When the Sikeston Bulldogs, the East Prairie Eagles, New Madrid County Central Eagles and Perryville Pirates scrimmaged for about 90 minutes at the 2007 NMCC Football Jamboree, for the first time this season area coaches saw a glimpse of how their squads will react during game-like conditions.
"On defense, we did a good job of hitting people, moving toward the football and being extremely aggressive. That's a positive (for us)," Sikeston varsity head coach Kent Gibbs said. "On offense, we made some mistakes and we're going to have to clean some things up. (But I see that) we can run the ball a little bit and the passing game did really well."
What Gibbs saw was a defense that ran straight at the football as soon as it detected its location. He also saw a group of defenders who tried to take the shortest possible routes -- many times forcing opposing offenses to move laterally.
"When we were on defense, most of the time we had red helmets at the football. At times, we didn't tackle as well as we want. But there were times when we did tackle well and delivered some blows," Gibbs said.
What has Gibbs a little concerned is Sikeston's inability to wrap up opposing ground-gainers on the first hit. Running backs from East Prairie, NMCC and Perryville broke through several of the Bulldogs' tackling attempts and were not completely stopped until Sikeston had its second or third opportunity.
"When you go live against another team for the first time, you're going to have some things like that happen," Gibbs said. "Overall, I was pleased with the way we played."
Sophomore defensive back Eli Jackson added an interception.
When the Bulldogs were in control of the football, Sikeston's offense clicked on two levels. The running game showed a better ability to keep the chains moving, while the passing attack unleashed a small arsenal.
But that wasn't the only TD the Bulldogs scored through the air.
Junior quarterback Charlie Bohannon -- battling Ferrell to become Sikeston's varsity starter -- found sophomore tight end Anthony Maltbia in the left corner of the end zone after lofting a 10-yard fade pattern into the air.
"(We had those plays) and we missed on a few others," Gibbs said. "We feel pretty good about our passing game. I was pleased with our performance here tonight, but we'll look at the tape we'll find more ways to improve our football team before we play at Caruthersville on Friday."
The game time is 7 p.m. for the Sikeston's season-opener, which is scheduled to be played on the new gridiron at Caruthersville High School.
Eagles head coach Jason Aycock believes his team might be gelling early this season.
"Offensive-wise, we played well together as a team," Aycock said. "The thing that I saw (Friday night) was the camaraderie amongst the team. I saw older kids pulling younger kids together so that we could work things out."
When it comes to the playbook, Aycock doesn't care to a vast amount of ways to compete against opponents of East Prairie.
"We work on simple things. If we can take a few plays and master them, instead of compiling several plays and be average at them, then that will make us a good football team," Aycock said.
One of the plays the Eagles proved they have down was a flood pass from junior quarterback Jordan Jarrett to sophomore running back Kaleb Williford that went for a 32-yard TD against the NMCC defense.
"The passing game is something we can do more this year. Normally, I want to run the ball on a 70/30 basis. But this year, I think we can expand that a bit and possibly be a 60/40-based team," Aycock said.
With the Eagles' season-opener less than a week away, Aycock is still tinkering with his lineup -- especially on the defensive side.
"I was very happy with the performance of our defense. However, there are some key positions that we're going to have to work out, so that we can find the best fit at that position. We'll have a lot of competition this week amongst those positions," Aycock said.
When asked about being the smallest team at a jamboree with a trio of larger competitors, Aycock said his team is always ready to compete.
"No matter who we play, I preach to the guys: 'We go out and we compete. We don't think about who we're playing because we're just going to play our game,'" Aycock said.
In Week 1, East Prairie hosts Hayti at 7 p.m. Friday.
Eagles varsity head coach Arlen Pixley said he learned a lot from the scrimmages against Sikeston, East Prairie and Perryville.
"I learned that we're not as strong at a few positions as I thought we were and we're not as physical on defense as I had hoped," Pixley said. "Our intensity level has got to raise ... and the play of the defensive backs has to get better because there were too many plays through the air against us."
One those plays was the fade pattern in which Bohannon hooked up with Maltbia for a Sikeston TD.
"Overall, I can't say that I am not pleased, because I was pleased with our effort," Pixley said.
Leslie Williams, who is a three-year starter at quarterback for the Eagles, Lennies McFerren, a sophomore halfback, Dylan Harris, a senior fullback, and Justin Beasley, a senior wideout, seemed to struggle to find the offensive cohesiveness Pixley would like to see.
"Our playmaking ability really stuck out. Last year, we had some guys who could make a play at any given time. We just didn't have those guys step up and do it (Friday night)," Pixley said.
On Friday, NMCC opens the 2007 season when it hosts Festus St. Pius at 7 p.m.