The first blunder came with Charleston holding a 12-6 lead with 3:20 to go in the first half. With the Bluejays set to punt from the Dexter 44, a high snap sailed over punter Dustin Allen's head and rolled around near the Charleston 40-yard line. Allen ill-advisedly tried to kick the ball backwards through the backside of the end zone, but the ball barely trickled over the goal line when Dexter linebacker David Hessling pounced on it for a TD and a tie at 12.
"We want that play from the end zone, not from midfield," said Charleston coach Al Marshall. "We were about to jump on 'em and start turning the corner and that just changed 'Big Mo.' The momentum swung right then."
The play, obviously, provided a huge lift for Dexter.
"Our football team didn't really come into this game with a lot of confidence," said Dexter coach Aaron Pixley, whose team was coming off a crushing late-
game loss to Poplar Bluff. "I didn't know how they were going to respond, but they hung in there and kept it at 12-12 at halftime. Then, at halftime, they believed that they could do it."
Another critical error occurred in the fourth period just after a Dexter score had sent them up 20-12. On the ensuing kickoff freshman returner Tony Riggins, surrounded by Bearcats, lost the ball on a pitchback attempt, giving Dexter possession at the Charleston 18.
"After that break we got on the kickoff, you could really see the energy just fill us up," said Pixley. "We started standing taller, had more confidence and the offensive line started taking control of the line of scrimmage."
"Take that play (the kickoff fumble) out and that punt play and you've got a different ballgame," said Marshall.
Dexter tailback Alex Becker capped the five-play drive with a 1-yard dive for a commanding 26-12 lead with 6:13 left.
Becker, who rushed for a game-high 222 yards on 40 carries, was the evening's offensive standout. He scored all three of Dexter's game-deciding fourth-quarter touchdowns.
"It looked like we'd have the hole stopped up and then, all of a sudden, you'd see him squirt through, find a crack somehow," said Marshall.
On his star running back, who is just 34 yards shy of his second straight 1,000-yard season, Pixley said, "We have kids that run tough and play hard and he's (Becker) one of them. He'll be the first one to tell you that his offensive line blew some nice holes open for him in the second half.
"The more he ran, the better he got tonight. That's a credit to his conditioning."
Charleston, reminiscent of the start it had in its biggest win of the year against Caruthersville, jumped to an early 6-0 lead with less than 1:30 gone in the first quarter.
Bluejay defensive back Justin Clark stepped in front of the intended Dexter receiver, tipped the pass, snatched it in midair and sprinted untouched for a 45-yard interception return for a TD.
But Dexter (3-3) didn't fold.
Said Pixley, "We did a good job of staying tough. We never lost our composure or poise out there."
With Becker chewing up big chunks of yardage, the Bearcats strung together a 15-play drive, consuming nearly five minutes, to knot the score at 6 on a 5-
yard TD pass from Josh Stevens to Anthony Alsup.
Ball control throughout the game was a major key for the Bearcats.
"That was the gameplan," said Pixley. "We knew we had to control the clock on them. You can't go three-and-out on these guys and expect to win. In the second half, we really controlled the clock and kept their offense off the field. That's what it takes to beat Charleston."
The Bluejays put together an efficient drive of their own with quarterback Josh Marshall connecting with 6-foot-5 tight end Jamarcus Williams for plays of 14 and 16 yards and tailback Joseph Watts breaking a 28-yard run.
Marshall capped the drive on a 1-yard sneak at the 7:22 mark of the second quarter for a 12-6 advantage.
The aforementioned punt misplay followed for a 12-12 deadlock at the half.
In the second quarter, the Bluejays lost freshman running back Jerquawn Sherrell for the night with a sprained ankle. Sherrell had been a big part of last week's victory with 119 rushing yards.
Watts, still not 100 percent with a hip-pointer injury, led the Bluejays with 128 yards on 16 carries with a long of 54 yards.
"With him (Sherrell), we've got a 1-2 punch, and then we can throw it, too," said coach Marshall. "That forces them to cover the whole field."
Charleston opened the third quarter with a 64-yard drive that fell short on fourth down at the Dexter 4, another negative momentum swing for the Bluejays and their final serious scoring thrust.
Following a scoreless third quarter, Dexter put the game away with three fourth-quarter TDs, on Becker runs of 36, 28 and 1 yard.
"They just took it to us," said Marshall. "We've got to regroup, rearm and fight the good fight."
Charleston faces East Prairie in a non-conference game, the final regular-
season contest before district play, on Friday at East Prairie.