SIKESTON -- The games are now for real.
As week eight rolls in, the Sikeston Bulldogs will look to repeat as Class 4, District 1 champions starting with the winless Perryville Pirates on Friday night as their first test in district play.
"We've talked a long time about having some of the success that we had last year and sustaining that in the years to come," Sikeston head coach Kent Gibbs said. "Last week we talked to them about this is our last pretest before the final test and this week starts our final test.
"Certainly, (districts) are what you start practice way back in June for. It's up to you what you do."
A matchup with the undefeated Bulldogs doesn't seem to be in the Pirates favor. Perryville has lost all seven of their games by an average of 33 points this year. Their last win against Sikeston was in 1974.
Although a potential upset may not be in the Pirates' cards, Gibbs and his Bulldogs will not take their first district game lightly.
"The thing you can't do is disrespect your opponent, obviously, and I don't think our kids will," said Gibbs. "They know they have to play hard. Perryville's done some good things it just seems that when they do something good they do two things bad.
"It's a team that hasn't really put it together.
"North County put it together right at the end last year and were able to get in the playoffs. We won't disrespect anybody, we'll play hard and we'll do what we need to do."
Perryville is a power running team that features a two-back set on offense. Running back Lee Thornton leads their ground attack as quarterback Joey Bauwens may step up and pass when need be.
"They'll spread you out a little bit, but mostly they're a power running team and they're going to come at you on offense," Gibbs said.
Defensively for the Pirates, Perryville runs a 40-front defense and brings a ton of pressure from every which way.
"We expect to see linebackers blitzing and them guys trying to make plays early to take us out of what we do best," said Gibbs. "They're physical, they're tough up front, but they just haven't put it together yet."
For the most part, nothing has changed and will be changed for the Bulldogs on each side of the ball. Quarterback Trey Lewis is expected to be the signal caller while Darryl Howard and Janeil Hatchett are still pacing the running and catching positions with Ray Clark and James Watson pitching in as well.
Sikeston's offensive is averaging just under a blistering 470 yards per game this year. Add that to a defense holding opponents to 182 total yards and the Bulldogs instantly become one of the favorites in District 1.
"I think our kids will be ready to play in districts," Gibbs said. "I think they'll play hard and I think we'll execute on what we need to do. From week one to week eight, I think we've gotten better each week. We've stubbed out toe like most teams do along the way, but I think we've gotten better and I think we're ready to play."
Although Sikeston comes in as the defending district champion and with the experience learned from last season's semifinal appearance, the 2010 version of District 1 has a different look. A more improved look than last year's including the undefeated Cape Central Tigers and the one-loss Farmington Knights.
With Cape Central and Farmington squaring off as Sikeston takes on the Pirates, Gibbs and Co. are well aware of what awaits them in the last two weeks of district play.
"We have some teams in our district that are awfully good and it's going to be a monumental challenge," he said. "The key for me is getting to the playoffs then you take your shot. The easiest thing to do is also the hardest thing to do. The easiest thing to do to get in is to win all three. But, that's awful hard in our district."