(Photos by Josh Mills, Staff)
STE. GENEVIEVE -- The New Madrid County Central Eagles (10-2) and the Ste. Genevieve Dragons (10-2) blistered the scoreboard and stat sheets with gargantuan offensive numbers in their Class 3 sectional round game at Ste. Genevieve on Monday night.
But in a game where offense was the main attraction, a defensive stop proved to be the game winner.
On the very next drive by the Dragons, it seemed inevitable that they would answer the Eagles scoring drive with one of their own to continue the game's trend.
But, NMCC's defense did not let that happen.
"That put the wind in their (NMCC) sails and we were never really able to recover after that," Ste. Genevieve head coach Bob Stolzer said.
After almost giving the ball right back to the Dragons on a near interception during the very next play, Jamareia Jones broke off the longest and, perhaps, the most needed run of the night when he rushed for a 65-yard touchdown on his only carry to give the Eagles a bit more cushion. G'Darius Stevenson finished the 2-point conversion with a run to make it a 14-point ball game in favor of NMCC.
"I think we did a great job in the second half at times picking the spots that we really needed to play defense," NMCC head coach Arlen Pixley said. "We got some good hits on (Kory) Faulkner and I think we beat him around a little bit and it slowed their offense a little bit. That's all you can hope for against an offense like that is to get a good stop.
"The teams that can play defense in the right spots and rush the football ought to be the teams that advance in the playoffs."
The defense of NMCC came up big one more time on the ensuing drive when they were able to stop the Dragons again on fourth-and-two. Faulkner tried going to his primary receiver, Dustin Noll, on a quick screen pass, but the Eagles were able to sniff it out and stop that play for negative yards.
NMCC added one more huge touchdown run after that defensive stop as well. Stevenson rushed up the field for 63 yards and a touchdown to give his team complete control of the game.
"We knew every possession going in was critical," Pixley said. "We were going to have to get points on the board. Against an offense like that you could be up 72-30 with five or six minutes left in the game, you still have to pump another one in there. That's how deadly they (Ste. Genevieve) can be."
The Dragons were able to put up one more score with a 1-yard pass to Noll from Faulkner with just over five minutes left in the game but, the Eagles came right back with a 15-yard rushing touchdown from Jenkins with 2:57 left on the clock.
Ste. Genevieve tried to put up one last touchdown towards the end but an interception by Bryan Waters in the back of the end zone gave Jenkins the opportunity to take a knee and run out the clock on the 72-52 win over the Dragons.
According to the 2008-09 Missouri State High School Athletic Association record book, the 124 points that the two teams combined for was the most ever scored in a Missouri playoff game and 4th most for any Missouri football game.
NMCC gained a total of 652 yards on offense mostly from their speedy running game. Stevenson led all rushers with a total of 252 yards on 16 attempts and three touchdowns. Jenkins rushed 12 times for 109 yards and three touchdowns, while Waters gained 101 yards on 16 carries. Rodney Anderson chipped in with five carries for 33 yards and a touchdown and Jones added his lone carry of 65 yards as well.
"We absolutely could not tackle their backs," Stolzer said. "That's something that has kind of plagued us all year long. Our kids played hard. I can't fault any effort. We just couldn't tackle.
"Anytime you face speed as a coach it's a dangerous thing and as the saying goes 'speed kills.' And it definitely killed us tonight."
Jenkins was a near perfect 4-of-5 through the air with 92 yards of passing and two touchdowns.
"He's a great player," Pixley said about Jenkins. "I think he's one of the better quarterbacks in Southeast Missouri."
Waters, who caught two passes for 39 yards, and Kony Ealy were on the receiving ends of both of Jenkins' touchdown passes that each went 31 yards. Anderson added a 22 yard catch as well.
"We came back and we answered," Pixley said about his offense. "Guys were blocking extremely well and our guys cut it up in there. We've got some fast jacks in the backfield."
Faulkner, who was apart of every play by the Dragons except for five, passed for 333 yards and five touchdowns on 31-of-43 and rushed for two touchdowns and a total of 160 yards. His 493 yards of rushing and passing was 12th most in state history.
"He's a great precision thrower," Pixley said about Faulkner. "He sets up well in the pocket and he throws the short route extremely well."
Ste. Genevieve's Noll caught the third most passes in state history with 17 receptions. He ended up with a total of 159 receiving yards and three receiving touchdowns, while Brock Meyer caught four passes for 73 yards and a touchdown and Josh Meyer caught five passes for 62 yards and a touchdown.
The 1,200 yards of combined offensive yards from each team places 2nd all-time in a Missouri game.
NMCC will move on and play host to Cardinal Ritter in the quarterfinal round on Saturday at 1:30 p.m.