(Photos by David Jenkins, Staff)
STE. GENEVIEVE -- The New Madrid County Central Eagles will face their toughest opponent on Monday evening in the sectional round of high school football playoffs. Quarterback Kory Faulkner and the Ste. Genevieve Dragons (10-1) bring a lot of offense to the table Monday night and the Eagle defense will have to step up their play to defend the spread offense that the Dragons rely upon.
"We've seen them (Ste. Genevieve) and they've seen us," said NMCC head coach Arlen Pixley of their second round opponent. "They've had their eye on us for the last three or four weeks. I was hoping that they were hoping that we came out, because I think I really like how we can defend teams that run that style of offense."
Pixley believes that his squad is up for the challenge and thinks that they've put together the right combination for shutting down the Ste. Genevieve aerial attack.
"We've had to try to marriage the best defense to being able to defend the power-type teams and also the spread-type teams," said Pixley. "I think we found a pretty good blend for the type of athletes that we have on defense. I think it'll be interesting."
"They'll be in the (shotgun) 99.999 percent of the time," he added. "And, defensively they're put right back on the field because they strike so quick. It's really tough to stop people from scoring when you score so quick. We found that out earlier this year. We scored quick in a few conference games earlier this year and our defense was put right back on the field and it's really hard to pitch shutouts. They've (Ste. Genevieve) struggled pitching shutouts just because they can score at-will. They can score any given time. They've got a quarterback that can put it right on the money -- he's really good."
Other top players for the Dragons include junior running back Kory Huck and Dustin Noll. Huck racked up 111 yards and four touchdowns in the air as well as 89 rushing yards and a TD on the ground against Fredericktown while Noll has 1,693 all-purpose yards this season and 64 tackles and four interceptions on defense. Huck left Wednesday's game against Perryville with an ankle injury and Noll missed the Perryville game as well. The status of both players for Monday is unknown.
On the flip-side, the Eagles bring in pretty solid numbers themselves. Quarterback Dontre Jenkins has put together a good season going 48-for-86 with 893 passing yards and seven touchdowns. On the ground he has 101 carries for 519 yards and seven TDs.
Bryan Waters and G'Darius Stevenson are the two leading rushers for NMCC as Waters has 135 carries for 1,249 yards and 12 TDs while Stevenson has 135 carries for 1,105 yards and 15 touchdowns. Rodney Anderson makes up the fourth running option for the Eagles as he has 67 carries for 607 yards and eight touchdowns.
In the air, one of Jenkins' favorite targets has become Kony Ealy who has 16 receptions for 390 yards and five touchdowns.
Pixley said that his squad has three keys to success on Monday night, No. 1, to limit the Dragons' possessions, No. 2, to score when they have the football and No. 3 to not turn the ball over.
"We can't give any more opportunities than they're already going to get," he said. "They might beat us 100 to nothing, but I guarantee you it's not going to be for lack of effort. Our kids have been fighting hard."
Kickoff will be at 7 p.m. Monday at Dragon Stadium in Ste. Genevieve.
NOTES -- There is a 30 percent chance of rain forecast in Ste. Genevieve Monday night with a high of 51 and a low of 38... NMCC last defeated the Dragons in the 2001 state playoffs, winning 28-6. The Eagles advanced to the state championship game that season, finishing second to Platte County... In the last four meetings between the two schools, the Dragons have outscored NMCC 179-38 including a 39-12 victory in their last meeting which was the 2006 Class 3 Sectional game.