SIKESTON -- First-year Charleston head coach Brett Blackman is all too familiar with the current Sikeston football team.
He coached the Bulldog seniors as an assistant at Sikeston and met head coach Kent Gibbs for the first time as a sophomore football player at Jackson High School.
Gibbs was even the one who persuaded Blackman to join the Bulldogs as a Sikeston assistant, although it didn't take much persuasion for Blackman to join.
"I didn't think twice about it because I wanted to learn," Blackman said. "He's one of the best coaches to learn from. I think anybody would tell you that he is the best coach in Southeast Missouri to run a football program."
Blackman and his first-year Charleston squad will have the chance to learn from Gibbs first hand on Friday night as the oldest rivalry west of the Mississippi continues for the 125th meeting at Sikeston Public School Stadium.
"The kids that are Sikeston's seniors, I coached them when they were freshman," said Blackman. "I know a lot of them and I've worked with a lot of them. I know they have worked hard to get that program to where it's at right now and I think they're starting to see the fruits of their labor."
The Sikeston-Charleston rivalry on the gridiron has been dominated by the Bulldogs for the last three years. Sikeston has averaged a score of 35 points per game the last three meetings while the Bluejays have averaged six.
Sikeston imposed their every will against the Bluejays in last year's contest. The Bulldogs strangled their counterpart on defense allowing just 16 total yards of offense while at the same time busting out huge plays on their offense for a massive total of 441 yards -- the majority of which came from 437 yards on the ground.
Charleston's last win against the Bulldogs was in 2005, a 14-8 defensive struggle for both teams. The Bluejays snapped a 7-game losing streak to Sikeston in 2004 with a convincing 34-14 win.
"I think the rivalry is there," said Gibbs. "The games haven't been that good but, just a few short years ago they beat us two years in-a-row. I think for us, really what we do every week, is just go in and tell the guys they have to get better at practice and they have to get focused at practice and you've got to make yourself better for the following week."
Learning from Gibbs, Blackman's goals for this Friday are exactly the same.
"What we want to try and get out of it is that we want to continue to get better," said Blackman. "We talk to our kids about getting better each practice and better each game. A rebuilding process is a slow process and if we continue to get better each week, we may take a big step forward."
Sikeston holds the record series lead by a grand margin, 86-38. Recent history shows Sikeston's dominance may continue after Friday, but the Bulldogs will not take this game, or any other game, lightly.
"Whoever we play, to be just really honest about it, it doesn't change all that much," said Gibbs. "You have to go out and perform and respect all of your opponents and play like you can play."
As for Blackman and Gibbs, this will be their first ever head-to-head matchup as head coaches. Charleston's leader considers Gibbs his mentor and plans to view Friday as just another chance to learn.
"I consider him one of my better friends," Blackman said. "Pretty much everything I've learned about being a coach I've taken from him. He's made me better as a coach."
"Going into this kind of game everybody is an enemy," Gibbs said with a smile, "and we're going to play it that way. We're good friends. I've know him and his family for a while. We're going to do the best we can against them and him and I can talk about things after the game is over."