SIKESTON - The Sikeston Bulldogs will try to get their first win of the season on Friday night when the Kennett Indians visit SPS Stadium for a 7 p.m. game.
Sikeston has gone through plenty of struggles this season, but the last games have given the Bulldogs a little life.
Two weeks ago they played state-ranked Farmington tough for a half and last week they were in total control against New Madrid County Central, leading 16-7 with less than five minutes left in the game.
But both times Sikeston couldn't avoid the turnover bug, nor could the defense step up when needed.
Both are issues Bulldog coach Jerry Dement and his staff have addressed in practice this week.
"I thought we played two good quarters against Farmington and there good quarters against New Madrid," said Dement. "Obviously you have to put a whole game together and we tried to address those things and take care of our business. We've been more worried about improving ourselves as much as worrying about preparing for the other team. Even though we've been struggling, the kids have had a pretty good practice attitude and continue to try to improve. I think some of that will pay off on the field for us this Friday.
"We need to eliminate turnovers, particularly fumbles, and we need to tackle better in the open field. And play hard the entire game. I thought we did a pretty good job of that the other night until late in the game and we had some letdowns. A lot of times that's the difference between winning and losing."
Kennett comes into the game with a 3-3 record, having won three of its last four games.
The Bulldogs have fared well over the years against the Indians, winning four of five since they resumed the series in 2000.
The Indians haven't defeated the Bulldogs at SPS Stadium since 1985.
Despite Sikeston's record, first-year Kennett coach Kirk Welch isn't taking the Bulldogs lightly.
"They're probably one of the best 0-6 teams in the state," said Welch. "And I don't mean that in a bad way at all. They've run into some bad luck, they've had some good competition. They're definitely a formidable opponent for us. Obviously they're a little bigger and stronger than we are, but with our speed I think we can play with them at least for a little while.
"We're struggling ourselves -- we're trying to turn the program around down here. Our kids aren't used to winning. This is the kind of game that will gauge where we are and not because Sikeston is 0-6, but just the fact that they're a bigger school classification wise. And they're a little more physical and quite a bit bigger than we are."
Kennett's Marco Finley is one of the fastest and quickest running backs in the area, having rushed for more than 600 yards this year.
Senior quarterback Robert Lockett is also a running threat for the Indians.
"We're not the type of team that's going to line up against them and try to pound them," said Welch. "Obviously we're going to have to do it some to keep them honest. But we're going to try to use our speed to our advantage. We're a multiple offense. We're going to run the option, we're going to run the inside-outside zone. We're going to throw it short and deep. We just try to make teams protect the field sideline to sideline and goal line to goal line. We're just going to try to mix it up and keep them guessing. What Utah ran last year and what Florida runs this year, that's what we're trying to do."
Kennett has defeated three smaller schools for its only wins, beating Hayti, Portageville and Malden.
The Indians have lost to Charleston (31-19), Caruthersville (42-14) and Farmington (40-7).
Sikeston lost to all three of those opponents by similar scores, falling to Charleston (14-8), Caruthersville (43-16) and Farmington (49-20).
Sikeston fullback Acie Dixon leads the offense, carrying 66 times for 354 yards and four touchdowns. Michael Geralds follows up with 129 yards rushing on 46 carries with a score.
Robbie Howard is the top all-purpose threat, catching 20 passes for 215 yards with two TDs and averaging 25.1 yards per kick return. Howard is also one of the top defenders on the team, intercepting three passes this year.
Sophomore quarterback Chase Ferrell has thrown for 351 yards, completing 36-of-82 passes with two TDs and four interceptions.
The Bulldogs' biggest albatross on offense this year has been turnovers, with 17 on the season. They've forced nine turnovers.
With the Bulldogs heading into district play next week, Dement is ready for his team to be rewarded with a victory after a few close calls this year.
"We know if we do a good job and keep improving like we have the last week or two, I think we'll have a good chance to win," said Dement.
"They've got good athletes at the skill positions, particularly at quarterback and running back. They present some problems because they do a lot of wide open stuff."