Friday night's 121st game with Charleston was a complete role-reversal as the Bulldog defense came through with a strong performance while the offense was stagnant as the Bluejays came away with a hard-fought victory, 13-6.
The contest was similar to last year's game, a 14-8 Charleston victory.
Charleston coach Al Marshall was ecstatic after the game.
"Was that a heck of a game?" said Marshall. "You couldn't have paid 50 dollars and went to an NFL game to see a better game. That's what it's all about. That's high school football. I knew it would be a dogfight. I've got to congratulate coach (Jerry) Dement and the Bulldogs. They were well-
After getting lit up for over 500 yards rushing against Caruthersville last week, the Bulldog defense buckled down and stifled the Bluejay rushing attack, limiting them to 98 yards on 36 carries.
A hobbled Joseph Watts, the Bluejays' 3-time 1,000-yard rusher, was limited to 33 yards on 17 carries.
"I was really proud of our defense," said Dement. "I thought they swarmed all night and did a great job on Joe Watts who everybody knows is a great back. We really negated his yardage."
But while the Bluejays couldn't get much going on the ground, they were able to move the ball through the air.
Jamarcus Williams, a 6-5, 210-pound tight end, was the recipient of most of them, catching five passes for 77 yards including a 33-yard touchdown.
"Jamarcus Williams really stepped up for them," said Dement. "He made plays when he had to. He's a fine athlete and was a big factor in the ball game."
On one play, Williams simply wrestled the ball away from a Bulldog defender for a reception.
"Jamarcus, my God he's a big-time player," said Marshall. "He just took it away from that other boy down there or he would've had an interception."
Both teams were playing for field position early in the game until Watts returned a Bulldog punt 15 yards to the Sikeston 33-yard line.
On the next play, Williams caught a hitch pass, slipped a tackle and sprinted untouched to the end zone for a 33-yard score.
Williams then booted the extra point to lead 7-0 with 34 seconds left in the first quarter.
Neither team was able to score the rest of the half.
Williams attempted a 40-yard field goal but it was blocked with 5:45 left in the second quarter.
After playing to a scoreless tie in the third quarter, Charleston finally got something going again as special teams set up another score.
The Bluejays blocked a punt to set themselves up with excellent field position at the Sikeston 11. Three plays later, sophomore running back Jerquawn Sherrell plowed in from the 3. Williams' extra point was wide, but the Bluejays now led 13-0 with 9:49 left in the game.
Sikeston wasted little time in getting back in the game.
On the ensuing drive, Sikeston marched 55 yards on three plays capped by a 26-yard touchdown reception from Austin Williams. A bad snap caused a failed extra point attempt, leaving the score 13-6 with 8:58 left in the game.
Sikeston then forced a three-and-out. Feeling pressure, Bluejay punter Williams, who ran a fake punt for a 33-yard first down earlier in the night, was caught this time for an eight-yard loss on the Bluejay 14-yard line.
But the Bulldogs couldn't take advantage of the excellent field position as Ferrell had a pass intercepted by Williams in the end zone.
Marshall knew his team had just dodged a bullet.
"I about had a heart-attack," said Marshall. "We've got some smart kids out there and they know the game of football and can make plays on their own. You win the fans with offense and you win the championships with defense."
Dement knew that was his team's best chance to win the game.
"We should've gotten on in there and we didn't get it done," said Dement. "That was the difference in the ball game. We had a chance to tie or go ahead, but we didn't and took a tough loss."
Charleston was able to run off four minutes off the clock before a fumbled snap gave the Bulldogs one last chance with 2:43 left in the game at Sikeston's own 39-yard line.
But Sikeston's offense went backwards, literally, losing 28 yards and turning it over on a fumble on fourth down with 1:31 left.
Charleston took a knee to run out the remaining time on the clock.
Marshall said Sikeston's 3-5 defensive alignment confused his offense for most of the night.
"They knew they had to come after us," said Marshall. "They ran that 3-5 and when you do that you can come after us in so many angles. You can blitz from so many ways. It was a guessing game of where they were going to blitz from. Every once in a while we'd guess right. Really and truely it could've gone either way. It was a heck of a fight."
Charleston finished with 227 yards of offense.
After an inspiring offensive performance in Week 1, Sikeston only netted 104 yards of offense. The Bulldogs had just four first downs and racked up eight penalties for 80 yards.
The Bulldogs also had four fumbles in the game, two of which came on botched snaps.
"We never could establish anything," said Dement. "No. 1, we didn't do a very good job of blocking up front at all. They came off the ball better than we did. We had some miscues with snaps and fumbles and those are things that should not happen. We'll get those corrected and move on. We did get a little bit going in the passing game. We probably should've gone to that a little bit earlier."
Ferrell was hounded all night by the quicker Bluejay defense as he was sacked twice and forced into numerous incompletions. He completed 6-of-15 passes for 64 yards.
After breaking loose for a 21-yard run on his first carry of the game, Byron Davis never could get it going as he was held to 21 yards on 16 carries.
Fullback Tyler Dame led the team with 22 yards on four carries.
"They're very quick and they could man-up with us and get after our people," said Dement of the Charleston defense. "It was just a classic hard-fought nail-biter with Sikeston and Charleston. But we want to come out on front of those. We're not very happy at all, but we did play better this week than last week, especially defensively. Our tackling was much, much better."