STE GENEVIEVE - The New Madrid County Central Eagles football team will face the Ste. Genevieve Dragons on the road Wednesday night in the first round of the 2006 Class 3 playoffs.
The Eagles and Dragons are no strangers when it comes to sectional playoff games. The two teams have met five times with Ste. Gen winning three of those meetings.
NMCC beat the Dragons 34-0 in 1999 before losing to Duchesne 25-20 in the quarters. In 2001, the Eagles defeated Ste. Gen 28-6 on the road on the way to finishing in second place to Platte County.
The teams' most recent battle in the sectionals was in 2003 when the Dragons defeated NMCC 41-12. In 2005, Ste. Gen defeated the Eagles 54-7 in the regular season.
The Dragons as a program are playoff tested under the leadership of head coach Bob Stolzer. Ste. Gen has won six straight district titles, nine of their last 10 and have 14 district titles overall.
Ste. Gen won a state title in Class 3 in 1992 and finished second in 2003.
NMCC has won 11 district titles in the program's history and has an overall record of 7-11 in the playoffs. Ste. Gen has an overall record of 18-13.
The Eagles and Ste. Gen have two common opponents this season in Dexter and Perryville. NMCC (8-2) defeated Dexter 34-26 last week to win the district crown, while the Dragons lost to the Bearcats in Week 1 at home 14
NMCC defeated Perryville 15-12 in Week 7, while the Dragons defeated the Pirates 22-11 in Week 3.
Ste. Gen has lost to Dexter, John Burroughs (17-7) and Westminister (35-34). Of the Dragons' three losses, two have come at home.
This year's version of the Dragons are unlike previous Stolzer-coached teams. Instead of relying on a solid ground game, Ste. Gen has gone to more of an aerial attack.
"Unlike their past teams," said NMCC head coach Arlen Pixley, "they have seemed to found success in the passing game. They have a new cast of characters this year and they still made the playoffs. Their passing game is cashing in and at times is very effective."
Ste. Gen lost 20 starters on offense and defense from last year's squad that lost in the quarterfinals. Despite some new faces, the Dragons are averaging 23.5 points per game and have held their opponents to 13.5 points per game.
On offense, the Dragons are led by sophomore quarterback Kory Faulkner (6
-3, 180) who has thrown for 1,400 yards with 14 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
Last week against favored Potosi, Faulkner threw for 251 yards and four touchdowns. Faulkner also ran for 78 yards on six carries. Faulkner has thrown for over 200 yards in three of the last four Dragon games.
"Kory had a lot of experience coming into this season," said Stolzer. "He played eight games for the freshmen team last season and did extremely well. He's a good athlete and he's thinking out there. I'm going to give coach (Bobby) Weiler the credit again. When you look back at some of the quarterbacks in recent years -- Tanner Wolk and Brad Arnold -- coach Weiler is a very good teacher. He teaches them who should be open, what to look for and things like that. But you also have to have the kids on the receiving end to catch the thing, if not it ain't going to do much good."
The Dragons do have a nice combination in the backfield with junior tailback Chad Greminger (5-7, 165) and senior fullback Nick Hermann (5-10, 215). Greminger has rushed for 742 yards on the season, while Hermann has gained 442 hard-fought yards. Against Potosi, Greminger rushed for 55 yards and also had 31 receiving yards.
"I feel that Hermann is the heart and soul of their team," said Pixley. "He is a tough blocker and hits it up hard in the middle. He is also an excellent receiver out of the backfield, probably the best we will see all year."
Senior tight end Wes Hogenmiller (6-2, 170) was the main target for Faulkner last week as he racked up 100 yards on four receptions. Senior wideout Justin Burr (5-7, 150) had 33 yards receiving with a touchdown.
On defense, the Dragons are led by a solid group of linebackers.
Junior linebacker Tyler Thomure (5-10, 165) has racked up 87 tackles to lead the team, Dustin Noll (6-1, 160) is second on the team with 63 tackles and Hermann is third with 61 tackles.
"Ste. Gen can run many defensive formations from a 4-4, 4-3 and sometimes a 3-4," said Pixley. "They are solid on defense but I don't believe they are as salty as they were last year. They have some guys learning how to play but they are improving and are mirroring the defense from last season."
Heading into the contest, the entire Eagle family is mourning the loss of starting offensive center Brad Colbert, who was tragically killed in an automobile accident last Friday.
"Our kids have been through a lot this year," said Pixley. "With the Lt. (Camden) Bock situation and now this, it has been a long season. One would think the kids are extremely distracted, but they are not. The kids are itching to play and play well. They know that is what Brad would want."
The Eagles will move starting guard R.D. White (5-10, 190) to center and Michael Brown (5-10, 215) will start at guard.
Last week against Dexter, the Eagles gained 375 yards on the ground led by senior Marquese Gates (5-11, 175) who gained 213 yards. On the season, Gates has rushed 969 yards.
Like the Dragons, NMCC is led on defense by a good group of linebackers led by Sedrick Hemphill (5-10, 180) and Dijuan Waters (5-11, 200).
"New Madrid is much improved from a season ago," said Stolzer. "They have a lot of starters back and the kids have grown and matured. They have a good running game and I am impressed with their line on both sides of the ball. "Their defense is quick with good speed. We are going to have to be ready to play football because New Madrid is a physical team that will come right at you."
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Ste. Genevieve.