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The Gridiron Geek’s Week 5 River Rankings | Sikeston

Come As You Are

The perfect running back would run straight down the middle of the field to the end zone, breaking up to 11 tackles along the way. That ability would also obviate the need for ever passing the ball – simply hand it to Mr. Perfect and you’re all set.

NFL play-callers love to call passes. A prodigious 4 quarters from a running back can be exciting, but most carries come with injury-risking hard tackles at the end. So it’s safer for a franchise if a well-protected QB distributes the ball to 7 or 8 skill players, limiting bumps and bruises.

Some colleges still thrive by running almost exclusively, such as the Army Academy (which beat Fordham 64-6 without completing a pass in Week 1). But NCAA football is a track meet regardless. Teams race the 25-second play clock and try to score as many points as possible, whether by handing off, pitching or passing.

High School is the purest form of gridiron competition, in which age-old principles are exemplified to the max. Your team made 30 1st downs and held the ball for 35 minutes? You probably won…by a lot. If you failed to run successfully, or worse – turned the egg over at crucial moments, your community likely suffered a somber Friday night.

The most surprising result in MSHSAA on Friday was probably Cape Central’s downer loss to Sikeston. The Bulldogs, after losing a star-studded offensive backfield to graduation, had struggled to beat 2 much smaller schools and then lost to Jackson in a physical beating. CHS was flying high at 3-0 after out-scoring 3 storied programs.

With superior talent and an equally-tough defense, the Tigers felt that they could control the contest. But that script was flipped on the opening kick-off as Sikeston attempted and recovered an onside kick. For the rest of the day, the Bulldogs ran the ball patiently, collected fumbles…and recovered more onside kicks in a stunning 28-19 victory.

Another strategic principle involves being true to your nature. Sikeston‘s best chance to win was to shorten the game, gobble extra possessions and play like the underdogs they were…which Kent Gibbs’ squad executed to a T.

Arlen Pixley’s Tigers, meanwhile, did not strategize – or play – like a favorite.

Sophomore QB Cameron Cox is increasingly being asked to read, hand off, keep, carry and pitch in a triple-option offense. The Geek is a fan of shotgun-spread versions of age-old option football, but in this contest, a simpler attack might have been the ticket to success instead.

The Bulldogs are missing their stud alumni for more than one reason – the unit is now slower in the defensive backfield. But Cape‘s triple-option strategy leveled the playing field in both directions. A less-athletic defense can shut it down with tenacity and smarts. By the time the Tigers tried to get their superior WR corps going, it was too late – Cox was intercepted on the final CHS offensive play.

Athletic teams taking on an underdog should never overlook a game plan of brute strength and speed. It saves schools like Notre Dame when playing schools like Army…and it can save your favorite High School too.

The Gridiron Geek’s Week 5 River Rankings (MSHSAA District 1, All Classes)

#1 – Vianney Golden Griffiths

Battle is one of those schools that just sounds like it has a mean football program. And it does. But the Golden G’s tore their movie-villain counterparts a new projector screen in a 52-32 triumph in Week 4.

#2 – Lindbergh Flyers

The Flyers’ front-7 had a heck of a time getting pressure on Lafayette QB Ryan Novak, who passed for 357 yards. But a ball-hawking secondary saved the day in a 42-35 statement win.

#3 – Kirkwood Pioneers

The rumblings of trouble against the Lafayette Lancers turned out to be a full-fledged lighting storm. Pattonville 41, Kirkwood 35. Gulp.

#4 – Lafayette Lancers

The Fighting Frenchman must be ranked below Kirkwood due to having lost to the Pioneers earlier this season. But wow, what a showing on Friday at Lindbergh. Big success on offense – just no win. The year is young.

#5 – Eureka Wildcats

The ‘Cats did nothing to diminish their status in the River Rankings, with a 42-0 beat-down of hosting Marquette that was in lock-down mode early. A big night for Hassan Haskins, and a marvelous 100-yard TD interception return for the junior Antonio Sanders.

#6 – Jackson Indians

The Indians’ 49-42 Week 4 win over Marion (AR) jumps off the schedule so far, but isn’t that Week 3 breeze over Sikeston looking good right now too?

#7 – Poplar Bluff Mules

If The Geek were being scientific, he would have included the Mules in earlier versions of the Rankings. But the Class 5 powerhouse had no signature moment to hang a judgement on – until now. Poplar Bluff 50, Farmington 21. Say hello to contention in 2017, Mules.

#8 – Hillsboro Hawks

Class 5 and Class 6 teams are beating each other, looking paltry vs. District 2 competition and otherwise failing to unseat the Hawks, who beat bitter cross-county rival Festus 30-14 on Friday night.

#9 – Park Hills Central Rebels

As Class 3 schools go, you can’t piece together a better resume than the Rebels so far. 4-0 record, nice wins over Sullivan and Country Day, and a 42-0 shut-out of an increasingly-athletic Confluence team in Week 4. QB Jake Bland tossed 3 touchdown passes in a superb outing.

#10 – Hayti Indians

New Indian head coach Dominique Robinson’s team is on fire after whipping East Prairie 53-21 on Friday night. Hayti’s 4-0 record is deceiving…in a good way. The Class 1 squad is playing at a Class 3 or Class 4 level, brushing off talented small-school opponents by halftime.

Out: Cape Central, Farmington, Valle Catholic

Trending up: Sikeston, Fox

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