(Photos by Josh Mills, Staff)
KENNETT -- The Sikeston Bulldog football team will look to rebound from their tough loss to the New Madrid Country Central Eagles last Friday as they hit the road to take on the the 6-0 Kennett Indians this Friday.
"We talked all last week about the importance of getting a good start," Sikeston head coach Kent Gibbs said. "We didn't really do that. It took us a little bit to get going. We played very well in the first half, the score was 22-6 us. We played aggressive defense. We played big play offense. One of the problems we had was consistently moving the ball, we had the big plays but not much more than those. We only had the ball three plays in the third quarter, it's hard to finish a game like that. We didn't do things very well late. They are a veteran ball club and they knew what they needed to do to get over the top, thats something we haven't learned yet."
Gibbs say's that learning to finish games is something that comes with experiencing success.
"There is no doubt finishing games is a problem for us," he said. "I'm not sure we have the answer for it. We have worked on some things with that and talked to the kids about that. We have explained to them that if you have some one down you have to play just like you did to get them down. That's something that comes with success and winning. That's something we have to keep emphasizing. We are a good football team, but we have to learn how to put people away. We had a good chance to do that last Friday. It's a process though and we will just keep working at it. I don't know what kind of impact the New Madrid game has had on our mindset's. We played a very good football team a very close game. We were within five points coming down toward the end of the game. We just have to learn how to finish."
Gibbs and his team will take the things they have learned from the NMCC game with them as the look to find a way to neutralize Kennett's potent passing attack of quarterback Blake Parr and his array of wide receivers.
"If you've played six football games and won them all, you have to be a pretty good team," Gibbs said. "Blake Parr is one of the better quarterbacks in this area. He (Parr) has a nice group of receivers. They run out of the shotgun and that puts him about eight yards behind the line so he has plenty of time to throw. So far, no one has really found the key to stop him. We will try to mix our coverage's to keep them off balance. We will really look to limit the big plays and make them throw some underneath stuff. Sometimes though, a good offense is the best defense, so ball control will be pivotal. We have to find a way to grind out drives instead of just big plays."
Gibbs points out that his team's pass rush could play a role in Friday's contest.
"We haven't seen many people try and rush him (Parr)," he said. "That will be tough beacuse he does a good job getting outside and can make some plays after he makes people miss him. Another thing you don't hear many people talk about with him is his speed, he's got pretty good speed. I think you have to get pressure on any quarterback who throws the ball. The thing about it is in this situation is he is eight yards deep and they like to throw it quick. We will see what we can do to pressure him, that definitely plays a role in the game."
Gibbs says his team will look to re-establish their success on the offensive line and in the running attack.
"We did not block very well last week," he said. "If we are going to attack the perimeter on the ground we still have to be able to run it inside. New Madrid was able to take the perimeter away from us last week, therefore we see that we must continue to improve our inside run game. So we will have to block better this Friday in order to do that. We have to make sure we are running hard as well. We have to take advantage of every yard we can get. The big focus for us to get a good push off the offensive line and for our guys in the backfield to run as hard as they can. We need to improve in both of those area's. We need to get back to the physical football we have played this season."
Gibbs feels that limiting mistakes on both sides of the ball will be instrumental to Sikeston's success Friday night.
"We can't jump offsides on defense this Friday," he said. "We know they are going to hard count us to try and draw us off. We cannot afford to give up those easy first downs. That's a mental thing. Also we have to make sure we execute our tackling. We arrived at the ball carrier several times last week and just were not able to wrap him up. That's a practice and execution thing. Offensively, one of the biggest thing kids fail to do is to get off the ball strong. On both sides, we have to keep our feet moving and not stand still. That aspect is necessary both to tackling and blocking. We're talking about fundamental things. All things being equal in a football game, the team that blocks and tackles the best is going to win. All things being equal,this should be a close contest."
Gibbs notes that picking up a win against a 6-0 Kennett squad heading into district play would be a major momentum swing for the Bulldogs.
"It would be very good to have a win at Kennett before going into the districts," he said. "Especially because Kennett is such a good team, that would give us a lot of confidence heading into districts. That's going to be hard to do. We have to play the way we know we can and really limit their big plays. If we can do the things we need to do, we have a chance to win and that would be a huge momentum builder as we head toward district play."
Gibbs and his team look to move past the NMCC loss and take things one game at a time.
"We (players and coaches) are all a little disappointed that we didn't win the New Madrid game," he said. "We had a good opportunity to win and just weren't able to finish it. That's not to take anything away from New Madrid, they are a well coached and talented team. We're 3-3. As they say, 'that ain't bad'. But, 3-7 would be a disaster. We need to make sure we focus on and do the things that we need to get better and win some ballgames. So far we have had a season that is better than last year but not as good as the kids or myself would like it to have been. We just have to play Kennett. After that we just have to play West Plains and so on. We have to take these games one at a time and do the things we have to do to give us the best shot at winning these ballgames."
This Friday's game will kick off at 7 p.m. in Kennett.