With starting running back Byron Davis not playing and starting quarterback Chase Ferrell missing practice all week with an injury, the Bulldogs were already short-handed.
But things really went south when Ferrell, who didn't start but played three series, went down with what is feared to be a broken ankle in the second quarter.
The game was scoreless at that point as the Bulldog defense had risen to the challenge.
But two special teams break down by the Bulldogs, combined with five turnovers and just an inability to get any kind of offense going made for a long night for Sikeston (0-3).
Just as soon as Ferrell was helped off the field, Dexter's Chad Ventura returned a punt 55 yards for a touchdown on the next play to break the shutout.
"The way we were running on offense, we needed that," said Dexter coach Aaron Pixley. "Anytime your special teams can spark your team that's a positive."
After Dexter (2-1) failed to capitalize on a Sikeston fumble, fumbling themselves on the 1-yard line, the Bulldogs fumbled again. This time the Bearcats took advantage, scoring on Josh Stev
ens' 10-yard pass to Logan Swindle to lead 14-0 heading into halftime.
"In the first half, our whole football team was dead," said Pixley. "We're (normally) a very fiery bunch and seem to be fired up and ready to play all the time. This game for some reason we came out very sluggish and were very fortunate at halftime to be up 14-0. When you're inside the red zone five times in the first half and you come out with one score, something's wrong there."
But the second half was a different story.
The Bearcats scored on every possession except their last one, in which they ran out the remaining time on the clock.
Zach Ventura had a 2-yard TD run, Chad Ventura tacked on another punt return from 63 yards out and Stevens hit Swindle on a 29-yard pass.
Swindle also booted a 36-yard field goal in the fourth quarter to round out the scoring.
Dexter's second half scoring surge overshadowed a pretty strong defensive effort by the Bulldogs.
"I know they scored 38 points, but a lot of that is attributed to our turnovers," said Dement. "In all honesty I thought we played a very good defensive half in the first half. The kids battled. We gave them the ball in great field position with turnovers, but our defense rallied and rallied. In the second half I thought we laid down a little bit."
But as good as the Sikeston defense looked early, the Bulldog offense never could sustain a drive of any significance.
The Bulldogs managed just 83 yards of total offense. They lost four fumbles and had an interception.
Sikeston crossed the 50-yard line just once, with that drive ending on downs at the Bearcat 49 with 2:08 left in the game.
"When you're struggling like we have been lately you put your head down when bad things happen," said Dement. "It's something we've got to fight through. A lot of times we're our own worst enemy."
Junior Michael Payne started at quarterback in place of the injured Ferrell, but moved back to his normal slot back position when Ferrell entered the game. After Ferrell was injured on a quarterback sack, Payne was put back into the quarterback position.
He finished with 21 yards rushing on eight carries and completed 4-of-8 passes for 21 yards with an interception.
"Mike hasn't had enough reps to be totally familiar with the offense yet," said Dement. "He's got a good grasp of it, but he's not quite ready yet, but he will be as we go along."
Sikeston was limited to 39 yards on 21 carries on the ground.
Dexter finished with 268 yards of offense.
Dexter's Zach Ventura rushed for 103 yards on 14 carries. Stevens had 39 yards rushing and was 6-8 passing for 101 yards and a pair of scores. Swindle caught three passes for 57 yards.
In addition to his two punt returns for touchdowns, Chad Ventura also had an interception.
"We've got to address what went wrong but we can't dwell on the past," said Dement.
Sikeston will play at Jackson on Friday at 7 p.m. to open SEMO North Conference play. Dexter will host Poplar Bluff on Friday at 7 p.m.