SIKESTON - One of the unique things about high school football in Missouri is that every team has an equal chance to make the playoffs.
Regular season records don't mean anything as every team will start with a clean slate.
That means Sikeston, which enters the district 1-6, could turn around a disappointing season with three wins in the next three weeks.
The Bulldogs will begin their quest Friday night as they host the West Plains Zizzers in the Class 4, District 1 opener at 7 p.m.
The two teams have met only once before, that being last year as West Plains defeated the Bulldogs 35-0 en route to the district championship.
This will be the Zizzers' first ever trip to SPS Stadium.
"This is our first game over in that direction -- I'm kind of amazed that we're still traveling that far to be quite honest with you," said West Plains coach Greg Simpkins. "I know they have some fantastic facilities over there and I know Jerry's (Dement) doing a great job with them. He's a good football coach and I'm looking forward to getting the new season started. Everybody's 0-0 right now and it's always good that everybody gets a fresh start."
The Zizzers (3-4) enter district play with the same record they had last year before they ran the table in the district to reach the playoffs.
Which means, most have West Plains pegged once again to repeat as the district champions as Sikeston, Poplar Bluff and Cape Central each come in at 1-6.
But none of that means much to Simpkins.
"It really doesn't matter with those first seven games," said Simpkins. "What matters is are we making improvements? We want to be healthy of course and we want to have all cylinders working properly at this time of the year. It doesn't matter who you play. If you're improving, that's what's important. I don't care if you're 0-7 or 7-0, you have to be improving at this time of the year. I've seen teams sit at home at 9-1."
West Plains has lost two straight coming into Friday's game, losing 28-24 to Springfield Glendale and 34-18 to Waynesville. The two losses snapped a three-game winning streak in which they defeated Springfield Hillcrest 18-7, Springfield Parkview 41-20 and Lebanon 38-7.
The Zizzers owe their other two losses to Class 4 top-ranked Camdenton 48
-21 and Springfield Kickapoo 21-0 in the first two weeks of the season.
The Zizzers average 22.9 points per game on offense and allow 23.6 points per game on defense.
Sikeston snapped a six-game losing streak by defeating Kennett 26-20 last Friday.
The Bulldogs set season-bests in yards allowed on defense and yards gained on offense.
However, turnovers still plague the team as they lost four more fumbles, raising their season total to 16 lost fumbles this year.
The Bulldogs are hoping last week's victory will carry some momentum into the district.
"They're the defending champions and probably right now the strongest team in the district -- so we're going to get the toughest one right off the bat," said Dement. "We know we're going to have to play somewhat over our heads to keep up with them. But we've had a good practice attitude. We're going to have to have some kids step up this week.
"It always sparks you up after a win. It's a lot easier to come off a victory in practice than it is off defeats. We really feel like the last couple weeks we've been getting better. We just missed getting one two weeks ago and now we finally got one last week. Hopefully we can build on that a little bit."
Sikeston will be facing a team that literally ran right through them last year with a power running game and a little misdirection option.
Dement says, despite the Zizzers losing several seniors from that team, they will be a handful once again.
"They're very balanced offensively -- they're not real flashy, but they make very few mistakes," said Dement. "They've had a few turnovers that have cost them, but other than that they are well-disciplined and well-coached. They look to be every bit as tough as last year. They probably throw the ball better this year than last year. They have a lot of different formations and that includes some motion. They run everything from shotgun spread offense to the Wing-T. It makes you do a lot of preparations defensively."
West Plains has good size at all positions.
Tyler Schmitt is a 6-2, 205-pound junior quarterback, who has thrown for 527 yards, completing 44-of-83 passes with two TDs and no interceptions.
Schmitt also averages a whopping 41 yards per punt, which ranks as fourth best in the Springfield area.
The Zizzers have seven other players that top 200 pounds on the scales in the starting offense, including junior running back Evan Moffis (5-10, 200).
"I consider it a Wing-T type offense," said Simpkins. "We try to get the ball to different people at different times. I've always been told that you need to be able to spread people horizontally and vertically. We'll try to put in a little option, a little power and a little misdirection and hopefully we can connect on a few passes with play-action, drop-backs and sprint-outs."
West Plains kicker Scott Crampton has kicked 5-of-6 field goals and is a perfect 12-for-12 on extra points.
The Bulldog defense showed great improvement last week, limiting the Indians to just 37 rushing yards.
"I thought we made a big push defensively last week," said Dement. "We're going to have to really carry that into the game this week. It's going to be a big challenge for us."
According to Dement, the Zizzers have an aggressive, attacking defense that tries to force teams into throwing.
The Zizzers use a common 4-4 defensive alignment in efforts to stop rushing attacks.
"They put a lot of people in the box and they force you to do other things," said Dement. "I'm sure they're going to force us to pass. We've been fairly conservative with a lot of young players this year. We haven't been able to expand as much as we'd like to. We just need to cut down on our turnovers."
Sikeston's offense has been led for most of the season by senior fullback Acie Dixon, who has rushed for 437 yards on 80 carries with six touchdowns.
Sophomore quarterback Chase Ferrell has completed 38-of-85 passes for 379 yards with three touchdowns and four interceptions.
Robbie Howard, the team's top playmaker on either side of the ball, will not play this week due to breaking team rules. Joey Williams, who caught a 25-
yard touchdown last week, will start in his place on both sides of the ball.
Junior Jerod Scott will get his first start at the tailback position this week. Scott rushed for 44 yards on six carries in limited action last week.
"Sikeston has gradually improved this year and got a big 'W' going into district last week," said Simpkins. "That's a good sign for Sikeston and a bad sign for West Plains."