SIKESTON-- The Sikeston Bulldogs football team will look to rebound from the well contested loss at Jackson last week when they take on the Cape Central Tigers at home on Friday.
Sikeston head coach Kent Gibbs felt his team played well last week.
"Overall, It was apparent that our kids thought they could win," Gibbs said. "We played hard. We played good defense, good enough to win. With a little over nine minutes left in the game we are down 20-14 on the 13-yard line and don't get it in. If we get that in and kick the extra point its 21-20 us and who knows what would have happened. I was pleased with our effort, but at the same time we have to learn how to win those close games."
With victories over rivals Dexter and Charleston, and close losses against Fredricktown and Jackson; Sikeston is beginning to build the confidence that has been lacking for some time.
"When you come in redoing things in a football program their are a couple of things you really need to work on," said Gibbs. "One, is improving the strength level through lifting programs. Another is the ability to think you can win and handle adversity. I'm a firm believer that you start with that through hard work. I feel that our kids have started to see the benefit of these concepts and that's really built our confidence."
Gibbs feels that although the confidence was needed, consistency is where the Bulldogs need to improve.
"We talk about consistency in terms of practices," he said. "When you are trying to get things going, you look at the better programs and what makes them successful. One of those things is consistency and how they do things on a day-to-day basis. We haven't reached that level of consistency yet. I'm talking about how we will have a great practice one day and a not good one the next day. We need to get to where we have at least a good practice everyday."
Gibbs concept of game preparation focuses on team improvement, not the opponent.
"If you look at the things that we constantly talk to our boy's about, put up on the board, and really emphasize; it all has to do with practice," he said. "It has to do with all the things we have to do to get better as a football team. You don't win games on Friday night. You win them on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in what you do to get better as a team. We are really starting to embrace that concept. Our focus from week to week is going to be ourselves. Of course, we will make certain preparations for certain opponents and respect every opponent. However, we feel like we need to keep the focus on ourselves and our game and go from there."
One of the certain preparations for this weeks opponent will be to contain two of the Tigers favorite offensive weapons.
"We have to stop Cantrell Andrews (Cape running back) and Drew Gardner (Cape wide receiver)," Gibbs said. "They will look to give us problems. We have got to keep Cantrell Andrews from getting outside on us, both in the kicking game and in the running game. We have to prevent him from being overly successful on the toss, the power sweep, and this little wheel route he runs out of the backfield. We have to contain him and not let him run loose. He will get his yards. He is a heck of a back. But, if we can force them (Cape) to drive the length of the field on us, we know we have a shot to win."
The 0-4 Cape Central squad will be looking to Sikeston as their potential first victory of the season.
"They haven't won yet," Gibbs said. "But, I think that has a lot to do with the fact they have played four tough teams. I feel they have had this Friday night circled on their calendar for a while now. They will be keyed up to get that first win. We're going to have a tough ball game on our hands."
On the offensive side of the ball this Friday, Gibbs will look to play to his teams strengths while improving where they are weaker.
"Offensively, we're not going to do a whole lot different," Gibbs said. "We will change some play selections in certain situations. We have to continue to play to our strengths, which are our speed and agility. I think the worst thing you can do on offense is add a bunch of plays every week. Thats not to say we aren't going to tweak and add some things."
Gibbs feels that the Bulldogs need to improve in both the inside run and passing are dependent upon each other.
"We have got to come up with a way to strengthen our inside run game in order to develop our passing game," he said. "We have to improve our inside run game. If we do that, that opens up ball fakes and play fakes, and our pass game should take care of itself."
Gibbs also points to mental errors as stumbling blocks for his offense at times.
"We didn't have a very good passing game last week from a statistically point of view because we dropped too many passes," he said. "I think we had at least three passes dropped or bounced off hands, things like that. We have young receivers, but we have to learn to squeeze the ball and make the play."
Gibbs has seen vast improvements in the Bulldog's defensive play from last season. However, he points to his defensive units tendency to give up big plays as their main area in need of improvement.
"We are playing a lot more physically at this juncture in the season than last year," he said. "Last year, I'm not sure we were hitting anybody. We are hitting a lot better this year. We had several quality stops against Jackson, a couple of fourth down stops and a couple of third down stops. So we feel like we've come a long way on defense. Our problem is that we are giving up big plays. We aren't letting people chip away at us, but we're giving up the big ones. If you do that your kind of throwing everything you work so hard for away. We are real pleased with our turnover ratio, we are about plus three with that. Overall, we're pleased with the defense."
The defense will have their work cut out for them Friday as they attempt to slow Cape Central's Andrews down.
"I think its going to be tough football game defensively," Gibbs said. "Cantrell Andrews will be one of the toughest backs we will face this year. We have our work cut out for us."
Although Gibbs is pleased with the confidence and effort coming from his locker room, as well as the field, he emphasizes that there is still a lot of football left to play.
"Certainly, we feel that we are a better football team than we were," he said. "But at the same time, we are 2-2. We will have to see how this game and the season plays out."