(Photo by David Jenkins, Staff)
SIKESTON -- With two touchdowns in less than two minutes, the Sikeston Bulldogs could not have asked for a better start in Friday night's SEMO Conference game against the Jackson Indians at Sikeston Public Schools Stadium.
Jackson made things interesting for a half, but ultimately could not contain the big-play capabilities of the Bulldogs, who cruised to a 49-18 victory.
Despite the lopsided final score, the Bulldogs only led by 10 at the half.
Sikeston coach Kent Gibbs got the fast start he was looking for, but wanted to see his team keep that same level of concentration once the early lead was established.
"We talked all week long about how we needed to start quicker and we needed to do things better early, and obviously we did that," Gibbs said. "I think we lost focus a little bit after we scored those quick touchdowns. If we can jump out on people and play the way we did in that first quarter, then it's hard telling how good we can be."
The Bulldogs (5-0) showed how good they can be on their second drive of the third quarter. Facing a 2nd-and-34 after a rash of penalties and a fumbled snap, Sikeston found themselves backed up to the 5-yard line.
To get out of the jam, quarterback Trey Lewis, from the end zone, fired a pass down the field as wide receiver Janeil Hatchett went up and made a leaping grab of 40 yards to secure the first down. On the very next play, Hatchett made another sensational grab, this time for 38 yards. Lewis followed that up an option-keeper and scored from 17 yards out to extend the lead to 35-18.
And just like that, the Bulldogs had essentially sealed the game with three big plays -- one moment they are backed up to the end zone from a seemingly insurmountable down and distance, and within seconds they are crossing the goal line.
"They got kind of pumped up and momentum got on their side," Jackson coach Van Hitt said. "They're so athletic we can't run with them or tackle them. We don't have anybody with the speed they've got. We have to play picture-perfect defense. If anybody makes a wrong step, it's six points with the speed that Sikeston has."
Hatchett's plays were the most eye-catching as he caught five passes for a season-high 136 yards, including a touchdown reception. The 6-foot-1 senior hadn't played football since his freshman year, but he has quickly developed into a prime target for the Bulldog offense.
"Not playing hurt me a lot, but this was our fifth game and I'm getting my feel for the game and the awareness on the field," said Hatchett, who also got an interception against the Indians. "I'm getting more comfortable catching the ball, running with it, and running routes. It's just a comfort level."
Gibbs is hoping Hatchett's performance is a sign of good things to come.
"Janeil hasn't been with us and it's a process to kind of get yourself game ready and mentally ready," Gibbs said. "I'll tell you what he does, he stays every day after practice and he works to get better. He took some of last year's tapes home with him and looked at them as far as what he needed to do receiver-wise. We think as the year keeps going on and heading into district play, he can be a big factor for us. I think tonight he showed that."
Sikeston senior running back Darryl Howard had another big game, rushing for a season-high 181 yards on 18 carries with a pair of touchdowns. He also had an 80-yard TD run called back by a penalty.
"Darryl Howard was just unbelievable in the second half with the way he ran it," Gibbs said. "I know he was hurting but he toughened up and never wanted out of the game. We started blocking some people up front and Darryl ran hard behind them."
Sikeston tallied 460 yards of offense with 301 coming on the ground. Lewis threw for a season-high 159 yards, completing 7-of-11 passes with a score. In addition, he had 79 rushing yards and three TD runs.
Defensively, the Bulldogs forced three turnovers and held the Indians to 87 yards passing as quarterback Bobby Clark completed just 8-of-26 passes.
"In warm-ups he was a little high," Hitt said of Clark's inaccuracy. "Sometimes when a quarterback gets excited, they squeeze the ball a little hard and when they throw it the ball tends to rise a little bit. The ball was a little high all night."
The Indians didn't find much success on the ground either, rushing for 119 yards led by Ethan Ruch's 99 yards.
"At times I thought we played really well defensively -- when they throw the ball that much, they're going to get some plays," Gibbs said. "I think our linebackers started overplaying the pass and maybe backing out and not filling lanes. When we get a chance to make some interceptions we need to start making some of them to help us out a little bit more."
