Charleston has a 31-17 edge in the all-time series.