SIKESTON - High school football will have a different look for certain teams in the area. The biggest changes will take place in Class 1 and 2, while Class 3 and 4 will stay the same for the new 2-year cycle.
Sikeston will stay in Class 4, District 1 with no changes made to the teams they have been playing for the last two years. The Bulldogs will still face Cape Central and Poplar Bluff in district action, as well as West Plains, who has won the last two district titles.
In Class 3, District 1, the teams will still consist of Dexter, Kennett, New Madrid County Central and Perryville.
Class 2 will have a different look for District 1. Caruthersville, East Prairie and Malden remain district foes. Portageville will drop a class to Class 1, due to decrease in student enrollment, and Charleston will take their place.
Charleston moves from District 2, which is more of a northern district that will know consist of Crystal City, Grandview, Scott City and the new member, St. Pius X.
The new Class 2, District 1 will be a tough road for any team to get through.
"This district could be one of the toughest districts in the state for Class 2," said East Prairie head coach Corey Adkisson. "I believe it is one of the toughest in Southeast Missouri as far as competitive balance for top to bottom. Heading into next season, I don't see one clear cut favorite. Nobody will be that much better than anyone else. It should be wide open and a very interesting season."
Class 2, District 1 will feature four outstanding returning running backs with Kendrickus Reed of Caruthersville, who led the area last season with over 2,000 rushing yards and Paris Tipler of East Prairie who led the area in scoring last year with over 30 touchdowns and 1,900 yards rushing.
Malden will feature two premiere backs in Trey Porter and Ryan Criglar. Porter had well over 1,000 yards rushing in his sophomore season and is looking to get back to that form after an injured-plagued junior year. Criglar rushed for over 1,000 yards last season and was second in the area in receiving yards.
Not to be outdone, Charleston will return Joseph Watts who rushed for over 1,300 yards last season.
"Our district has the leading running backs corps in the area," said Adkisson. "It is going to be a treat for the fans to watch the district games and see these outstanding running backs."
Charleston head coach Al Marshall echoes the sentiments of Adkisson.
"With Reed and Tipler being all-state backs," said Marshall, "it is going to be a chore to tackle those guys."
Charleston and East Prairie will have their rivalry game on the big stage for the district playoffs. Adkisson downplayed the rivalry aspect of the matchup.
"Charleston is a tough win for us," said Adkisson. "We haven't beat them in quite awhile and that will add the pressure. But we can't focus just on beating Charleston. Every single team is going to be difficult to beat. I think we have a good chance to win as any."
While Marshall agrees the new district will be challenging, there is still a bitter taste in his mouth about last year's district.
"I was really hoping for another shot at Crystal City," said Marshall. "But our new district all has good teams and it is going to be a fight to the finish. Traditionally, we played in a weaker district, but Crystal City beat Caruthersville last year and they have their quarterback and running back returning. Even though it is a new district, will have always played these teams year in and year out. We are going to be used to the teams and it is going to be tough, competitive district."
Portageville drops down a class and will have to tangle with the likes of Chaffee, Hayti and St. Vincent in Class 1, District 2.
"I think many believe that us dropping down a class would make it easier for us," said Portageville head coach Ashley Swims, "But if you look at it, our district is pretty tough. Coach (Charlie) Vickery at Chaffee has his team coming around and St. Vincent always has a quality team. So there is not going to be much difference this year than the last, it is going to be difficult."
Hayti is the big rivalry game for Portageville, but don't say that to Swims. "We were big rivals in the '90s," said Swims, "but lately it has been kind of one-sided. Back in the day we had some good games.
"But hopefully we can bounce back from last year and we will give it a go."