CAPE GIRARDEAU - With no playoff appearance possible, the Sikeston Bulldogs will play out its final regular season game tomorrow night at Houck Stadium as they take on the Cape Central Tigers.
The Bulldogs (1-8, 0-2 SEMO North) will be playing a Cape Central team that could conceivably tie for the Class 4, District 1 lead, but they are mathematically eliminated due to the MSHSAA points system.
Cape Central (2-7, 1-1 SEMO North) could throw a wrinkle in Poplar Bluff's plans if the Mules were to knock off West Plains, forcing a three-way tie. Cape Central defeated Poplar Bluff 31-28 in the first week of district play.
If a three-way tie happened, Poplar Bluff would need to defeat West Plains by eight points or more.
Despite all the playoff jargon thrown at them, Cape Central coach Lawrence Brookins just wants his team to finish strong.
"It's definitely a pride situation," said Brookins. "There's nothing left realistically to play for. Some crazy things can happen where you start playing with numbers, but I don't think those numbers, no matter how they fall, would include good old Cape Central or good old Sikeston."
Sikeston and Cape Central met last year in this exact same situation with the Bulldogs routing the Tigers 37-8.
Bulldog coach Jerry Dement is hoping for a repeat performance.
"This is our last game of the season and we want to end it on a good note," said Dement. "Both teams are young, both have had tough seasons against good competition. It's a good local rivalry.
"The kids for the most part have continued to work hard and stay focused. The team that stays the focused and wants to win the most will probably come out on top Thursday night."
The Tigers are looking to avoid back-to-back two-win seasons.
Sikeston is hoping to avoid nine losses, which would be the most losses in a single season by the Bulldogs.
"We hope that pride is a big enough motivator," said Dement. "I expect our kids to play hard. This game just boils down to who wants to end the season right."
The Tigers have played Sikeston tougher than any team in the series history. The Bulldogs hold a slim 43-38-7 edge on Cape Central, which is by far the closest of any other Southeast Missouri team.
Last year's victory by the Bulldogs snapped a four-game losing streak to the Tigers.
Sikeston hasn't won at Houck Stadium since 1999.
This year's Cape Central team is young and inexperienced, much like the Bulldogs.
"Inconsistency would summarize our whole year," said Brookins. "We attribute some of that to youth and inexperience at a lot of key positions early on. "I don't think anybody in our immediate area holds a candle to our schedule. That was tough on us with our young team early. We can't say we're young much anymore because we've seen it all up to this point."
The Tigers have changed quarterbacks in favor of 6-foot-3 junior Blake Slattery, who has thrown for 226 yards heading into last week's 42-20 loss to West Plains.
Derien Downing, Ty Craft and Scott Dunaway all have close to 300 yards receiving.
Hykeem Hammonds, a 5-6, 143-pound junior, is the team's top rusher with more than 700 yards.
"They have a spread offense for the most part," said Dement. "They throw the ball quite a bit. They haven't had a very strong running game but as of late Hammonds has run the ball well. It should be a pretty wide open game. They're throwing the ball more than running. Their offense is more quickness and finesse oriented."
Sikeston's leading rusher is fullback Acie Dixon with 493 yards and seven touchdowns.
Jerod Scott and Byron Davis have shared carries at tailback as they have combined for 241 yards the last couple games.
Chase Ferrell threw for a career-high 141 yards last week against Poplar Bluff, but he also tossed three interceptions.
Robbie Howard is leading the team in receptions with 26 and yards with 285.
Thursday's game will be the 88th game in the longtime series.
"I'm sure in a lot of folks' minds, this game is nearly is big if not bigger than Cape and Jackson," said Brookins. "When the media asks me to name our top rivals, it's really hard for me to put down one team. Our conference alone is a dogfight and we're all so close in proximity. I get as excited for Cape-
Sikeston as I do for Cape-Jackson. We see each other so much in various sports, it is just naturally a big deal. So tomorrow night it will definitely be a big deal."