HAYTI - The Charleston Bluejays football team will meet the Hayti Indians for the first time in 34 years when the two teams play on Friday night at 7 p.m. in Hayti.
The game on Friday night will be the first time Charleston has traveled to Hayti since 1971. The short four game series between the two teams began back in 1969 with the Bluejays winning 14-7 at Hayti.
Charleston has won three of four games played with Hayti, but the Indians won the last meeting in 1972 on the road, 36-21.
The Indians are coming off an emotional win last Friday night over rival Caruthersville and held all-state running back Kendrickus Reed to a season low in rushing yards.
"Caruthersville is our big rivalry game for us," said Hayti head coach David Gilmore. "We have gotten the better of them six of the last seven years. As always with a big emotional win, we have concerns that the kids will be less fired up for Charleston than they were for Caruthersville."
Hayti threw a new offensive formation at the Tigers last week by playing power football.
"We had a few wrinkles for Caruthersville with our running game," said Gilmore. "We usually spread the field and we have not used the power formation in five years. The simple reason for the change is that we wanted to control the clock and keep Reed's touches to a minimum. Also, we thought our front five could handle their line and control the play up front."
Charleston had to wait to Sunday afternoon to play New Madrid County Central and suffered a tough home loss after leading much of the contest.
"The game was pushed back and we played on Sunday which is a big handicap for us," said Charleston head coach Al Marshall. "It just throws us off our schedule and routine. We got behind on our game plan but we have a package ready for Hayti."
Gilmore is excited to have the Bluejays on the schedule for the first time in 30 years.
"We are looking forward to facing Charleston for the first time in a long time," said Gilmore. "Charleston is going to be a tough test and they should be 3-0.
They let one slip away against New Madrid and should have won that football game. We have one loss on the year but I consider that a quality loss against a very tough Malden team. We kind of feel validated after the win over Caruthersville because many felt we should have beat Malden. A lot of people are sleeping on Malden and they have just cracked the top 10 in the state polls."
The Indians have a diverse offense with first year starter junior K.C. Gilmer (6-0, 185) at quarterback. For the year, Gilmer has thrown for 374 yards with a touchdown. Against Caruthersville Gilmer did not complete a pass and threw an interception.
"We went to the running game last week and tried to control the clock," said Gilmore. "We have no concerns with our passing game, it was just a situational design last week."
Hayti is led in rushing by senior Tremayne Pickens (5-10, 195) with 299 yards and two touchdowns. However, last week Pickens did not have a carry while junior Jerome Covington (5-10, 185) saw his first action at running back and gained 93 yards on 23 carries for the Indians.
"We like to keep our running backs fresh," said Gilmore. "We have had nine different kids score a touchdown for us. We keep our guys fresh but it also keeps the kids happy and lets them feel that they are contributing to the team."
The gas that keeps the engine running for Hayti has to be its dominant offensive line that averages 6-foot-3 and 265 pounds across the front five.
"Hayti has a big and athletic offensive line," said Marshall. "But I am of the belief of the old saying 'it is not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog.' Hayti did some different things against Caruthersville and ran some power-I. They are usually known for that West Coast offense. It doesn't matter to us what they run. We are going to be prepared for anything."
The defense for Hayti is led by linebackers Pickens and senior Jeffrey Harris (5-10, 195). Harris leads the team in tackles with 45, while Pickens is a close second with 43 tackles.
The Indians defensive line has caught the eye of Marshall. Led by senior Henry Covington (6-3, 330) and junior William Norris (5-10, 265), Hayti has a formidable front on the D-line.
"They have got some players on defense and that defensive line is hard to handle," said Marshall. "Hayti has some good athletes and they are extremely quick to the football and once they get there, they can flat out hit you."
The Bluejays might be without the services of senior running back Joseph Watts (5-8, 175) for a second straight week with a knee injury.
"We've got some guys that are beat up pretty good," said Marshall. "Playing on Sunday did not help the healing process but we have to go with the ones out on the field."
Replacing Watts last week was sophomore Jerquawn Sherrell (5-8, 190) who ran for 81 yards against NMCC. Sherrell has rushed for a total of 174 yards on 34 carries with a touchdown on the season.
Charleston has a lethal aerial attack led by quarterback Justin Clark (6-4, 195) and wideout Jamarcus Williams (6-5, 210) Clark threw for 114 yards last week and Williams has seven receptions for 78 yards against the Eagles. Clark has also rushed 17 times for 72 yards and is himself recovering from an ankle injury.
"We have to keep an eye on their quarterback at all times," said Gilmore. "He is a definite threat for our team. He has a good arm and is extremely fast. They have some deadly receivers and they use their height advantage. All those kids are 6-4 or better. We are going to mix up our pass coverage but our No. 1 priority is to stop the run."
Both coaches believe that keys to the game are to reduce penalties and turnovers.
"We can't allow Charleston to get the big plays on us," said Gilmore. "We want to control the football and have no turnovers. Once we get to the red zone, we have to score. We believe we can handle them up front and we should be able to control the time of possession."
Marshall is looking for his team to respond after the disappointing loss to NMCC.
"We have to play with a lot of heart on Friday night," said Marshall. "We need keep penalties and turnovers to a minimum and play sound football. We have to play with our head in the game."