(Photo by David Jenkins, Staff)
SIKESTON -- Severe weather on Friday gave way to sunny skies and near perfect weather Saturday afternoon as the Sikeston Bulldogs picked up right where they left off and hammered the Dexter Bearcats 47-7 at SPS Stadium.
After jumping out to a 21-7 lead with 5:03 left in the first quarter, the game was postponed when a thunderstorm blew in Friday night.
The game was resumed on Saturday and the Bulldogs didn't appear to be fazed by the delay.
With such an early lead and essentially dominating the game up to the point of the delay, Gibbs was concerned about a let-down.
"I think you always worry about whether or not you're going to maintain that intensity," Sikeston coach Kent Gibbs said. "I'm not sure we were quite as sharp today, but we did take care of the things we needed to take care of. It was a different kind of ready because of the score. I know in the locker room I was afraid we were a little flat, but some of the kids pumped them up a little bit and got them ready to go."
On Friday, Sikeston had staked its lead on a 20-yard touchdown run by Chris Word and then recovered an onside kick, leading to an 8-yard TD run by Nick Nichols.
Dexter took advantage of good field position on its first possession after a failed onside kick attempt by the Bulldogs when quarterback D.J. Dowdy found Chase Young for a 41-yard touchdown.
Sikeston responded with an 8-play, 50-yard drive capped by a 1-yard TD run by Word to make it 21-7, which is where the game was postponed.
After kicking off to the Bearcats to resume play on Saturday, the Bulldogs forced the Bearcats into a 3rd-and-long. Under pressure, Dowdy heaved a pass downfield that Sikeston's Spenser Clark intercepted and returned 42 yards to the Dexter 12.
However, the Bulldogs could not take advantage as they fumbled at the 6-yard line, giving the ball back to the Bearcats.
The Sikeston defense held again, forcing a three-and-out and a short punt to the Bearcat 37.
On the Bulldogs' first play, quarterback Kyland Gross hit receiver Markeith Bratcher on a short pass that turned into a 37-yard TD reception as Bratcher darted back across the field for the score.
After forcing another three-and-out and a short punt to the Dexter 39, the Bulldogs needed just four plays to score as Word ran it in from 17 yards out, extending the lead to 34-7, which is where things stood heading into halftime.
The Bulldogs racked up 302 yards of offense in the first half with Gross rushing for 103 yards on nine carries.
The senior speedster finished with 138 yards rushing on 12 carries and threw for 75 yards, completing 5-of-13 passes with a touchdown.
Three different times on busted plays, Gross turned a potential loss into a positive gain with his improvisation and his speed.
"He's a threat any time he touches the ball," Gibbs said. "He did go the wrong way a couple times and that's probably on me, we didn't practice the play enough this week. The other thing that I really liked was throwing with the wind a little bit. We threw the ball deep a couple times and just barely missed out. He made a bad decision on the goal line, he should have ran it in on the two-point conversion.
"But all those things you take into consideration with how long he's been playing, I think he's made good progress this week."
Substitutes played much of the second half for the Bulldogs. Sophomore Marquez Newman rounded out the scoring with a 4-yard TD run in the third quarter and an 11-yard run in the fourth.
The standout of the game, for the third week in a row, was Sikeston's defense, limiting the Bearcats to 184 yards of offense and just 50 rushing yards on 34 attempts.
"(Sikeston's) two defensive tackles are very good and we knew that on film," Dexter coach Aaron Pixley said. "They got great penetration and really drove our offensive linemen into the backfield and kind of blew up the plays before it got going. And then their defensive ends are just fast. If we down-block them or try to pull and kick them out, then the two defensive tackles would drive our guards back into it and it just made it difficult to get those plays going."
Dexter's lone bit of offense came from the wide receiver Young, who seemingly caught everything thrown his way to the tune of 134 yards on seven receptions. He accounted for all but 47 of the Bearcats' total offense.
"The thing we're doing is we're getting some people in the same positions," Gibbs said of his defense. "We're getting some continuity. We're playing hard with good effort. Our tackling wasn't as good as it could be, but overall they had a hard time running between the tackles on us and that's kind of their game. You stop their best thing and don't give up big plays, you've got a good chance of doing what you need to do."
After Gross' third straight 100-yard rushing outing, the Bulldogs got a boost with the return of Word, who missing last week's game against NMCC. The junior running back had 17 carries for 80 yards and three touchdowns in the first half. He carried just three times in the second half to finish with 90 yards.
Newman added 45 yards rushing with a pair of scores and Nichols had 42 yards with a score.
"We gave up a lot of big plays on defense," Pixley said. "Whenever you have a team that doesn't run all that well as a team and you face a team that is a misdirection, outside-inside type team who can run well, you're at a disadvantage. If everybody doesn't do their job perfectly on every play, then at some point that one spot that gets out of position is going to get exposed. That's what happened to us."
Dexter falls to 0-3 on the season and will travel to Caruthersville on Friday.
"You've got to move on -- it's the Sikeston game, it's Week 3," said Pixley, whose team has lost to the Bulldogs five straight times. "We've been here before -- we've been 0-3 before and we've come out and had successful seasons. We've just got to keep on trying to get better in practice and move on to Caruthersville."
The No. 7 state-ranked Bulldogs improve to 3-0 and will prepare for one of the more interesting regular season games in the school's history as they will take on Farmington at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis in the Great American Football Classic on Saturday at 1:30 p.m.
Advance tickets can be purchased at various businesses in the Sikeston area.
"We're one week better -- we start Monday and get ready for the dome game," Gibbs said. "My deal is and I'm sure people get tired of hearing it, but we need to take it one practice at a time and one day at a time. We need to become consistent in our practice and our effort in practice.
"Overall I was really pleased with how we did today. We missed a couple scoring opportunities, we were close on a couple passes, got in the red zone once and didn't score. But our defense played well for most of the day. We gave up a couple big plays, but we didn't break and we did a good job."
S -- Chris Word 20 run (Dustin Oakes kick), 8:53
S -- Nick Nichols 8 run (Oakes kick), 7:29
D -- Chase Young 41 pass from D.J. Dowdy (Brad Wick kick), 7:19
S -- Word 1 run (Oakes kick), 5:03
S -- Markeith Bratcher 37 pass from Kyland Gross (Oakes kick), 11:47
S -- Word 17 run (kick blocked), 10:03
S -- Marquez Newman 4 run (pass failed), 0:42
S -- Newman 11 run (Oakes kick), 5:11
Rushing -- Dexter, Brad Wick 10-35, Jonathan Foels 2-17, Ryan Joyner 9-8, Ethan Stevens 2-1, Chase Young 3-3, D.J. Dowdy 7-(-4), Team 1-(-10). Sikeston, Kyland Gross 12-138, Chris Word 20-90, Marquez Newman 8-45, Nick Nichols 4-42, Chase Davis 1-29, Ray Council 1-23, Jeterrence Harris 2-20, Pat Gross 2-13, Reese Porter 3-10, Dustin Oakes 2-5, Team 1-(-8).
Passing -- Dexter, D.J. Dowdy 6-12-1 92, Ethan Stevens 1-2-0 42. Sikeston, Kyland Gross 5-13-0 75.
Receiving -- Dexter, Chase Young 7-134. Sikeston, Markeith Bratcher 1-37, Jeterrence Harris 2-27, Spenser Clark 1-7, Jacob Stinnett 1-4.