Winner of game will claim both the district, conference
NEW MADRID - The New Madrid County Central Eagles welcome in the Dexter Bearcats football team tonight for a district title showdown.
The Eagles come in with the better record, at 7-1, while the Bearcats come in at 6-3.
Of course, the game features the head coaching match-up of the Pixley brothers, Arlen, of NMCC, and Aaron, of Dexter, but what makes the district title game more interesting, is that it features the same teams as the 2006 title game that went in NMCC's favor, by a score of 34-26, after the Eagles held off a late fourth quarter rally of the Bearcats.
"Offensively, we will probably see southeast Missouri's best passing game (Dexter) coming into New Madrid on Thursday night," Arlen Pixley said. "They throw the ball well enough to be able to run with it. They do a great job moving the ball down the field."
Dexter comes in with the leading aerial assault in the area, headed by Ben Mills, who on the season is 101-for-151 (67 percent) passing, with five interceptions and 17 touchdowns, equaling.
"People don't realize it, but they lost quite a few seniors last season," Arlen Pixley said. "They've had a bunch of new guys step up. They play hard for four quarters."
The Bearcats Bobby Rawson has become one of the area's premiere players, and has 40 receptions for 571 yards, averaging 14.3 yards per catch and has 11 touchdowns. He is on the wing, while in the backfield stands Nick Hessling, who is nearing 1,000 yards rushing on the season, coming into tonight's game with 983 yards on 185 carries with 10 touchdowns.
"This is all you can ask for your team, is to set yourself up for a championship," Aaron Pixley said. "And they've done that. They've played hard to get here and we've got one left and we're going to play as hard as we can and try to get it."
Lennies McFerren leads the way on the ground for the Eagles, coming in with 1,202 yards on 165 carries, averaging 7.3 yards per carry and has a total of 12 touchdowns.
Bryan Waters comes in with 622 yards on 62 carries, averaging 10.0 yards per run and has 14 touchdowns.
The Eagles will lose one key factor in tonight's game, in Dylan Harris, who is out due to a nagging injury to his labrum. Harris is scheduled for surgery, and is aiming to be healthy and ready in time for the spring baseball season.
"We knew it was coming," Arlen Pixley said. "It's bothered him all year long and he's played through it. He's a huge asset to our team and is an excellent worker."
The NMCC coach also added that his injured player is one of the first to show up and last to leave day-in and day-out. Harris was second team all-
conference in 2006 as a full back.
Kony Ealy will step up to take Harris' bulk load.
Aside from the gap being filled in the injured slot, Arlen Pixley says his team has a few other minor corrections to make in order to come out victorious once again.
"We have to tackle better than we have lately," he said. "Our blocking hasn't been where it was at, and we have to get better up front."
"It will be tough if they (Dexter) play like they've been playing," Arlen Pixley added. "They've won big games, tight games. They're battle tested. That's why they're where they are at."
Aaron Pixley says his Bearcats have to be able to contain the Eagles running frenzy.
"You've got to stop their run," he said. "They are definitely a running football team. That's what they hang their hat on."
"They are coached well doing it," Aaron Pixley added. "They are big strong kids. They are athletic. If you don't stop the run, they'll never have to pass."
He went on to say that his Dexter squad has had a few problems this season protecting Mills at quarterback.
"We've had a problem with pressure defenses," he said. "This is probably the best pressure defense that well ever face. It's going to be a great test for us."
Both coaches agree that the game is the most anticipated of the season, and that it will be a great experience for their players to play for the title in consecutive seasons. As always, there are four quarters in the game, and both Pixley's agree, that both of their squads better be prepared until the final buzzer to walk away with the district title.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at NMCC.