In a game that had its start time bumped up an hour and a half due to the threat of inclement weather from the remnants of Hurricane Isaac, the Sikeston defense was wreaking havoc of its own as it pitched a shutout in a 12-0 victory at New Madrid County Central on Friday.
Like they did against Charleston in Week 1, the Bulldogs dominated the action on the defensive side of the ball, limiting NMCC to just 77 yards of offense.
But also for the second straight week, Sikeston's offense struggled in finishing off drives and putting points on the board.
The Bulldogs' 12 points is the fewest the team has scored in a game since scoring nine against Jefferson City Helias in a Class 4 semifinal game in 2009, and its the fewest that the team has scored in a victory since a 7-6 win over NMCC in 1989.
However, despite the team's inability to find the end zone, the Bulldogs did eclipse 300 yards of offense for the second straight week and showed improvement in the passing game.
"Offensively we've just got to keep working on non-turnovers, non-penalties -- cleaning up those things," Sikeston coach Kent Gibbs said. "I think we found a couple things tonight that we can hang our hat on a little bit, but we've got a lot of improvement to do offensively, no doubt."
After a rash of fumbles that led to five turnovers in last week's victory over Charleston, the Bulldogs cut it down to two lost fumbles on Friday.
"I think some of the mistakes that we're making are little things and hopefully with practice we'll continue to get a little bit better," Gibbs said.
Friday's game was a battle of field position and defense.
Although the game was in doubt for most of the night, the Bulldogs dominated the field position and completely bottled up NMCC's offense.
"Field position's going to be a factor in any kind of game, particularly tonight with the wind and somewhat wet conditions," Gibbs said.
After a scoreless first quarter, a shanked punt by NMCC late in the half set Sikeston up with excellent field position at the Eagle 30-yard line.
The Bulldogs took advantage of the wind with some key receptions and finally broke the shutout on a 4-yard scamper by quarterback Kyland Gross with 17 seconds left in the half.
The kick was blocked, leaving the score 6-0 at the half.
Neither team could get much offense going in the third quarter despite the Bulldogs starting a drive at the Eagle 21, but a fumble on the first play ruined a golden scoring chance.
In the fourth quarter, a Bulldog drive ended on downs at the NMCC 1-yard line. That eventually led to an NMCC punt from the end zone that Gross returned for a 20-yard touchdown with 7:49 left in the game, but a roughing the punter penalty erased the score and gave the Eagles new life.
"It wasn't very smart roughing the punter -- we've got to be smarter than that and not do those kinds of things," Gibbs said.
Sikeston's defense stiffened, yet, again, forcing another NMCC punt that Spenser Clark returned to the Eagle 31-yard line.
This time the Bulldogs took advantage of the field position as Gross scored on a 16-yard run against a tiring NMCC defense on the third play of the drive with 5:11 left in the game.
The Eagles' last chance at breaking the shutout ended on downs at the Bulldog 48 with 2:30 left in the contest.
"Offensively we were pretty ineffective moving the football and that all starts with blocking," NMCC coach Arlen Pixley said. "We're just not sustaining our blocks. We'll block well on one play and then make a mental or physical error on the next. You can't be on second-and-long or third-and-long all night and expect to be effective on offense."
The Eagles managed just 57 yards rushing on 33 attempts. Quarterback Jashawn McDaniel rushed for 59 yards on 11 carries, but the Eagles struggled throwing the ball as he and backup quarterback Austin Lynn combined to throw for 20 yards on 3-of-11 passes.
Other than McDaniel's quarterback keepers, the Bulldogs limited the NMCC running backs to negative-two rushing yards on 22 attempts.
"Defensively we did a nice job -- we flew around," Gibbs said. "We didn't miss many tackles tonight against a good set of running backs and a good quarterback. I'm really pleased with our defense. The thing with (NMCC) is, with their speed and if they get somebody loose, all of a sudden it's 6-6 and they kick the extra point. They played well tonight and did some things to us. We'll just go back and get a little better."
Gross had another solid game behind center, rushing for 137 yards on 19 carries with two touchdowns. He also completed 8-of-14 passes for 87 yards.
"He was better this week," Gibbs said of Gross. "We've still got to get better on our passing game with some routes and things like that and I think we will. Again, he's relatively new at the position and we're inexperienced up front, but I think we're coming along and making a little bit of progress at a time."
With starting running back Chris Word and backup Marquez Newman out with injuries, the Bulldogs got a boost from freshman running back Earnest Fobbs, who rushed for 53 yards on 14 carries and caught two passes for 29 yards.
Clark was a weapon on special teams, returning four punts for 80 yards, including a 45-yarder. He also had three receptions for 34 yards to lead the team.
"I thought we did a great job on defense tonight," Pixley said. "We had to change some things up with them with what they do with their offensive scheme. They popped some plays in there on us and we left our defense out on the field all night way too much. But our tackling was much better tonight and we did a good job all the way around."
Despite many improvements, Gibbs knows that finding a way to cross the goal line is currently the team's biggest obstacle.
"It was just kind of a litany of things," he said. "Right now, without looking at the tape, I don't think it was anything that they were actually doing to us, it was more about us executing. The bottom line is when you get down on the goal line, you've got to make plays and you've got to put it in."
After three straight years of lopsided losses to the Bulldogs, Pixley said he hopes Friday's competitive game is a step in the right direction for his program.
"You can take a lot of positives out of this game," he said. "We've got a lot of good stuff on film we can show the kids. We're young. These kids that are juniors were starters last year as sophomores and we've got kids that are sophomores that played some as freshmen. It just takes a little time for them to get used to the system and start adhering to what the coaches are saying."
Sikeston will host Dexter next Friday while NMCC will host Kennett.
S -- Kyland Gross 4 run (kick blocked), 0:17
S -- Gross 16 run (run failed), 5:11
Sikeston -- Kyland Gross 19-137, Earnest Fobbs 14-53, Reese Porter 3-32, Dustin Oakes 2-1, Pat Gross 4-(-3), Team 3-(-5). NMCC -- Jashawn McDaniel 11-59, Mikeal Walker 6-7, Corey Guest 6-2, Damien Glispie 1-0, Larry McIntosh 1-(-1), Malik Stevenson 1-(-2), Stanley Smith 6-(-3), Team 1-(-5).
Sikeston -- Kyland Gross 8-14-0 87. NMCC -- Austin Lynn 2-6-0 13, Jashawn McDaniel 1-5-0 7.
Sikeston -- Spenser Clark 3-34, Earnest Fobbs 2-29, Pat Gross 1-15, Markeith Bratcher 1-7, Nick Nichols 1-2. NMCC -- Devon Harrell 2-16, Malik Stevenson 1-4.