(Photo by Chris Pobst, Staff)
CHARLESTON -- After a rare and disappointing home opening loss last week to Gateway Tech, the Sikeston Bulldogs were hoping to bounce back in a big way against their longtime rival Charleston on Friday at Marshall Stadium.
The Bulldogs accomplished their mission with a 43-14 victory over the Bluejays in the 126th meeting between the two schools.
After a scoreless first quarter, Sikeston went on a tear, scoring 29 points in the second quarter to blow the game open.
Junior corner Kyland Gross provided the biggest blow with a 66-yard interception return for a touchdown as the clock expired at halftime.
The Bulldogs (1-1) had already established control of the game, but Gross' interception sealed the deal, giving Sikeston a 29-6 lead.
"Kyland's interception right before the half was huge," Sikeston coach Kent Gibbs said. "We always tell kids, 'don't give up on a play.' And certainly he didn't on that one. So that was big for us."
The game didn't start so well for Sikeston though. After quickly forcing a Charleston punt on their opening drive, the Bulldogs responded with a drive that ended at the Bluejay 1-yard line.
Charleston (1-1) was able to get out of the shadow of their own end zone, but their drive stalled again, and punted back to the Bulldogs.
Sikeston finally broke the shutout on its ensuing drive when Gross scored from 26 yards out on a 4th-and-16 play to give the Bulldogs a 7-0 lead.
Charleston answered with a 12-play, 73-yard drive capped by quarterback Jamaul Gray's 25-yard TD run. The kick failed, leaving the Bulldogs with a 7-6 lead.
On the Bulldogs' next drive, James Watson capped a 4-play, 49-yard drive with a 32-yard TD run to extend the lead to 13-6.
With the Bluejays still hanging around, Sikeston put the game away with two scores in less than a minute.
Keldon Warfield caught a pass from David Foster and streaked 64 yards for the touchdown. Watson ran in the two-point conversion to make it 21-6 with 56 seconds left in the half.
Then, with Charleston trying to answer right before halftime, Gray made an ill-advised throw that Gross intercepted and returned at the buzzer. Watson then added another two-point conversion run to lead 29-6.
Very quickly the game had turned into a rout.
"We had three plays that got us out of the ballgame," Charleston coach Brett Blackman said. "We're three plays away from making this a ballgame. If that would have been different, then this may have turned out a bit different. We consistently drove the ball offensively all night. One thing we did was stop ourselves with mistakes and stupid penalties. That's things we've got to work out in practice."
The Bulldogs' opportunistic defense stepped up again in the third quarter when defensive end Nick Nichols scooped up a fumble and sprinted 55 yards for a touchdown to lead 36-6 with 10:39 left in the third quarter.
Gross scored his third touchdown of the night with 4:44 left in the third on a 20-yard run to lead 43-6 to enforce the mercy clock the rest of the way until Charleston's Gray scored with 1:02 left in the game.
"We came into the game wanting to slow it down and I think that's exactly what we did, but we slowed ourselves down," Gibbs said. "So we kind of picked the tempo up a little bit and started doing some things a little bit better. We came out in the second half and finished what we started."
Gross had an all-around stellar night, rushing for 100 yards on five carries with a pair of scores.
Watson finished with 91 yards on 11 carries.
Sikeston finished with 210 yards rushing on 25 attempts. Foster threw for 71 yards, completing 3-of-5 passes.
"I think we ran the ball hard," Gibbs said. "Early they were doing some things defensively that we were having trouble with. But James and Kyland both ran hard. I thought both David and Kyland executed our offense well at quarterback. David made a nice read on some coverage and got a quick pass out to Keldon up the sideline. That was a big play for us. We just clicked tonight."
Charleston was able to manage some yards, but the Bluejays couldn't keep anything sustained.
"Double-wing is tough to stop," Gibbs said. "They're foot to foot and you're not going to get a lot of penetration. There's a lot of motion and misdirection, so it slows your reads down a little bit. And they've got a really nice fullback. When you've got a nice fullback, a big kid like that that runs hard and never quits, and you have some kids that can run on the perimeter, it makes it tough. It's a good scheme and tough to stop."
Maurice Moore, the fullback, rushed for 76 yards on 17 carries as he consistently bulled ahead for short yardage runs.
Gray finished with 91 yards on 11 carries, although 68 of his rushing yards came on the final drive of the game. He also had trouble connecting with his receivers, completing just 2-of-7 passes for 12 yards.
Robert Bogan added 61 yards on 10 carries.
"Charleston's a much improved football team -- they're going to win some games," Gibbs said. "They've got some talent on the field and their offense really serves them well hanging onto the ball."
While the final score may not show much difference from recent past games between the two rivals, Blackman feels his team is knocking on the door and is showing continued improvement.
"You're seeing a totally different ball team than we had last year," Blackman said. "They never give up and they fight. I think our time is coming and we'll be there someday and we'll be the person going for two-point conversions when we're 20 points ahead."
Sikeston will travel to Dexter next Friday while Charleston will play at Portageville.
S -- Kyland Gross 26 run (Hunter Williams kick), 11:47
C -- Jamaul Gray 25 run (kick failed), 5:56
S -- James Watson 32 run (kick failed), 4:05
S -- Keldon Warfield 64 pass from David Foster (Watson run), 0:56
S -- Gross 66 interception return (Watson run), 0:00
S -- Nick Nichols 55 fumble return (Williams kick), 10:39
S -- Gross 20 run (Williams kick), 4:44
C -- Gray 35 run (Gray run), 1:02
Sikeston -- Kyland Gross 5-100, James Watson 11-91, David Foster 3-11, Markeith Bratcher 1-8, Kenton Robinson 1-5, Ray Council 1-5, Chris Word 1-(-8), Team 2-(-2). Charleston -- Jamaul Gray 11-91, Maurice Moore 17-76, Robert Bogan 10-61, Rontavious Clark 8-11.
Sikeston -- David Foster 3-5-0 71, Kyland Gross 0-1-0 0. Charleston -- Jamaul Gray 2-7-1 12.
Sikeston -- Keldon Warfield 2-66, Spenser Clark 1-5. Charleston -- Sumner Foster 1-13, Maurice Moore 1-(-1).