(Photo by Chris Pobst, Staff)
SIKESTON -- Along with a new district playoff format, two new teams will grace the back end of the Sikeston Bulldog football schedule this upcoming season.
Class 4 Jennings and Class 3 Cardinal Ritter will give the Bulldogs a fresh look at different competition and possibly get them ready for the new playoff format.
"Once the districts changed and people had different ideas about scheduling, we had a couple of open spots and we were lucky enough to get both Jennings and Cardinal Ritter," Sikeston head football coach Kent Gibbs said. "We feel like we've added two good teams to our schedule."
The Bulldogs have never played either school in football in it's 100-plus years of existence.
Jennings, who ended last season with a 7-3 record, has made the playoffs the previous two seasons. It's located in St. Louis and is part of the Suburban East Conference.
"They're going to have talent and speed," Gibbs said about Jennings.
Cardinal Ritter finished the year 5-5 and is in the AAA Conference.
"Their a Class 3 program that has been successful in the past," Gibbs said. "What we're hoping for is that (these two teams) will help us prepare for the playoffs. We hope that two quality teams will toughen us up and get us ready to take that next step."
With the new format, which will begin this year, each team will have a nine-game regular season with each school scheduling all nine of them. The 10th week will begin the bracket-style district tournament pitting eight teams against one another.
The third game of the series would be the district championship game -- closely resembling all other playoff formats in Missouri.
"I like the fact that there's eight teams involved. I like the fact that it's a tournament concept," Gibbs said. "We could conceivably play some of the teams on our schedule, but the chances of that are not as great as it's been in the past."
There will be eight district champions -- cutting out a chance for eight other teams to be crowned a district champion unlike in years past.
"The only negative I have is the fact they've eliminated eight district championships," said Gibbs. "That bothers me because I feel like there are teams in certain parts of the state that playing for a district championship is a big deal."
Teams will be seeded by a point system over the nine-game season. Teams inside of Sikeston's district will include Cape Central, Farmington, Hillsboro, DeSoto, Perryville, North County and Festus.
"I think for our fans it's a chance to see different schools and different football," Gibbs said. "At the same time, it's not like they're really far away and would be hard to get to. Hopefully, having to go a little bit farther, won't be an issue. But, anytime you're in the playoffs you're going to have to travel.
"I think the other part of our district is filled with a bunch of good programs," Gibbs added. "It's going to be interesting to see how it all stacks up."
Sikeston's regular season begins Aug. 24 against Charleston.