(Photos by David Jenkins, Staff)
DEXTER - The New Madrid County Central Eagles football team captured the Class 3, District 1 title with an inspired effort by the offensive line on Thursday night at Charles Bland Stadium in Dexter.
NMCC rushed for 375 yards and scored five touchdowns on the ground, as the Eagles controlled the line of scrimmage and held off a late Bearcat rally late in the fourth quarter to win 34-26.
"We won the game up front and that was the key to the game," said NMCC head coach Arlen Pixley. "Give all the credit to our kids and the coaches did an excellent job of preparing for Dexter. We have been working hard since Week 1 for this moment. I am proud of our kids. (R.D.) White, (Brian) Colbert and (L.T.) Sutton executed well as did the entire offensive line. Great win for the kids and the school."
With the score tied at 20 with nine minutes to play in the fourth quarter, senior back Marquese Gates scored his final of three touchdowns on a 24-
"Marquese did an outstanding job of running the football tonight," said Arlen Pixley. "He lowered his shoulder and got the tough yard, then he would break one and just out run everybody. Marquese ran the football hard and we needed every yard he got tonight."
Dexter stormed down the field with five minutes to go in the contest.
The Bearcats received a big 19-yard quarterback scramble from senior Josh Stevens to get Dexter into Eagle territory.
Three plays later, Stevens found wide out Logan Swindle open for a 29-yard touchdown reception to cut the Eagle lead to two.
The Bearcats went for the tie, but the pass from Stevens to Drew Pixley went off his finger tips and incomplete. NMCC still led 28-26 with 3:24 to play in the game.
All the momentum seemed to go to Dexter on one special team play, as the Bearcats attempted an on side kick on the kickoff and a Bearcat seemed to recover the football as he slid out of bounds.
However, a penalty flag was thrown and the ruling on the field was the ball didn't go the required 10 yard before being touched. The Eagles took over at the 50-yard line with three minutes to play.
When questioned on the ruling, Dexter head coach Aaron Pixley commented, "They (officials) said the football didn't travel 10 yards and that is all I will say."
Seizing upon the change in fortune, NMCC scored three plays later on a DeAnton Brown 44-yard touchdown off the left side. The extra point was blocked and the Eagles led 34-26 with a little under two minutes to play.
"New Madrid played well and there offensive line made some holes," said Aaron Pixley. "Once the holes were made up front, their running backs made big play after big play. You have to tip your hat to New Madrid. They played better and won the game. They won the battle for the line of scrimmage. No excuses."
Dexter had one last offensive possession and drove the ball from there own 31-yard line to 26 of the Eagles with 1:20 to play in the game.
On 2nd-and-10 from the Eagle 26, Stevens was pressured up front and rolled to his right looking down field for an open receiver. Stevens thought he found an open man over the middle, but the pass was under thrown and free safety Leslie Williams picked off the pass for NMCC.
The Eagles tried to run the clock out from there own 17-yard line with three running plays up the middle. Dexter called a timeout with 44 seconds to play, forcing NMCC to punt the ball.
NMCC ran the clock down to three seconds and sent the punt team on the field. After a delay of game and two false start penalties, the Eagles were forced to punt from their own 3-yard line.
The Eagles decided to let Williams take the center/quarterback exchange and run straight up the middle as time expired. NMCC captured their first district title since 2003 with the buzzer.
"It was a battle for four quarters," said Arlen Pixley. "We knew we would have our hands full and the kids responded with a great effort. Dexter is a heck of a team and we fought hard for the win."
NMCC'S defense held Dexter to 15 yards rushing in the first half and sacked Stevens five times in the game.
"It is no secret that we tried to stop their running game," said Arlen Pixley. "I thought we did a good job of getting pressure on Stevens and that seemed to force him to make some unbalanced throws at times."
Despite the lack of an effective running game, Dexter showed a solid aerial attack, as Stevens passed 169 yards and Swindle had nine receptions for 119 yards.
"It seemed like we were trying to catch them all night long," said Aaron Pixley. "I felt pretty good when it was 20-20, but they busted that big run and it hurt us. This loss does not put a stain on this team. We have a good group of seniors, just hard-working guys. They have set a great example for the younger kids."
Dexter finishes a great season at 8-2.
NMCC (8-2) travels to Ste. Genevieve to take on the Dragons in a Class 3 sectional game at 7 p.m. Ste. Gen (7-3) defeated Potosi 42-19 to win the District 2 title.