(Photo by David Jenkins, Staff)
SIKESTON -- For two years the Sikeston Bulldogs have dominated the competition in Class 4, District 1, but their reign came to an end on Thursday night.
Farmington captured both the SEMO Conference North title as well as the district championship in one big swoop, defeating the Bulldogs 55-21 at SPS Stadium.
Despite falling short of winning the district, Sikeston (8-2) is still alive in the playoffs and will travel on Wednesday to play Hillsboro, a 63-20 winner over DeSoto in District 2. Farmington will host DeSoto.
"They played better than us," Sikeston coach Kent Gibbs said of Farmington. "They deserve to be a district champion. They deserve to be a conference champion. We've got to regroup and get ready to play again."
On Thursday, Sikeston could find no way to slow down the Knights' high-powered offense, neither on the ground nor in the air, allowing 466 total yards.
"I don't know if you can stop them both, but you've got to be able to slow them down enough where you give your offense a chance," Gibbs said.
But it didn't happen for Sikeston.
Farmington (9-1) struck first with quarterback Chase Busenbark hitting Evan Dunivan for a 67-yard touchdown pass with 7:21 left in the first quarter.
On the first play of the Sikeston's ensuing drive, they fumbled, which Farmington recovered at the Bulldog 17.
Two plays later, Busenbark found Alec Sebastian for a 10-yard TD pass, giving the Knights a 14-0 lead.
Sikeston's offense never could get going.
It wasn't until Keldon Warfield intercepted a pass and returned it 27 yards to the Bulldog 47 with 8:08 left in the second quarter.
The Bulldogs converted the turnover into points, marching 53 yards on eight plays capped by a 23-yard TD run by Kyland Gross out of the "wild dog" formation, trimming the Farmington lead to 14-7.
Farmington answered quickly, needing only four plays to cover 70 yards, scoring on a 13-yard run by Connor Davault.
On its next series, Sikeston cut the lead to 21-14 when James Watson took the handoff up the middle and sprinted past the Knight secondary for a 59-yard touchdown with 3:04 left in the first half.
However, just when it seemed Sikeston was back in the game, Farmington ended those hopes with a flurry in the final three minutes.
A kick return deep into Bulldog territory at the 37 eventually led to a 3-yard TD run by Devault to lead 28-14 with 37 seconds left in the half.
The backbreaker for Sikeston occurred on its very next play on the ensuing drive -- another fumble -- which Farmington recovered at the Bulldog 26. That led to another Devault 3-yard plunge to lead 34-14 at the half.
The sequence was a deathblow for the Bulldogs.
"They just beat us," Gibbs said. "We didn't start out like we needed to start out. They smelled blood and they kept the pressure on. I thought we had a chance going in 21-14 at halftime, but we made some mistakes and it didn't work out. If you can go in 21-14 at halftime, you're still in the game."
Farmington put the game away for good in the third quarter with a 1-yard TD run by Devault to lead 41-14.
Devault had a huge night for Farmington, rushing for 170 yards on 26 carries with four touchdowns.
"We've been pretty balanced all year long," Farmington coach Todd Vaughn. "We felt like coming into the game that our offensive line was playing well but Sikeston's a good football team, a well-coached football team. We felt like if we could have some success running the football then we would have a really good chance of winning."
Farmington also dominated the line of scrimmage, opening up gaping holes for Devault and providing plenty of protection for Busenbark.
"I think it all starts with our offensive linemen," Vaughn said. "We did a lot of good things up front. Any time you protect and any time you can run the football you've got a chance to win."
Busenbark threw for 195 yards and three touchdowns, completing 5-of-10 passes.
"We've struggled in districts the last two years, we were 1-5 in districts the last two years," Vaughn said. "That's not what we want to be known for in our football program. We challenged them in the offseason and they responded."
Farmington out-gained the Bulldogs 466-364.
Sikeston was led by Watson's 163 yards rushing on 29 carries with two scores.
Now Sikeston will be tasked with trying to defeat a 9-1 Hillsboro team on the road.
"Maybe we were too tight to start the game -- maybe we were too pumped up to play the game," Gibbs said. "I did feel like we competed. I didn't see bad effort. But the bottom line is we played a team that was better than us tonight and we got our tails whipped. We've got to be able to look at ourselves in the mirror and learn from that. We'll look at the film and see what we can improve on. The good thing out of it is we have still have one more game to kind of redeem ourselves a little bit."
F -- Evan Dunivan 67 pass from Chase Busenbark (Connor Devault kick), 7:21
F -- Alec Sebastian 10 pass from Busenbark (Devault kick), 6:54
S -- Kyland Gross 23 run (Hunter Williams kick), 5:35
F -- Devault 13 run (Devault kick), 4:04
S -- James Watson 59 run (Williams kick), 3:04
F -- Devault 3 run (Devault kick), 0:37
F -- Devault 3 run (kick blocked), 0:12
F -- Devault 1 run (Devault kick), 5:24
F -- Kyle Hartrup 43 pass from Busenbark (Devault kick), 9:59
S -- Watson 5 run (Williams kick), 5:20
F -- Anthony Greco 11 run (Devault kick), 2:42
Farmington -- Connor Devault 26-170, Anthony Greco 9-57, Chase Busenbark 7-46, Team 2-(-2). Sikeston -- James Watson 29-163, Kyland Gross 9-50, David Foster 8-12, Markeith Bratcher 1-5, Keldon Warfield 1-3, Team 3-(-2).
Farmington -- Chase Busenbark 5-10-1 195. Sikeston -- David Foster 14-26-0 133.
Farmington -- Evan Dunivan 1-67, Kyle Hartrup 2-66, Alec Sebastian 2-62. Sikeston -- Kyland Gross 6-55, Markeith Bratcher 4-41, James Watson 2-36, Keldon Warfield 2-11.