(Photo by David Jenkins, Staff)
FARMINGTON -- For the first time this season, Sikeston was in a place they've never been. Down by two possessions at halftime, the Bulldogs were getting bested by a more potent, more energetic and hungrier team.
The perfect end to a perfect regular season was looking bleak with a 19-6 Farmington lead as Knights' quarterback Zach Hibbits carved up the Bulldogs defense with the no-huddle, spread attack like he has so many times to so many other teams.
"They were getting on us early," Sikeston senior Ray Clark said. "I don't think we were ready for what they were going to bring. They were fast-paced. We went fast-paced in practice but, not as fast as they went. They have a great offense."
After halftime, however, Sikeston didn't do anything different. They didn't change plays and didn't switch defenses. All they did was start playing like they knew they could.
"We were thinking we weren't playing to our fullest capabilities (in the first half)," Sikeston quarterback Trey Lewis said. "We had to come out and play a lot harder. We're a good team but, we knew we could play a lot better."
Sikeston's second half turnaround rejuvenated the players and the fans in red as it began a string of 35 unanswered points for a 41-27 Bulldog win on Thursday night.
"Nothing magical," Sikeston head coach Kent Gibbs said about the second half turnaround. "We just had a heart-to-heart talk (at halftime) and they came out and played with the emotion and intensity they needed to play with. They showed a lot of heart tonight."
Sikeston's win gives them their second straight 10-0 regular season which is the first time that has happened since the 1954-55 seasons. It also gives the Bulldogs' consecutive Class 4, District 1 championships as well as SEMO North Conference championships as well.
"Winning never gets old," said Clark. "We love it."
Farmington's red hot offense lived up to it's billing to begin the game.
Hibbits completed 18 passes in the first half as receivers Jonathon Bird and Alec Sebastian could not be contained. The rushing efforts of Roper Garrett and Brett Bader only opened up the pass more as they gauged a usually stout rush defense for 113 rushing yards in the first half.
"They gave it to us a little bit in the first half," senior linebacker Treston Pulley admitted. "We came back and battled though."
Sikeston wasn't helping their own cause either. An unusual 15 penalties for 112 yards kept their offense and defense stagnant. They also had trouble hanging on to the ball with four fumbles. Only one though, was lost.
With their 13-point lead in hand, the Knights had a strong hold on their future as they were fighting for their playoff lives.
"We just told them at halftime 'right now, Farmington is district champions and if you want to be district champions you got to go out and start playing like it.'" said Gibbs. "And we did."
The lifeless Bulldogs in the first half were given back hope during the first drive of the second half.
Farmington's offense, which had eclipsed the 200 total yard mark in the first half as well as 16 first downs alone, was forced to punt on their first three-and-out of the game. It was a victory for a struggling defense that could not find an answer for Hibbits and Farmington's methodical offense.
"That was the biggest momentum swing we've had as a team," Clark said. "It led us to come back together and keep going and keep fighting. We knew we weren't done. We knew we were better than we were in the first half."
Eight plays later, the Bulldogs' found the end zone after Senior running back Darryl Howard, who rushed for 121 yards, scored the first of his two rushing touchdowns. A failed 2-point conversion afterward made it 19-12 Farmington.
"Anytime you come in and your disappointed in what you've done and you go out at halftime like that you need a big stop. You need something to get you going," said Gibbs. "We did that and we came down and scored. They momentum's on our side after that and we just kept playing, playing and playing and got better and better."
The Knights turned the ball over on downs their next series being only a half yard shy of a first down. Fueled by the stop and a gashing 50-yard run by Lewis, who once again led the Bulldogs with his stellar play, on third down, led to Howard's second rushing touchdown. A pass to Kyland Gross towards the back of the end zone completed Sikeston's 2-point conversion and gave them their first lead of the night, 20-19.
Possibly the biggest turn of the game was Farmington's only turnover. Senior Faylon Marshall knocked a ball loose during Farmington's next offensive series that was picked up by Pulley.
The Bulldogs scored quickly after, as Lewis, who rushed for 187 yards and passed for 75, scrambled for a 45-yard touchdown run aided by a small blocking nudge by senior Janeil Hatchett giving his quarterback just enough space to run by a Farmington defender. Sikeston went up 26-19 after the play.
"We had to have some stops," Gibbs said about the fumble and the score afterward. "You expect to get senior leadership and you expect those kids in big games to step up and make big plays. And that's what they did. Fortunately, we didn't stub our toes too bad in that first half and we were able to come back and beat them."
A 10-yard touchdown pass to Hatchett and a 20-yard score from Clark put the emphasis on Sikeston's comeback making it 41-19.
"Farmington's a good team," Lewis said, who has now rushed and passed for over 1,000 yards this season. "They came out and played hard but, our goal from kickoff was to go 10-0. Nothing short of that. We would accept nothing else.
"At halftime, we picked each other up, focused and we knew we had to come out here and perform."
Sikeston held the Knights to four second half first downs and just six rushing yards. Although they were out-gained in yardage and Hibbits torched them for 331 total passing yards, the Bulldogs still overcame.
"We just came out thinking we got to do this," Pulley said. "We need this. We just thought about it and we had to go. We all settled down and thought about the game. We knew we wanted this district title so, we had to go get it."
Sikeston (10-0) will now face off against Potosi, who defeated North County 56-42, on Wednesday at 7 p.m. Farmington is the odd team out with a 7-3 final record losing to both Sikeston and Cape Central. Cape, who beat Perryville 53-13, will play DeSoto in the next round.
Sikeston will have home-field advantage for at least their first two playoff games.
"It's awesome," Gibbs said about going undefeated for the second straight season. "How many people get a chance to go 10-0 once and our kids have done it twice. We'll celebrate a little bit on the way home but then it's back to work tomorrow."
F -- Zach Hibbits 8 run (Connor Davault kick), 2:15
S -- Trey Lewis 15 run (kick blocked), 0:01
F -- Roper Garrett 1 run (kick failed), 10:38
F -- Kyle Warren 5 pass from Zach Hibbits (pass failed), 0:14
S -- Darryl Howard 19 run (run failed), 9:07
S -- Darryl Howard 13 run (Gross pass from Lewis), 4:03
S -- Trey Lewis 45 run (run failed), 1:48
S -- Janeil Hatchett 10 pass from Lewis (Howard run), 8:03
S -- Ray Clark 20 run (Hunter Williams kick), 3:04
F -- Connor Davault 53 pass from Zach Hibbits (Jonathon Bird pass from Hibbits), 1:15
Sikeston -- Darryl Howard 21-121, Trey Lewis 17-187, Ray Clark 5-65, Kyland Gross 1-(-4), James Watson 1-4, Team 4-(-9). Farmington -- Roper Garrett 16-94, Zach Hibbits 10-(-11), Brett Bader 14-36.
Sikeston -- Trey Lewis 6-12-1 75. Farmington -- Zach Hibbits 30-52-0 331.
Sikeston -- Janeil Hatchett 4-59, Robert Garces 1-4, Kyland Gross 1-12. Farmington -- Jonathon Bird 8-77, Alec Sebastian 10-74, Kyle Hartrap 4-20, Brett Bader 2-28, Connor Davault 5-116, Roper Garrett 1-16.