(Photos by David Jenkins, Staff)
DEXTER -- The New Madrid County Central defense dominated the Dexter offense Friday night, while the Eagle ground game wore away at the Bearcats in a 34-14 win Friday night in the first game of Class 3, District 1 play.
"The whole essence of our defense is pressure, pressure, pressure," said NMCC head coach Arlen Pixley. "That was so true in the first half and really in the third quarter we came out and set the tone."
"They are all about pressure on defense and they pressured us and we didn't handle it very well on offense," said Dexter head coach Aaron Pixley. "Our quarterback was pretty much scrambling for his life most of the time. It's hard to have a good passing game that way."
Dexter was not only unable to throw but had trouble running the ball as well as the Eagle defense held the Bearcats to only 75 yards rushing, with 49 of those yards coming on a Nick Hessling run in the third quarter.
After holding the Bearcats on the first drive of the game, the Eagles wasted no time getting on the scoreboard, as quarterback Dontre Jenkins scored from 10 yards out to cap off a nine play, 66-yard drive.
Senior running back Bryan Waters broke loose for a 40-yard touchdown run with 2:04 left in the first quarter and G'Darius Stevenson ran in the two-point conversion to give the Eagles a 14-0 lead.
"It was almost like we were waiting to see if we could play with them instead of just coming out and taking it to them," Aaron Pixley said. "From a defensive standpoint I felt like after the first quarter on we kept getting better and better."
Jenkins added a 2-yard touchdown run in the second quarter to put NMCC up 20-0 at the half.
The Eagles continued to apply the pressure in the third quarter as Jenkins found Kony Ealy for a 33-yard touchdown pass on a fourth-and-18.
"We only gave up two big plays," Aaron Pixley said. "I've seen teams against New Madrid give up five, six, seven big plays and we gave up two. We gave up one early and then one on the fourth down pass to Ealy. The rest of it, we made them earn every bit of it."
The Eagles capped their scoring when Dominique Thornton tipped and intercepted a Mills pass and then fumbled the ball on his way to the end zone. NMCC's Tyler Johnson fell on the ball in the end zone for the touchdown and Stevenson added the two-point conversion to put the Eagles up 34-0. The interception was one of three turnovers for the Bearcats who were also hurt by five penalties.
"You can't do it, not against teams like this," Aaron Pixley said of the turnovers and penalties. "They are very opportunistic. That is why they pressure you on defense. They want turnovers and they try to pressure you every play. You've got to take care of the ball."
Dexter put together a rally late in the third quarter when Mills scored on a quarterback sneak from the one. Later in the fourth Mills found Caleb Stanley for a 12-yard touchdown to end the scoring.
NMCC finished the game with 267 yards rushing on 48 carries, led by Waters' 91 yards on 13 carries.
"It's no secret that the key to the playoffs is that you are going to get some bad weather and you are going to have to be able to rush the football," Arlen Pixley said. "We know teams are trying to stop it. We're running into nine in-the-box and we're still moving the ball effectively so that's a plus for us."
The Eagles passed the ball well too as Jenkins finished with 104 yards on 8-of-13 passing.
Even though NMCC scored 34 points, Aaron Pixley was proud of the Bearcat defense.
"I felt as the game wore on we tackled better and we got more physical as the game went on," Aaron Pixley said. "We gave up 34 points but I felt our defense played well. If our offense could have played with them it could have been a much better game."
NMCC (6-2) now has the advantage in districts as the top-two teams will make the state playoffs. The Eagles will take on Kennett next Friday in a game that will not only have district implications but will decide the SEMO Central Conference. Dexter (3-5) will travel to Perryville Friday night as a win over the Pirates will keep their playoff hopes alive.