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'Cats take on yet another state-ranked team

Thursday, September 13, 2012

JERRY JARRELL-jjarrell@dailystatesman.com Dexter assistant coach James Sneed (far right) looks on as head coach Aaron Pixley talks to quarterback DJ Dowdy on the sideline during last week's game at Sikeston.
Dexter will line up against a third state-ranked opponent in the first four weeks of the season when the Bearcats hit the road for a SEMO Central Conference showdown at Caruthersville Friday night.

The Tigers are currently ranked No. 6 in Class 2. Class 3 Dexter opened the season on the road against Ste. Genevieve, ranked No. 6 in Class 3, then tackled Class 5 Poplar Bluff at home and last week went on the road against Sikeston, state ranked No. 6 in Class 4.

Caruthersville, 2-1, has posted back-to-back wins over Malden (39-6) and Charleston (34-12) after opening with a 48-12 loss on the road to Liberty (Mountain View). In that game, the Tigers came up against a strong, disciplined team that contained their multitude of offensive weapons. Liberty is currently ranked No. 2 in Class 2 with a 3-0 record.

"They are a very good team with very good athletes," Dexter coach Aaron Pixley said Wednesday after practice of this week's opponent. "They are big up front. They have two huge kids at the guards on offense that move really well. They get a hold of you and they block very well. Of course they have a great running back (Darrell Monroe) and the quarterback (Tyler Grissom) is big strong-armed kid that runs well. And they have great receivers.

"And they just flip over on defense," Pixley added. "They really run to the ball well. They are very aggressive. They are a very good team."

Anchoring the Tigers' offensive line is Jay Stickland, who stands 6-4 and tips the scales at over 300 pounds. He was an All-State selection last season as a junior.

Caruthersville has a tradition of outstanding running backs and this season is no different with Monroe (6-2, 220-LB. junior) the marquee back for the Tigers. Monroe rushed for 363 yards on 19 touches against Malden and scored three TD's covering 75, 79 and 43 yards.

Last season Elbie Fonda was in the spot light while leading the Tigers to a 11-2 season and a quarterfinal playoff berth. Fonda rushed for over 2,400 yards and scored 33 touchdowns in 13 games. As a team the Tigers rolled up 5,169 yards on the ground and rushed for 69 TD's.

But Caruthersville is anything but a one-back offense.

"They have great athletes," Pixley said of Caruthersville, a team Dexter defeated last season in a wild 56-55 shoot-out at Charles Bland Stadium. "Monroe went out (with an injury) for a little while against Charleston. And trust me, they are still very athletic.

With Monroe on the sideline for much of the game against the Bluejays, Grissom, a 6-3, 220-LB. signal caller, carried more of the offensive load, while other players stepped up.

"They can play football," he continued. "They have a great tradition down there. Hopefully this week we've improved and got better at some things this week because we are going to need to have that to have a chance.

Pixley said he fully expects Monroe to play Friday night.

Dexter was unable to contain Caruthersville's high-octane offense last season, but the Bearcats were also an explosive team with numerous weapons. This season points have been hard to come by, scoring just 28 total points in the first three games.

"We always want to run the football," Pixley said. "Sikeston's defensive line dominated the football game (last week). Which made it very difficult for us to run. Which puts a lot of pressure on your passing game.

"If you can't do one, you can't do the other and visa-versa," he noted. "If you can't run the ball, you're not going to be able to throw it. If you can't throw the ball, you won't be able to run it.

"We have to get to where we can run the football and be consistent with it," he added. "We can't be a 20-to-20 team and that's what we've been so far this year.

"We didn't move the ball a whole lot against Sikeston but whenever we did we moved it, it was from the 20-to-20 but we were stalling out. We have to learn how to finish. Sometimes with young teams and inexperienced teams, that's one of the last things to come. Just finish things off. Finish the play. Finish the drive. That's one of many things we have to get better at. Being better finishers, being more consistent, being disciplined. Whenever we start doing that, that's when we are going to start having success."

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.

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