SIKESTON -- Sikeston head coach Kent Gibbs isn't sure how his 2-0 Bulldogs would react if they happened to take one on the chin.
After a high-scoring affair against Obion County Central in week one and the demolishing of their rival, the Charleston Bluejays, a week ago, the Sikeston Bulldogs have yet to face a tough, physical team where defense may play more of a factor than the highest yardage totals.
The Dexter Bearcats may provide that atmosphere in week three.
"We expect a physical game," Gibbs said. "We're going to have to be able to match up with that and that's something right now we haven't had to do. It's going to be an interesting game as far as that's concerned."
The Bearcats may be trying to resurrect the physical nature once known for as they have stifled both Ste. Genevieve and Park Hills Central on the ground. In their first two games, Dexter has given up only 77.5 yards per game establishing a hard-nosed reputation in the process.
"They're really physical. They're always going to be physical," said Gibbs. "They've made a lot of improvement over the summer, they looked a whole lot better flying around on defense and really hitting."
Although the Bearcats rush defense may be keeping offenses puzzled, their pass defense is less to be desired.
Already giving up 555 yards through the air this season, mostly in a 41-25 defeat to pass-happy Ste. Genevieve, the Bearcats have shown holes in their secondary which may have already sured some doubts last week with five interceptions against Park Hills Central that helped seal their 14-0 win at home.
"We are going to have to clean up some of the things that we're not doing right and play very well," Dexter head coach Aaron Pixley said. "We have to play our 'A' game."
The emergence of first-year quarterback Cody Stevens has also sparked the Bearcats to their 1-1 record as well. Stevens himself has shown signs of beating defenses through the air and on the ground as Dexter has thrown up an average of 298 total yards a game so far this season.
But after pounding the ball with the use of their run game against Park Hills, Gibbs anticipates a run-first mentality from the Bearcats on Friday.
"They're a power run team," Gibbs said. "There's not a lot of secrets. They're going to run right at you and make you like it, so to speak. That's what they did against Park Hills."
Sikeston, on the other hand, is no stranger to racking up yards.
Entering week three, the Bulldogs are averaging 357.5 rushing yards a game and have scored 42 and 51 points in the first two weeks. Headlined by quarterback Trey Lewis and running back Darryl Howard, Sikeston has shown they have the ability to break off big plays for big results. Something that helped them in their dream playoff run just last season.
"They're good," said Pixley, "They are big, strong and fast. They are quick everywhere. They are fast from the quarterback to the running back to the receivers. Their offensive line moves real well and their defensive lineman are quick off the ball. Their linebackers run extremely well and their defensive backs run well.
"Heck, they just have it."
Pixley added, "They really have some good athletes that can really go. You have to play really well and come ready to play against them because they are riding high and they are very, very good and confident. We have to come into Sikeston ready to play."
One thing the Bearcats will have to try and contain is the blazing speed at just about every position on the Bulldogs roster, a key factor in which the Bulldogs almost always hold the advantage. If any of Sikeston's playmakers could make a habit of shifting by the Bearcats' defense, it could spell trouble.
"And we can't take that away from them," Pixley said about Sikeston's speed. "They are physical, and from a defensive stand point it is misdirection. You have to be an assignment disciplined defense against it and if you break down they are going to run it to the end zone every time. And that's very scary.
"We've got to defend the spread against possibly the fastest team in Southeast Missouri."
That's exactly what Gibbs and Co. plan to utilize.
"On our side of the ball, we need to match them from a physical point of view but also know that we need to utilize our speed and go fast, play hard and swarm the ball on defense," said Gibbs. "As far as we're concerned, that's how we want to play every week."
Possibly getting knocked around in a physical game may be the best measuring stick for the Bulldogs at this point. They've shown they can post unworldly numbers when it comes to points and yardage, but Gibbs is wanting to know what kind of toughness his team brings to the table.
"The physical part of things, to be honest about it, worries me because we haven't had to do that and we're not real sure we are able to do that," he said. "It'll be an interesting matchup. We'll see if we can match their physicality with our speed.
"We need to go toe-to-toe with some people. As each game happens, your going to see more of that kind of style and certainly that's what we're going to see down the road."