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NMCC set to take on Cape Central

Friday, September 8, 2006

SIKESTON -- After a two-year hiatus, the New Madrid County Central Eagles and the Cape Girardeau Central Tigers renew a series that ran from 1998

-2003.

The Eagles hold a 4-2 edge over the Tigers in what has been a competitive series.

Heading into Friday night's matchup at Houck Stadium, NMCC (1-0) is coming off an opening night 45-13 blowout win over St. Pius of Festus while Cape Central (0-1) dropped its opener, 29-7, to Parkway North.

"I wouldn't say it's not a rivalry game for us," said coach Arlen Pixley, in his third season as head coach and eighth on the NMCC staff. "I can't speak for them, but we look forward to going to Cape, playing on a college field and playing in front of college coaches.

"Every year we've ever played them, we've had to have a great intensity level or they've smacked us around a little bit."

Cape Central's Lawrence Brookins, in his eighth season as the Tigers mentor, is equally familiar with the NMCC program.

Said Brookins, "When I first came to Cape Girardeau as an assistant to Jerry Dement and since taking over for him as the head coach, I've had quite a few views of New Madrid and the various coaches that have been there in the last 10 years.

"What always comes to mind when you talk about New Madrid is they're blessed with athletes every year. They're usually pretty good at the skill positions."

Against St. Pius, NMCC displayed its big-play ability.

Junior quarterback Leslie Williams rushed for three touchdowns -- 12, 16 and 30-yards -- and passed for another, a 35 yarder. Wideout Tommy Rowe caught the TD pass and also returned a punt 45 yards for a score. Freshman running back Lennies McFerren III led the Eagles' ground attack, which racked up 385 total yards, with 97 yards in 11 carries.

"From a defensive standpoint, we can't give up any big plays and we've got to tackle better," Brookins said. "We can't give up a big easy pass or a big run, but that's easier said than done against these kids because of their athleticism. I've seen this current group at New Madrid turn what looked like nothing, a busted play, into touchdowns or long gains."

The Tigers have some quality skill position players as well led by senior quarterback Blake Slattery and senior running back Hykeem Hammonds, but the Tigers' line play is cause for concern.

"The main issue with that is we're very young, very inexperienced on the line," said Brookins. "I've only got one player back who started every game last year. Everybody else either saw spot duty or are getting their first taste of varsity ball. That's a key for us on both sides of the football.

"The personality of our offensive and defensive scheme will be based on what those kids up front can do, as far as growing up in a hurry, because nobody is going to give us a free pass because we're young and inexperienced."

Although the Tigers were bottled up on the ground -- 35 net yards -- against Parkway North, returning leading rusher Hammonds is a proven commodity.

He led with 49 yards in 10 carries as the Tigers, playing from behind, were forced to go to the air against Parkway North.

"Hykeem Hammonds is probably faster than our fastest guy," said Pixley, "and they've got some young kids that can play."

Cape's aerial attack -- 220 yards through the air in the opener -- caught the Eagles' attention.

"They've got a quarterback (Slattery, 14-of-21, 127 yards) who can throw it," said Pixley. "He sets up nice in the pocket and we've got to do a better job than Parkway North did in getting pressure on him and we've got to do a better job of covering their receivers."

Backup quarterback Garrett Stevens is also a threat. He completed 3-of-4 for 93 yards including a 77-yard TD toss to receiver George Hamilton for the Tigers' only score.

Pixley said, to be successful against the Tigers, the Eagles must take care of the football.

"Zero turnovers," he said. "We can not give them any extra possessions, we've got to be solid in the kicking game and we've got to rely on a couple of big plays. It's going to be a test of wills and it's going to come down to who's will is stronger in the fourth quarter.

"It's always an intense battle. Coach Brookins has got a nice young bunch up there and he's going to have them ready to play. They learned a few things about themselves last week and they'll get better this week.

"We expect to have our hands full and we'll have to match their intensity or it's going to be a long night for us."