The Rebels return to the site of their overtime regional playoff win in 2011 this Friday night with their lineup nearly intact from last season. And while the surroundings at Charles Bland Stadium remain the same, the Rebels will see plenty of new faces when they line up against the Bearcats.
Central's veteran team has looked impressive this season while building a 5-2 record, while the youthful Bearcats have struggled thus far in a 1-6 campaign.
"They are same team you saw last year," Dexter coach Aaron Pixley said after Wednesday's practice. "Huge, big physical back. Good play action passing game. Obviously one the best running games in Southeast Missouri. And a very, very aggressive defense. If you take a look at some of the scores, they haven't given up very many points this year.
"They know how to win," Pixley added. "They are going to expect to win. Hopefully our kids are going to come out and play as hard as they can and expect to win themselves.
Last season Dexter defeated the Rebels on their home field during the regular season, 37-27, but lost in the first round of the MSHSAA Class 3 playoffs at home. Then junior Derek Mitchell scored from 5-yards out to answer a Dexter touchdown in overtime. Central coach Kory Schweiss then reached into his bag of tricks for a quarterback bootleg play by Hunter Courtois on the point after that was good and left the Bearcats on the short end of a 29-28 loss.
"They are really going to get physical up front," Pixley said of the Rebels. "They have good offensive linemen. Not only are they big, they come off really well and get a hold of you and push you around.
"And then they have big backs," he continued. "They will get in three back sets, and their tailback is the biggest back they have. It is the same one that ran against us last year."
Pixley is referring to now senior Mitchell, who as a junior was listed at 6'0, 215. Also in the Rebels stable of running backs is Cody Harrison and Daniel Marler.
Dexter had won three straight against the Rebels before the playoff loss. In that meeting the Rebels rolled up 339 yards of offense, 310 of those coming on the ground.
"So they are really solid," Pixley noted. "They are a very good football team. They do what they do well. They not only stay in three back sets, they'll get in one back sets sometimes. A very good football team with a lot of experience and strength. They are going to be hard to beat."
Courtis started the season as the Rebels QB, but in the team's last game, a 35-0 win over Perryville, Brayden Manion threw a touchdown pass. Don't look for the Rebels to throw the ball much against the Bearcats.
"I think everyone that comes in here is looking for a W," Pixley said. "It doesn't get any easier for us. All we can do is practice well and come out and play as hard as we can here on senior night.
"But you never know," he added. "We've had some good games with Park Hills in the past. Close games. Hopefully we can get out here and have a chance to win it in the fourth quarter."