Sikeston started the game in grand fashion as sophomore Kyland Gross broke right through the wedge and out-raced the Jackson defenders to the end zone for a 95-yard kick return.
After Bulldog linebacker Brandon Blissett recovered a Jackson fumble, Lewis hit Hatchett on the first play for a 45-yard TD strike. Hunter Williams, who was perfect on seven extra point attempts, made it 14-0 with 10:13 left in the first quarter.
"It didn't even take them two minutes to put 14 points on the board," Hitt said. "But our kids didn't quit. We fought back and really got back into the game there in the first half."
A Sikeston fumble set up the Indians for their first score -- a Chris Poyner 16-yard TD reception from Clark to make it 14-6.
A few minutes later, Lewis fooled the entire Jackson defense with a fake on the option and ran untouched to the end zone from 31 yards out to make it 21-6 with 1:13 left in the first quarter.
Ruch had a 39-yard TD run with 6:56 left in the half to cut the Bulldog lead to 21-12.
On Sikeston's ensuing possession, after a fierce goal line stand by the Indians, Lewis finally scored on a sprint to the corner of the end zone on 4th-and-goal at the 1 to extend the lead to 28-12.
But Jackson (2-3) wasn't finished as a solid kick return across midfield eventually led to Clark's nicely placed 29-yard touchdown pass to Lowgn Wren to make it 28-18 at the half.
"We started well but then we kind of muddled through things, but I don't know if we muddled through as much as Jackson just took it to us in that second quarter," Gibbs said.
The third quarter didn't look very promising early on for the Bulldogs. After Sikeston's Faylon Marshall recovered a fumble on an errant option pitch by Clark, the Bulldogs were set up at the Jackson 10-yard line. But the drive ended on downs.
"For us, it's about consistency for four quarters, and really, I'm not sure we've done that much this year," Gibbs said.
But Sikeston's defense had found its footing in the second half and the Indians never came close to scoring again.
"We went to the locker room and got a little chew on by the coaches," said Howard, also a linebacker on defense. "So in the second half we just came out and did our jobs."
Howard added TD runs of 3 and 60 yards in the fourth quarter to reach the final margin.
"Sometimes we want to grind a little bit so we can hang onto the ball but we're a big-play offense," Gibbs said. "We got some big plays and some good athletes stepped up and made plays and it got us going."
S -- Kyland Gross 95 kick return (Hunter Williams kick), 11:46.
S -- Janeil Hatchett 45 pass from Trey Lewis (Hunter Williams kick), 10:13.
J -- Chris Poyner 16 pass from Bobby Clark (kick failed), 7:13.
S -- Trey Lewis 31 run (Hunter Williams kick), 1:13.
J -- Ethan Ruch 39 run (kick blocked), 6:56.
S -- Trey Lewis 1 run (Hunter Williams), 1:56.
J -- Lowgn Wren 29 pass from Bobby Clark (pass failed), 0:17.
S -- Trey Lewis 17 run (Hunter Williams kick), 2:23
S -- Darryl Howard 3 run (Hunter Williams kick), 10:30.
S -- Darryl Howard 60 run (Hunter Williams kick), 9:26.
Jackson -- Ethan Ruch 18-99, Bobby Clark 8-19, Brannon Wright 1-1. Sikeston -- Darryl Howard 18-181, Trey Lewis 8-79, Ray Clark 5-36, Chris Word 2-11, Quentin Washington 1-8, Kyland Gross 2-7, Darien Boyd 1-2, James Watson 5-2, Team 5-(-25).
Jackson -- Bobby Clark 8-26-1 87. Sikeston -- Trey Lewis 7-11-0 159.
Jackson -- Lowgn Wren 2-38, Chris Poyner 3-35, Brannon Wright 1-13, Ethan Ruch 2-1. Sikeston -- Janeil Hatchett 5-136, Robert Garces 1-14, Darryl Howard 1-9.