By Jeremy Joffray ~ Southeast Missourian
SIKESTON, Mo. -- A couple of key interceptions and first downs combined with timely running to lead Jackson to a 12-7 win Friday in its opener against SEMO Conference rival Sikeston.
It was a welcome start for the Indians, who are coming off a 2-8 season marked by a season-opening loss to Sikeston.
"We're halfway to last year, but we're not halfway to where we want to be," said Jackson quarterback Tyler Profilet, who was 6-of-11 for 64 yards.
The Indians played stout defense throughout the game. Sikeston was held to seven first downs and only 87 yards of total offense.
"Everyone knows our defense is always good," senior defensive end Tyler McNeely said. "That's one of the major parts of our team."
With both teams' offenses stuck in gear, the game came down to which team would come up with the big play.
With less than three minutes remaining in the game and Jackson clinging to a 12-7 lead, Sikeston had the ball on the Jackson 30-yard line and threatened to score.
But on Stephen Miller's first pass, Jackson defensive back Chase Walker made the interception at the 1 to secure Jackson's lead.
"I'm really happy for Chase," Profilet said. "He really wanted to make a big play tonight."
With six minutes left in the game the Indians lined up with a five-point lead and a chance to put the game away. But after a couple of short runs the Indians had to punt. A botched punt snap almost cost the Indians before Walker's interception.
The Indians were able to run the clock out at the end of the game with the help of junior back Austin Bock. Bock had several key runs on the final series.
"Austin's been hurt," Jackson coach Carl Gross said. "Austin's a pretty good load back there."
Sikeston's ground game -- virtually non-existant in the first half -- came to life in the second half. Apollo Patterson used a combination of speed and size to pick up more than 30 yards in the half.
The Bulldogs' late second-half offensive charge could not overcome Jackson's pressure defense. The Indians forced a fumble and picked Miller off two times.
"Our defense really stepped up tonight and picked up the offense and special teams," Gross said.
Miller's hard-nosed running in the second half helped keep the chains moving for the Bulldogs. Miller's two yard keeper on fourth and goal midway through the fourth quarter put Sikeston within 12-7.
Jackson's defense stumbled early in the second half before a key interception. With Sikeston playing with a short field after a Jackson punt, Aaron Fortner intercepted a Miller pass near midfield and took it more than 40 yards for the touchdown and a 12-0 lead.
Sikeston used a special teams play to grab the momentum in the second half. Travis Hudson took the opening kickoff to the Jackson 36.
With the Bulldogs feeling a momentum shift, Patterson went to work. Patterson put together a couple of strong runs to give Sikeston its initial first down of the game.
The momentum shift took a blow after Sikeston coughed up the ball at the Indian 17.
The story of the first half was the Jackson defense. The Indians held Sikeston to minus-11 yards of offense including, minus-10 on the ground. The Bulldogs had only 14 plays in the half and only three for positive yardage.
The Indians defense kept the Bulldogs without a first down in the half. It took a Profilet interception to get the Bulldogs near midfield, with Sikeston finally making it into Jackson territory with a little more than four minutes left until halftime.
Profilet said the Indian's small size was over-emphasized.
"You can't measure a guys heart," he said. "Our guys had more heart."
Meanwhile, Jackson picked up five first downs in the opening half. Profilet was the story, throwing for 64 yards and rushing for another 10 yards. The Indians spread the ball out in the first half, with four different players catching a pass. McNeely had a pair of receptions for 12 yards, and Meystedt had a big 22-yard reception on a third-and-long on the opening drive of the game.
Jackson's running game was ineffective for the majority of the first half. Meystedt rushed for only two yards on 12 carries.
Despite rushing for negative yardage over the first two drives, Meystedt's 2-yard run with a little more than two minutes left in the opening quarter gave Jackson a 6-0 lead after the extra point was blocked.
The Indians took to the air early and completed three passes for first downs on the opening drive. The drive stalled after Profilet threw an interception in the end zone.
Sikeston took a costly penalty on its first possession and had to punt.
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