(Photo by David Jenkins, Staff)
CAPE GIRARDEAU -- The Sikeston Bulldogs went into Thursday night's game knowing they had a big obstacle standing in their way.
They hadn't faced a team all season with the offensive firepower that the Cape Central Tigers possessed or a team's speed that could possibly match their own.
Knowing that, the Bulldogs still welcomed those challenges with open arms.
"We came in here with a challenge on our hands," Sikeston lineman Corey Porter said. "Coach told us that we should welcome those challenges with open arms and all week, this game has been the talk of the school. We took that challenge on and we were successful."
The Sikeston Bulldogs went into Houck Stadium and shut out the Tigers' prolific offense, all while showcasing their own, in a 21-0 victory.
"It was a big game," Sikeston quarterback Trey Lewis said. "We knew if we would come out here and do what we needed to do and play hard on defense and keep striking we'd come out here and get the job done."
Gathering up those challenges that Cape Central presented was only half of what the Bulldogs, particularly their offensive and defensive lines, were doing with their massive arms.
Porter, along with Michael Perkins and Faylon Marshall, created havoc inside the Tigers' backfield throughout. They bottled up Cape Central's powerful Keilon Moore as well as the speedy James Poindexter. Porter also recovered a fumble in the first quarter as well as help chase down Cape Central quarterback Christian Cavaness for two sacks in the second.
Numerous times, Sikeston's defensive line blew up a Cape Central offensive line that has held strong for their previous eight straight wins. It was a big part to holding the Tigers' offense to only a single yard in the first half.
"They've had articles over their offensive line and, you know, they are a really good offensive line," Porter said. "That was also a challenge for our D-line, coming in and showing their offensive line that we're stronger than them and we're more physical.
"We just dominated in the first half and took care of what we needed to do."
It may have helped that the Sikeston offense gave the Bulldogs a very quick and efficient first drive touchdown to begin the game.
In just three plays that covered 63 yards, Sikeston found pay dirt 39 seconds into the contest. A 40-yard, strike to Sikeston running back Darryl Howard is what began the Bulldogs fortunes.
Lewis faked once to the left, turned to fake to the right, took three steps back and hit Howard, who had broke free in front of his defender, right in stride.
"It was a little bit of a shell shock," Cape Central head coach Rich Payne said about Sikeston's first play from scrimmage. "They basically tricked us. We've probably seen each other way too much in contact camp and things like that because, they knew exactly what they were going to play. They tricked us with the back out and we weren't prepared for that."
Lewis scrambled for a 34-yard run on the next play putting the Bulldogs on Cape Central's 4-yard line. Howard finished it off with a run to the left side of the end zone giving Sikeston a 7-0 lead and a huge momentum swing.
"That is one of our main goals," Lewis said about their fast start. "We want to start out fast and come right at them and hit them hard. Getting on them that quick it felt good. It built us some confidence. A good team like that, I don't know if it got (Cape Central) down, but it helped us out."
"That was a big momentum factor," Porter added. "After that first score we never looked back. We just kept on pushing. We struggled at times but, we're a team and we always fight back together."
Following their first score, the Bulldogs had no trouble driving the short fields that were given to them by their defense. It was punching it in that stymied them.
An incomplete pass to Janeil Hatchett from 12-yards out ended their second drive while on their third, Lewis couldn't quit turn the corner from 15-yards out on fourth down which ended that drive at the 6-yard line.
"To do real honest about it, we had a couple of more scoring opportunities in the first half that we just didn't take advantage of," Sikeston head coach Kent Gibbs said. "Luckily, it didn't come back to bite us."
After Cape Central's second punt, however, Sikeston found their striking abilities once again. Particularly, Lewis.
The Bulldog quarterback sat back and read all of his options on a 1st-and-10 at the Cape Central 20-yard line in the second quarter, before taking off up the middle and then veering towards the left side of the end zone for Sikeston's second score of the night.
"I just go through my reads and it's just a process," said Lewis. "If I don't see anybody open, they've always told me if I make one guy miss hit that same open side of the field."
Lewis did that again just before halftime.
Helped out by a spectacular 60-yard catch by Hatchett, who snatched a ball out of the air between two Tiger defenders, Lewis read the defense, saw no receiver was open and took off from 17-yards out.
The Bulldogs made it 21-0 with 26 seconds left in the first half after a 2-point conversion pass was caught by Hatchett.
"You give them a crack and they get a little bit more than the normal person can get," Gibbs said about his playmakers. "We told them before the game that 'we're all about big plays. When you get those opportunities you have to make sure you make those big plays.'"
Although Cape Central found a bit of their stride on offense in the second half, gaining 89 of their total 90 yards, the Bulldogs defense held strong. Preserving what they thought was a huge statement in shutting out the Tigers.
"It's showing people that we still have that good defense," Lewis said. "A lot has been said about our defense. But, we came out and played hard. We did our job."
"I just think we played really well up front on both sides of the ball," Gibbs added. "Our defense played awful well. We gave them a couple plays there late but, overall you have to be really pleased with shutting a team like this out."
The run-heavy and usually, run prominent offense of the Tigers that have averaged 340 yards per game were allowed just 73 yards on 30 carries and 90 total yards as a team. Deonte Jenkins led the Tigers with 44 yards on seven carries, one of which was for 32 yards.
Cavaness threw nine times and completed four for a total of 17 yards threw the air.
"They handled us up front," Payne said. "We were coming off a little bit tentative on both sides of the ball. And, you've got to give it to them. I think their two defensive tackles did a nice job inside on us. I think I've got two pretty good guards there but, they didn't come off the ball the way that they have been.
"They controlled the line of scrimmage on us some and that allowed their speed, their linebackers and their secondary to just run to the football."
Lewis led the way, again, for the Bulldogs. He totaled 246 yards and two touchdowns. He ran for 131 yards on 13 carries and completed 4-of-11 passing for 115. Howard ran for 130 yards on 17 touches for one touchdown.
As a team, Sikeston accounted for 416 yards of total offense.
"I thought we played physical football the first half, particularly on defense," said Gibbs. "We took it to them. We had some big plays early in the game that kind of gave us some momentum. We didn't play as well in the second half but, we did what we needed to do to win the game."
Thursday's win secures the Bulldogs a spot in the playoffs whatever may happen with the Farmington Knights next week. It also gives them at least a share of the conference title as well.
However, a win over Farmington gives Sikeston both of those titles outright.
"This is really huge," Porter said. "We thought whoever would come out here would win the district and we're glad we kept the district away from Cape. Now, we've got a lot of work to do to focus on Farmington next week."
S -- Darryl Howard 4 run (Hunter Williams kick), 11:21
S -- Trey Lewis 20 run (kick failed), 3:36
S -- Trey Lewis 17 run (Janeil Hatchett pass from Lewis), 0:26
Sikeston -- Trey Lewis 13-131, Darryl Howard 17-130, Ray Clark 7-30, James Watson 6-8, Kyland Gross 4-3, Team 1-(-1). Cape Central -- Keilon Moore 6-3, James Poindexter 5-27, Deonte Jenkins 7-44, Rodney Reynolds 4-3, Christian Cavaness 7-(-1), Team 1-(-3).
Sikeston -- Trey Lewis 4-11-2 115. Cape Central -- Christian Cavaness 4-9-0 17, Keilon Moore 0-1-0 0.
Sikeston -- Janeil Hatchett 2-68, Darryl Howard 1-40, Kyland Gross 1-7. Cape Central -- Andrew Williams 2-7, Zach Boerboom 1-8, Deonte Jenkins 1-2.