SIKESTON -- The Sikeston Bulldog football team will look to claim their first district title in 13 years and their first conference title in 10 years when they take on the talented Farmington Knights Thursday in Farmington.
The Bulldogs (5-4) have a shot at those titles because they were able to defeat district foe Poplar Bluff last Friday. It was Sikeston first victory over the Mules in six years.
"It was a great win at a great moment," Bulldogs head coach Kent Gibbs said of last week's win. "It takes away some of the sting of some of the games we've lost. Hopefully, that will give us a boost not only for this Thursday night, but for our program in general."
Gibbs emphasizes all the positive things that came from last weeks win.
"One thing it did for us was ensure us a non-losing season," he said. "I know that's not a very lofty goal, but to take one step we have to take the other. We feel like having a non-losing season is a step in the right direction. The win gave us a chance to be co-conference champs, we have us a chance to be district champs. We also have a chance to go 6-4, so we have a lot to play for this Thursday in Farmington."
Gibbs says attitude and readiness will be key for his team to compete against the Knights.
"I think we have to show up with the attitude that we can play with them," he said. "I felt that we came out of the gates a little slow last Friday, so we have to come ready to play. Farmington has a good program. They have been good for some time now. Coach Vaughn does a great job with them. So we are not just fighting the team, we're fighting the program. For us to have a shot at them, we have to show up in the right frame of mind and be ready to play at the first snap."
Gibbs feels his team must slow what has been the offensive onslaught of Farmington this year.
"For us to say we are going to shut them down defensively, that's not realistic," he said. "I think we must find a way to slow them down."
Gibbs points out that it is imperative that his defense limit big plays.
"Defensively, we must limit their big plays and force them to march down the field," he said. "They (Farmington) have an excellent kickoff return team. They have a kid that does a great job with kickoff returns. If we allow them to score quickly, we will be in for a long night."
Gibbs notes that his defensive unit gets a better start than they did last week.
"We didn't play well defensively in the early going against Poplar Bluff," he said. "We have to start better on defense. We have to make plays when the opportunity presents itself defensively. We can look back and see where that has hurt us this year. Mainly, we just need to play aggressively and hit people."
Gibbs said that his staff will implement a similar offensive game plan to the one that allowed Sikeston to dominate Kennett three weeks ago.
"We will have a similar game plan that we had against Kennett," he said. "Now obviously, this (Farmington) is a larger and tougher school than Kennett, no offense to them. All that to say, we must control the football and the clock offensively."
Gibbs points out there are a number of ways to limit the Knights attack.
"They (Farmington) are going to score their points," he said. "The more opportunities we give them, the more they will score. We can limit their possessions in a number of ways. One way you do that is by moving the chains. Whether you do it through the air or you do it on the ground, you have to move them. You can do it at a slow or fast pace. We are going to try to slow it down a good bit. We may take some chances on fourth down to be successful in that regard also. We have to play good special teams as well."
The Bulldogs are glad to have senior starting quarterback Charlie Bohannon back from injury.
"Charlie (Bohannon) was good last week," Gibbs said. "He was a little rusty on some things, which we had some jokes about after the ball game. But he is good to go Thursday."
Gibbs feels that Bohannon's experience and the way his presence effects his team's confidence level as the biggest impacts of his return.
"The big thing for us is that it gives us a bit more confidence," he said. "Not to take anything away from Sam Erwin or Jordan Williams, they have done a good job for us. But, when you have a kid who has been in there since the very first day and he goes out, that is going to have an impact on a team. I think the biggest thing is the confidence level and having another senior leader out there to help us face adversity."
Gibbs hopes he will have no problem motivating his team Thursday night.
"Like I told our kids in practice, 'we have a chance to be co-conference champs and district champs. We are playing to have a winning record. If I have to do anything to motivate you, then we don't have a chance to win this game'," he said. "Our kids have done a good job of excepting that. We have had good practices this week. But, if I have to do anything to motivate our guys Thursday night, then we are not where we need to be. I like to think that because the excitement of last weeks win and what is riding on this game our mental game will take care of itself."
Gibbs says this is a huge game for his team and hopes fans can make the drive to support the Bulldogs.
"This is a big game for us," he said. "We appreciate the opportunity for have a chance to play for what we have to play for. We would like as many people as possible to come to the football game. Hopefully, we can play well and see what happens."