SIKESTON -- The Sikeston Bulldogs football team will look to rebound from their loss at West Plains last Friday when they take on the Poplar Bluff Mules this Friday at Sikeston Public Schools Stadium in Sikeston.
Sikeston head coach Kent Gibbs feels that his team did not play as well as it could last Friday in the 52-28 loss to West Plains.
"We went in to the ball game last week knowing we were going to have our hands full with them offensively," Gibbs said. "They proved us right in that aspect. From our offensive point of view, we were able to move the ball at times. We just had to many mistakes. When you face a team like West Plains and don't play well, you get the kind of outcome we had last Friday. After watching the game film, I saw we just did not do the things we have to do to be successful. Not to take anything from West Plains, they played a great game. We should have played them a better game. Hopefully we can correct the things we didn't do well against West Plains and play better this coming Friday."
In addition to less than excellent defensive play, Gibbs points out turnovers on offense as a real problem against West Plains.
"Offensively, we did alright last week," he said. "However, we had a real problem with turnovers. We had some real critical turnovers, one fumble and one interception. Both of those plays could have gone for touchdowns for us. So we really need to focus on limiting those types of mistakes."
"It all goes back to executing the basic fundamentals of the game," Gibbs continued. "We feel like if we block well on offense and attack the ball and tackle on defense, we will win more times than not."
The Bulldogs (4-4) will have another challenge this week as they look to defeat the Mules for the first time since 2002.
"Poplar Bluff has been battling a lot of injuries, which is why their record isn't better than 4-4," Gibbs said. "They (Poplar Bluff) are a big football team. They have a lot of size on both sides of the ball."
Gibbs noted that Poplar Bluff has a mutli-pronged offensive attack, but the power run is what Sikeston will look to contain the most.
"They do a lot of things offensively," he said. "They have a power run game. They have a little bit of an option game. They can spread things out and throw the ball. However, they seem to be most successful with a power backfield. The power run has given us trouble at times this year. So, I expect them to try and really power the ball at us with their stack-I formation. But, looking at the tape, if we are able to stop that they (Poplar Bluff) have other ways of moving the ball."
Gibbs feels "attacking" the power run of the Mules is the best way to contain it.
"We have worked hard on 'attacking' down-hill with our defensive linemen and linebackers to stop the power run, and more specifically the off-tackle," he said. "We know that Poplar Bluff really likes the off-tackle run and we will have to attack that play in order to limit its' success. We've spent a lot of time on our assignments and executing tackles to make sure we are ready to stop the power run."
The Bulldogs hope to have senior starting quarterback Charlie Bohannon back in action Friday, but feel confident in his backups if he is not ready.
"It will be a game-time decision," Gibbs said of the chances of Bohannon starting. "He (Bohannon) is getting closer and closer to being ready to play. However, if he is unable to start we have confidence in both Sam Erwin and Jordan Williams. Obviously, it would be nice to have Charlie (Bohannon) back, but we feel comfortable with either of our backups' ability to go out and execute for us."
Because of Poplar Bluff's defensive schemes, Sikeston will have to balance the pass and the run to keep the Mules' defense guessing.
"Defensively, Poplar Bluff has about three different 'looks'," Gibbs said. "They are very big on the defensive line. We will have a hard time blocking them effectively. We will have to mix up the pass and the run, regardless of who is at quarterback. We will have to continue to attack the edge in our run game. We will have to sneak some different things in to keep them off balance. To put it plainly, we have to move the chains, score points, and control the football to have a good shot at this game."
In addition to tailback Eli Jackson, who has compiled 1,092 yards and 17 touchdowns this season, the Bulldogs will look to other contributers in the running game.
"It is key that we have success running the football," Gibbs said. "We will need Eli Jackson to continue to play well. We also feel like we need some other guys to continue to step up and make plays. We are starting to develop those additional threats in C.J. Council and Jarian Wims. They both have had good games the last couple of weeks and we need them to keep it up."
Council is averaging 6.5 yards-per-carry, while Wims is averaging 4.3.
Gibbs thinks that the Bulldog success on the ground is as critical to the defense and overall game plan as it is to the offense.
"In order for our defense to be successful, as well as our offense, it is critical that we hang on to the football and control the tempo of the game," he said. "The running game will be extremely important to us Friday."
Gibbs is emphasizing the importance and implications of the district match-up Friday, which could be Sikeston's final home game barring a playoff berth.
"I think that we, as a team, have to understand where we are in our season and the importance of this game," he said. "How do you measure that? When I'm talking to our players I explain it like this, 'If we could beat Poplar Bluff, we could guarantee our program it's first non-losing season in five years.' It would also put us in the race for both the conference and the district."
"There are plenty of reasons for us to get fired up for this game," he added. "Also, it is important to us to send our seniors out on a high note and play with pride in what could be their last home game as a Sikeston Bulldog. If we execute and do what we need to do, we can be in a position to win this game and accomplish those goals."