"That was the difference in the ballgame," said Jackson head coach Van Hitt of the defensive stand. "Of course you don't know, if they score, then maybe we come right back and score, but we didn't want to get in a scoring contest. If we get in a foot race with Sikeston, then we're not going to win it."
The bulk of the game was a slugfest between the two teams on a slippery surface that featured nine fumbles combined.
Sikeston had a chance to drive the nail in the coffin early in the fourth, but even after the Indians' next score, the Bulldogs once again had an opportunity to convert for points.
Mitchell McCulley was the running back who took the ball 48 yards for the immediate score following the big defensive stand, but after Sikeston got the ball back on the kickoff and saw three unproductive plays, they elected to punt the ball on fourth and long, forcing a fumble on the kick return that saw the ball back in the Bulldogs' hands around the 50-yard line. It was an opportunity to cut the lead and stay in the game with a little over five minutes left.
Sikeston quarterback Charlie Bohannon then rolled out towards the sideline and lofted a pass towards his receiver and Jackson made a huge defensive stop once again, swiping the pass and then converted at 4:53 on a four-yard run by Drew Bucher.
The final touchdown put the Indians on top 35-14 where the score would remain as time ran out.
Sikeston head coach Kent Gibbs said that the score in no way indicated how well his Bulldogs fought to stay in the contest.
"We had momentum on our side and we had an onside kick to start the second half, we just didn't recover the ball," said Gibbs. "We came back with a big stop and when you're down to a good football team, you have got to convert those opportunities. We didn't do it, and it was a momentum swing and they got a big run on us and that was the end of the game."
Jackson put up 20 points in the first half with their first eight coming on the opening drive of the game.
Gibbs said that he was impressed with his squad's gritty defense, aside from the very first drive that saw the Indians punching it in for the score early. He said that the turning point of the game was the big defensive stand by Jackson with their backs against the wall as Sikeston was pushing towards the endzone.
"Overall, I'm very pleased, but very upset with the outcome and with our mis-execution on offense," he said. "I was impressed with our defense. We had several big stops and we had some guys step up and deliver some big hits. We'll clean up our offense and get ready for Cape Central, because they're going to be ready for us."
Coach Hitt said that his squad played in spurts throughout the evening and never really got things clicking until late in the contest following the four-and-out stop in the fourth.
"We'd go out and play well on defense for a few plays and then we'd play consistent for a series," said Hitt. "It was the same way on offense. We just can't be consistent all the time. We've got a lot of younger players, so hopefully we'll get better on that."
Offensively, the Indians were led by senior running back Adam Zweigart who racked up 175 yards on the ground off of 23 carries. He scored his only touchdown with 9:04 left in the first quarter on a 67-yard run.
"He's got a great motor and he plays hard," said Hitt of his running back. "He's not a vocal leader on the team but he leads by example."
McCulley followed his example as he picked up two touchdowns in the contest, one in the second quarter from one yard out and one in the fourth from 48 yards out.
On the other side of the ball, Sikeston's offense came from Bohannon alone. He scored once in the first quarter at 4:28 from 13 yards out, then again in the third quarter from three yards out with 7:10 left on the clock. He had 37 yards on the ground off of 13 carries and was 5-for-14 passing for 96 yards with two interceptions.
Eli Jackson added 97 yards on the ground on 19 carries in the loss.
"I told the kids that it's been a long time since we've been in a game with Jackson," said Gibbs. "For most of the fourth quarter they were worried about who was going to win, so you've got to be satisfied from the point that we played hard. The kids did everything that we told them we were going to do, we just came up empty."
Sikeston will be at home Friday night against Cape Central while Jackson will play host to Hazelwood Central.