DEXTER - The Charleston Bluejays will invade Charles Bland Stadium on Friday night to take on a peaking Dexter Bearcat football team.
Charleston comes into the Friday night tilt banged up as starting running back Joseph Watts (5-8, 170) and starting wide receiver/defensive back Jamarcus Williams (6-5, 200) will be out with injuries.
Watts has been sidelined since Week 2 with an ankle injury, while Williams broke his leg in last week's matchup with the Hayti Indians and is out for the rest of the season.
Last week, the Bluejays lost their second straight of the season with a 14-6 road loss to Hayti. The Bearcats are rolling after defeating rival Poplar Bluff for the first time in 16 years two weeks ago and drilling previously undefeated Malden Green Wave 35-6 on the road last week.
The series between Charleston and Dexter goes back to 1928 when the Bluejays defeated the Bearcats 35-13 on the road. Charleston holds a 33-19 overall winning edge over Dexter. The schools have met one time in the playoffs in 1989 when the Bluejays defeated the Bearcats 41-28 in first round play. Charleston went on to lose to Clayton 21-7 in the quarterfinals.
While the Bluejays won the first 11 meetings between the schools, Dexter has won six of the last seven meetings since 1998. The Bearcats overpowered Charleston last season 33-12.
"We are definitely banged up heading into this game on Friday night with Dexter," said Charleston head coach Al Marshall, whose team is 2-2. "Losing Jamarcus is a big blow for our football team. Everyone knows what kind of gifted athlete he is, but the biggest loss for the team will be his leadership skills. He just has a positive personality that all the kids just rally around. Jamarcus is a leader no doubt about it. We can't replace what he brings to the field and what he brings to our locker room."
Head coach Aaron Pixley of Dexter (4-1) is fully aware of the injuries sustained by the Bluejays, but stated Charleston still has plenty of weapons.
"We have been preparing for Charleston like they have a full team," said Pixley. "All is not lost over there. They have some great athletes with some dangerous weapons. Charleston is a good team that is extremely quick on defense and I haven't heard that the Watts kid is out for sure, so they have a dangerous running and passing game."
Watts did not play against Hayti and his status for the game on Friday night is questionable. Replacing Watts in last week's game was sophomore Jerquawn Sherrell (5-9, 190) who rushed for 84 yards on 15 carries against the Indians. For the year, Sherrell leads the team with 258 yards and two touchdowns.
Pixley is concerned about the passing and running of Charleston quarterback Justin Clark (6-4, 200). Clark has thrown for 387 yards with four touchdowns and has run for 62 yards with two rushing touchdowns.
"We have to know where their quarterback is at on the field," said Pixley. "That kid is very dangerous with the football. He throws a tight spiral and they can run the option with him behind center. He can burn you real quick."
The Bearcats are known for being a very physical team, a fact that is not lost on Marshall.
"They are a good team, a very good team," said Marshall. "They have it all with speed, size and quickness. Dexter's No. 1 strength is their line play on both offense and defense. Their line is a big concern for us heading into the game.
"We have been working constantly to improve our line. We got our work cut out for us."
Dexter is led on offense by senior quarterback Josh Stevens (6-0, 215) who is second in the area in passing yards with 635 yards and has thrown for six touchdowns.
Stevens has some mobility and is second on the team with 111 yards rushing with a touchdown.
The Bearcats have two receivers in the top 10 receiving yardage led by Logan Swindle (5-10, 175) with 13 receptions for 242 yards and Drew Pixley (5-10, 155) has 11 grabs for 159 yards on the season.
Senior tailback Zach Ventura is seventh in the area in rushing with 471 yards and five touchdowns for the Bearcats.
"Their No. 22 (Ventura) is a good back," said Marshall. "He hits the hole hard and is tough to bring down. Their quarterback is big and strong and has a nice arm."
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Dexter and Marshall understands it is going to be a tough test for his bruised and battered team.
"It is going to be a chore for us but we are ready for the challenge," said Marshall. "I have some tough, hard-working kids who are improving each and every day. We have to fight the good fight."