The I-55 trophy will be stationed in Cape Girardeau for the next year after Friday’s convincing 41-23 victory. The Central Tigers hosted the Sikeston Bulldogs on Senior Night and used a second half surge to pull away, secure the trophy, some bragging rights and improve their record to 4-3. They have now won back to back games, which should certainly improve their chances for a favorable District Playoff seed.
Things didn’t look great from the start though, as the Tigers fumbled their opening possession, leading to a Bulldog field goal. It didn’t take long to respond in a wild first quarter though, as stud running back Zai’Aire Thomas ran one in from 13 yards out to give Central a 7-3 lead. Sikeston fought back though with a blistering 51-yard run and a two-point conversion to retake the lead 11-7.
Thomas wasn’t done having the game of his life though, as he ripped off runs of 11 and eight yards on consecutive possessions for a pair of scores and a 21-11 Tiger lead. The Bulldogs found the endzone again on a 15-yard passing play after that and trimmed the lead to 21-17 to close out the first-quarter scoring.
In fact, the second quarter was a defensive showdown for both squads, so the score remained the same to close out the half. But the break was just what the Tigers needed.
Head Coach John Gibbs commented on the first 24 minutes, saying, “Sikeston was very aggressive and played with a lot of passion. While we played hard we did not match their aggression and made a few mistakes early that set the tone for a back and forth first half.”
Thomas again decided to put the team on his back after the halftime speech and scored the only touchdown of the third quarter. He hooked up with QB Morgan Diamond on a 49-yard passing play that delighted the crowd and made it a two-score game.
Then in the final 12 minutes, Keyshawn Boyd toted the rock 16 yards into the endzone to put Central up 35-17. It seemed like this one was all sewn up, but Sikeston came firing back with a four-yard rushing TD of their own to close the gap to 35-23 with plenty of time left on the clock.
Thomas put on his Superman cape though and put the kibosh on any hopes of a Bulldog comeback with his fifth touchdown of the game. This one came from 22 yards out on a nifty run that broke the spirit of the Sikeston faithful. That made the score 41-23, and that final would stand, boosting cape to 4-3 on the season.
It was pretty clear who the standouts in this one were with Thomas amassing five total touchdowns on 123 yards rushing and 49 yards receiving, while Diamond was 9-of-14 for 136 yards and a score and added 54 yards on the ground. Boyd had a nice game as well with 86 yards on 12 carries and a score to boot.
Coach Gibbs spoke to the play of the offensive line and the overall defensive effort with, “I thought they played well as a group. We were not dominant but we functioned well as a unit and showed improvement. I was disappointed in our overall defensive play, in all positions. At the same time hats off to Sikeston, as they came ready to play and executed their game plan well.”
Cape is now back over .500 and will look to keep the line moving next week as they host a 1-6 DeSoto squad who got absolutely dismantled this week against Hillsboro 79-0.