The Bearcats turned in a dominate defensive performance and took advantage of several Sikeston mistakes en route to a 21-0 victory Friday night at Charles Bland Stadium.
"We didn't play well," said Sikeston coach Kent Gibbs. "Dexter came out and got after us. They are a well-coached football team and their record is misleading because of who they've played. Physically they just completely dominated us tonight and they didn't quit. You saw a team that played hard for four quarters and on the flip side of that, you saw us make too many mistakes."
The mistakes happened early for the Bulldogs as they fumbled the opening kickoff to the Bearcats. Dexter (1-2) capitalized four plays later on a fourth-
and-seven play when quarterback Ben Mills connected with receiver Bobby Rawson in stride for an 18-yard touchdown giving Dexter an early 7-0 lead.
Dexter head coach Aaron Pixley said the early start is something that usually goes against the Bearcats. "Typically that happens to us," Pixley said. "(Recovering the fumble) was big for us and it was big that we scored."
Dexter used the early lead to spur on the defense which held Sikeston's potent running game to just 104 yards on the night, including holding Gaviland Bland to 80 yards on 16 carries. With the inability to run the ball, the Bulldogs were forced to the air which resulted in several sacks and some key dropped passes.
"The ability to not run the ball is OK if you have the ability to protect the passer and we couldn't do that either," said Gibbs. "You have to be able to throw the ball deep. They were playing everybody within seven, eight yards of the ball, daring us to throw the ball deep. The only way you can get them backed up is to throw the ball deep and complete a few."
However, Sikeston wasn't without opportunities in the game. Late in the second quarter down 14-0, Sikeston linebacker Chase Ferrell intercepted a Mills pass at the Dexter 37 and raced down the sideline before being drug down just before crossing the goal line.
With the ball sitting on the one, Dexter stopped Bland for no gain on first down. On second down, Dexter's Kevin Hart tackled Sikeston quarterback Charlie Bohannon for a loss of four yards. After stopping Bland for another loss on third down, Dexter's Bobby Rawson intercepted Bohannon in the end zone, ending the Bulldog scoring threat.
"There on the one-foot line, you've not played well and the score is 14-0 and we have a chance to get back in the ball game and we didn't do it," Gibbs said. "You got to take your hat off to the Dexter kids, they did what they needed to do."
"That is a credit to our kids of not giving up, staying low along that defensive line and not letting them get any surge on us," Pixley said. "That is what we try to do here. Anytime we get into an adverse situation, we just preach to our kids to stay up and forget about the last play and just make plays and that is what we did."
In the second half Dexter turned to a grind-it-out running game, using up clock and keeping the Sikeston offense off the field. Dexter's Nick Hessling, compiled a bulk off the yards, running behind an offensive line that seemed to be wearing down the Sikeston defense. Hessling finished the game with 155 yards on 31 carries, including a 7-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.
"He runs hard," Pixley said of Hessling. "He's a downhill runner. He's not fancy and he gets some tough yards. I felt like he was blocked better for tonight compared to last Friday night. Our running backs did a good job of picking up linebackers and I felt like we got some pretty good surges from our offensive line tonight at times. At times we didn't but Nick does a good job of getting tough yards and he ran very well tonight."
The Bearcats put the game away early in the fourth quarter. After another Rawson interception, Dexter methodically marched down the field in a 10-
play 56-yard drive that ended when Mills hit Eric Windham for a 5-yard touchdown pass.
With the loss, Sikeston falls to 2-1 but Pixley was still impressed with the Bulldogs. "(Sikeston) is a very tough football team with good athletes," Pixley said. "Their defensive linemen really get after you at times and their nose man alone can really ruin a play before it gets started. Our kids bent a little bit on defense at times but at the same time I felt we stepped up basically every time we had to step up and make a play. I'm proud of my football team. We needed a win and they really had a gut check tonight against a good Sikeston football team and pulled it out."
Sikeston will host the Jackson Indians (3-0) next week while Dexter will travel to Poplar Bluff to take on the Mules.