From C.J. Council's interception return for a winning touchdown as time expired in 2008 to last season's hyped up district and sectional meetings in which Sikeston's defense crushed the Mules' record-setting offense -- Bulldog fans have seen some good times recently at the expense of the Mules.
On Friday night at Morrow Stadium in Poplar Bluff, Sikeston made it four straight victories over the Mules, winning 36-6 in the 88th meeting between the two SEMO Conference rivals.
Sikeston (4-0) outscored Poplar Bluff 22-0 in the second half to pull away after the Mules took the lead in the first quarter.
It's the first time Sikeston has trailed in a game this season, but the team responded by dominating the final three quarters of action.
The Mules' (1-3) defense was up to the challenge early in the game, stopping the Bulldogs on their first two possessions, but Sikeston started to change the tide of the game in the second quarter and had total control of the contest in the second half.
"We talked to the kids at halftime about if you want to be conference champions again you're going to have to start playing like one -- or don't play not to lose the game but play to win," Sikeston coach Kent Gibbs said. "At times I think we played a little bit better in the second half."
The Bulldogs, normally a very strong first half squad, got off to a slow start against a fired-up Mules team.
"We came out flat to be real honest about it -- Poplar Bluff came out and played hard and got after us," Gibbs said. "They did a lot of things to us, not so much scheme-wise, but their effort was a little bit better than ours. Take your hat off to Poplar Bluff. They played awful good tonight."
But the Mules just didn't have the firepower to keep the game close for four quarters.
Sikeston's speed on offense, combined with the team's stingy defense, eventually wore down the home team.
Gibbs said his team started executing better in the second half.
"What I think happened is we started finally blocking on the edge a little bit," he said. "We changed some personnel and swapped some kids in and out to give us some edge blocking and that's really all it was. Once you get our kids outside we're going to be able to go with a lot of yardage and that's what happened."
Even with the lopsided final score, the game proved to be more of a sigh of relief for Bulldog fans when starting quarterback Trey Lewis went down in practice last week with an ankle injury, making him questionable on whether or not he would even play against the Mules.
The senior decided to give it a go, received a heavy tape job and had a very noticeable limp throughout the night, but he still proved to be an effective weapon for the Bulldog offense, rushing for 85 yards and throwing for 54 yards and two touchdowns.
"Trey was a little rusty tonight -- he missed a lot of practice snaps this week and was kind of a game-time decision to play," Gibbs said. "Although he didn't play well, he played hard and he was a gamer and did what he needed to do. Hopefully we can get him well and get him ready to go."
While Lewis performed admirably, it was senior running back Darryl Howard that had the biggest night for the Bulldogs, rushing for a season-high 174 yards on 17 carries with three touchdowns.
As a team, Sikeston totaled 410 yards of offense -- 356 coming on the ground. The Bulldogs' fast-improving defense limited the Mules to just 60 total yards of offense, including minus-six rushing yards.
"We talk a lot about being really quick and really fast -- hustle every play, swarm to the ball every play," Gibbs said. "If we do that, we're fast enough to be in the right spot. Even if we miss a tackle, which we missed a whole bunch tonight, we've got people who are in position."
Poplar Bluff got on the board on the last play of the first quarter when quarterback Josh Freeman scrambled free on a 4th-and-7 play and found his way to the end zone to give the Mules a 6-0 lead.
Sikeston answered right back on its ensuing drive when Lewis hit Janiel Hatchett for a 14-yard touchdown pass to tie the score at 6-6.
After forcing a Mule punt, Howard scored on a 31-yard run off an option pitch from Lewis to give the Bulldogs a 12-6 lead with 3:11 left in the half.
That's when the wheels began to fall off for the Mules, who had trouble the entire night with errant shotgun snaps and deep snaps on punts.
With 54 seconds left in the half, a deep snap sailed over Poplar Bluff punter Sean Cisne's head and into the end zone for a safety, giving the Bulldogs a 14-6 lead heading into halftime.
Cisne actually used a heads up play by recovering the fumble and throwing it out of the back of the end zone.
"I'd much rather give them the safety than give them the ball on the 1 and give up 6 right there," Poplar Bluff coach Shane Kearbey said. "It seems like every week (Cisne is) saving a play on a punt. We've got to get consistent on the long snap."
After forcing a Mule punt on their opening drive of the third quarter, Howard punched in another touchdown with 6:24 left in the period. Hatchett caught the two-point conversion pass to push the lead to 22-6.
The Bulldogs sealed the game in the fourth quarter with Lewis hitting Robert Garces for a 21-yard TD reception with 7:34 left in the game, followed by a Howard 31-yard TD run a few minutes later. Ray Clark added the two-point conversion run.
Kearbey was pleased with his team's performance after the game.
"These guys, they're close," Kearbey said about his team. "It's just killing us right now because we're just so close. We just played a heck of a team and they have nothing to be ashamed of. (Sikeston) is the fifth ranked team in the state. The scoreboard does not indicate that football game."
Poplar Bluff's Pete Bryant came into the game as one of the area's leading rushers, but the Bulldogs limited him to 38 yards on 12 carries.
Mules quarterback Josh Freeman was 8-for-14 passing for 66 yards.
The Mules were 0-for-10 on third down conversions and only managed five first downs.
Sikeston churned out 17 first downs and had no turnovers.
Garces had four receptions for 41 yards and his first career touchdown.
Sikeston's kicker, Hunter Williams, missed the game due to a soccer match on Friday, forcing the Bulldogs to go for two-point conversions after each score.
The Bulldogs now lead the all-time series history with Poplar Bluff, 52-32-4.
P -- Josh Freeman 18 run (kick failed), 0:00.
S -- Janiel Hatchett 14 pass from Trey Lewis (run failed), 7:22.
S -- Darryl Howard 31 run (pass failed), 3:11.
S -- Safety, 0:54.
S -- Darryl Howard 1 run (Janiel Hatchett pass from Trey Lewis), 6:24.
S -- Robert Garces 21 pass from Trey Lewis (run failed), 7:34.
S -- Darryl Howard 31 run (Ray Clark run), 3:33.
Sikeston -- Darryl Howard 17-174, Trey Lewis 9-85, Kyland Gross 5-35, Ray Clark 3-33, James Watson 9-13, Darien Boyd 3-12, Quentin Washington 2-9, Chris Word 1-(-2), Team 1-(-3). Poplar Bluff -- Pete Bryant 12-38, Josh Freeman 8-19, Luke Latourette 1-2, Cornelius Timothy 2-(-7), William Whitfield 2-(-14), Team 2-(-44).
Sikeston -- Trey Lewis 8-15-0 54. Poplar Bluff -- Josh Freeman 8-14-0 66, Kortez Ellis 0-1-0 0.
Sikeston -- Robert Garces 4-41, Janiel Hatchett 3-18, James Watson 2-5. Poplar Bluff -- Dustin Hibler 4-32, Kendric McCain 3-27, Pete Bryant 1-7.