DEXTER - The Dexter Bearcats will host the Malden Green Wave on their homecoming Friday night in a rivalry that dates back to 1920.
Dexter leads the overall series 42-21-4 and has a four-game winning streak against the Green Wave dating back to the 2001 season. Last season, the Bearcats defeated Malden 56-0.
Dexter (1-2) is coming off a big 31-7 victory over Sikeston and Malden (1-1
-1) played a tough Corning, Ark. team to a 22-22 tie last Friday and had to come from behind to accomplish that feat.
Coach Aaron Pixley of the Bearcats has the usual concerns with distractions during homecoming week but he has the added concern of the Stoddard County Fair which is also running this week.
"This is the first time we've ever had homecoming and fair week in the same week," said Pixley. "Having each one on its own week is hard enough. But both on the same week?"
Coach Pixley is very concerned about the focus of his football team.
"We're just going to have to concentrate and focus just that much more," said Pixley. "I'm concerned about our mind set. There are a lot of activities going on this week and I'm concerned about how we'll go into the football game. We'll need to make sure we're mentally focused and prepared because Malden is a very good football team, very fast and they have four or five threats that can get big gains on you. We just need to make sure we're ready."
If Malden expects to leave Dexter with a win tonight, they are going to have to find a way to handle the Bearcats' running game. In Dexter's win over Sikeston, running back Alex Becker (5-11, 170) went wild and racked up 256 rushing yards and scored five touchdowns. After three games, Becker is third in the area in rushing.
Coach Gary Blaylock is concerned with Dexter's running attack and the size of their offensive line.
"Dexter has a lot of big, strong guys and they play extremely physical," said Blaylock. "Becker is going to be a load for us and we have to try and make sure we know at all times where he is on the football game."
Becker will have help in the backfield as senior Justin Foushee (6-0, 190) has gained a total of 110 yards on the season with 22 carries.
Junior quarterback Josh Stevens is showing signs of promise as the first-year starter for Dexter. Stevens has thrown for 247 yards with a touchdown pass.
Dexter's offensive line is starting to gel with the play of right tackle Bryan Maslinski (6-3, 280) and left tackle Matt Myers (6-1, 265).
The Bearcats will be without the services of wideout Eric Rinehart (6-0, 170) who is suspended for one game after being ejected in last week's Sikeston game.
"Whenever people aren't there, people get hurt, or someone is missing for whatever reason, then someone's got to step up, grow up and play that position and execute it," said Pixley. "So we're not looking to fall off anywhere."
Dexter will find receivers able to catch the football with tight end Josh Davis (6-3, 230) who has caught four balls for 55 yards. Drew Pixley (5-9, 150) will have to step up at wide receiver and brings into the game three receptions for 53 yards.
Injuries will be a factor for Malden as six players will be out of action due to injuries.
"We won't have anybody back from their injuries this week," said Blaylock. "We'll be playing with basically the same bunch we had last week."
Malden will incorporate a 4-4 defensive scheme with emphasis on freeing the linebackers to make tackles. Junior Trey Porter is battling through an ankle injury but will play linebacker for the Green Wave.
"We won't use Trey at running back because he can't cut effectively but he can run from tackle-to-tackle and make some plays on the defensive side for us," said Blaylock.
Porter will be joined at linebacker by Jimmy Deberry (5-10, 170) and Jesse Curtis (6-0, 150). Those three lead the team in tackling and will be expected to make some plays for the Green Wave.
The defensive line will be undersized besides nose tackle Jack Jones (6-0, 315) who will anchor the D-line. The rest of the line weighs 165, 185 and 200.
On offense, Malden will rely on the running game led by juniors Ryan Criglar (5-10, 165) and Kaleum Reid (5-7, 150). Criglar has gained 368 yards rushing with an eye-opening 12.7 yards per carry. Criglar is currently fifth in the area in rushing. Reid has gained 167 yards rushing in only 12 attempts.
Coach Pixley is worried about the speed that the Green Wave will feature at running back.
"They have five players that can absolutely burn it up," said Pixley. "They have three in the backfield and they rotate two in and all five running backs can really, really fly."
Senior quarterback John Henfling (6-3, 160) will not be asked to throw a lot as he has only attempted 14 passes on the season. But of the 14 passes, he has connected on eight for 204 yards with three touchdown passes.
The main target for Henfling will be Criglar who has caught seven passes for 184 yards which is good for third in the area. Criglar is averaging 26.3 yards per catch.
"We're not exactly a super fast team so we have got to make sure we play sound defense," said Pixley. "We've got to get physical and make sure our defensive linemen are playing physical all night. We have got to make sure we're in the right spots all the time because they are capable of taking it to the end zone on any given play."
Coach Blaylock is concerned with the inexperienced of his offensive line and hopes his offensive calls will disrupt what Dexter can do on defense.
"We have a young offensive line and every game we give up 30 to 50 pounds on the line," said Blaylock. "We have to run misdirections and angle block to be effective. Dexter will be a big test and you know they will be physical."
The Bearcats will try and stop Malden's running attack with a swarming defense led by linebackers Davis and Austin Matthews (5-9, 180). Junior Zach Ventura (5-8, 175) will also be expected to have a big night tackling the Green Wave runners at his linebacker position.
Despite the injuries for Malden, coach Blaylock is eager to take on the Bearcats.
"It is their homecoming so they will be pumped about that and we'll have to overcome the fact that they beat us 56-0 last year," said Blaylock. "They also won their first game last week against Sikeston. It will be a tough game as Dexter has a good running back and a strong line."
Coach Pixley has some fears that Malden will come in and ruin the homecoming game for the Bearcats.
"They are much improved from last year and again the speed factor is twice as good as it has been for them," said Pixley. "I believe they believe they can win. They always play us hard. They are coming in here and they know its our homecoming and they are going to try and wreck that. I'm very concerned about where our minds are going to be on Friday night."