PORTAGEVILLE -- It's district time and the Caruthersville Tigers are acting like a team that has advanced to the state playoffs the last two years.
"We've been preaching to them all year that nothing matters until the districts," said Caruthersville's first-year coach Brad Gerling. "That's kind of been the focus, getting back into the state playoffs for the third straight year."
Caruthersville began its state-playoff quest by rolling over the overmatched Portageville Bulldogs 60-6 in its Class 2, District 1 opener at Vic Reaves Field on Friday.
"It goes to show that, nine times out of 10, talent beats you," said Portageville coach Ashley Swims, referring to the faster, quicker Caruthersville squad. "You're just hoping for that one time where your team comes together and they have a bad night, but they didn't have a bad night tonight."
Coming in with a lackluster 2-5 record and a five-game losing streak, the Tigers rang up 28 first-quarter points and the rout was on.
"Finally, things came together for us," said Gerling. "We came out and performed tonight like we should have been all along."
Portageville went three-and-out on its first five possessions as the Tigers forged ahead 34-0 with just 13 seconds gone in the second quarter.
Caruthersville took advantage of short-field position with scoring drives starting at the Bulldog 30, 35, 7, 15 and 19 yard lines. All ended in touchdowns, three by the area's leading rusher Kendrickus Reed on runs of 6, 27 and 2 yards and two on scoring strikes of 7 and 19 yards from quarterback Keith Creekmore to receivers Zach Ayers and Jason Tate.
Reed increased his season rushing total to 1,468 yards with 139 yards on 13 carries, a 10.7 average, and added two more touchdown runs of 29 and 25 yards.
The Bulldogs scored their only points of the evening at the 8:31 mark of the second quarter when quarterback Tyler Fowler found Trey Mosby in the end zone on a 29-yard touchdown pass.
Playing catch-up early on, the Bulldogs were forced to abandon their preferred run game for the pass, but neither attack generated much success against the Caruthersville defense.
Portageville (3-5) was held to 154 yards of total offense -- 79 running, 75 passing.
C.J. Medley led the Bulldogs with 67 tough yards on 19 trips. Mosby was the leading receiver with two catches for 57 yards.
With a running clock for the entire second half, Caruthersville finished the scoring on a 2-yard run by Mikey Lack and a 49-yard touchdown toss from backup sophomore quarterback Jake VanAusdall to wide receiver Rashad Fields.
Fields, a 6-3, 200-pound sophomore, turned in a nice all-round performance with 49 yards on four rushes, two catches for 85 and three kick returns for 77.
Caruthersville's performance propels them into a familiar position as favorites once again in a district which also includes Malden and East Prairie.
Said Gerling, "If you ask our kids, they felt like we've been in the driver's seat all year long. Getting the confidence back up, after that stretch during the regular season, is going to be a big key for us."
That stretch Gerling alluded to included three losses by a total of eight points.
While enduring a devastating defeat, Portageville coach Swims believes in the resilience of his team.
"They understand," he said. "They know they're not the most talented bunch, but they keep coming back and they keep trying harder and we've just got to keep improving week to week. All I can tell the kids is that the district is still open. Anything can still happen--it's wide open."
Caruthersville hosts Malden while Portageville hosts East Prairie on Friday in round two of the district playoffs.