Tigers fend off Dexter

Friday, October 3, 2003

In a football game that had more turnovers than touchdowns, the Central Tigers came away with a 27-14 win over Dexter Thursday at Houck Stadium.

Playing in its homecoming game, Central got off to an inauspicious start. On the first play of the game, the defense had a pass interference call. After stopping Dexter, Central's first offensive play was a botched shotgun snap which ended up in a Bearcat touchdown and a 7-0 Dexter lead.

Central responded on its next possession, though. The Tigers used a strong Marcus Rice punt return and a Mikell Abraham 24-yard touchdown run to tie the score 7-7.

After the six-play drive, it was Central's defense that proved to be the difference. Central got interceptions from Clay Schermann, Tyrone Reece and Rice in the first half and scored touchdowns off of two of the turnovers to take a 21-14 lead into halftime.

"Turnovers killed us," Dexter coach Aaron Pixley said. "Two turnovers were on good drives for us."

After its three first-half interceptions, the Bearcats dominated the third quarter. Quarterback Kyle Espey got into a rhythm with leading receiver Derek Roberts, completing seven of his eight second-half completions to Roberts.

"They outplayed us, they were more physical," Central coach Lawrence Brookins said.

Stuck on the field for most of the third quarter, Central's defense tightened up when it needed to. The biggest play came with Dexter driving around the 25-yard line late in the quarter. After putting on a big hit which resulted in an incomplete pass, Reece intercepted his second pass of the game.

Reece said he was happy to make the play, but was not happy with the way the team played.

"It's not an individual game," he said. "We have to learn to play together as a team."

Reece was not done, though. Midway through the fourth, he came up with his third interception deep in Dexter territory.

"You just try to be in the right place at the right time," Reece said. "He was kind of throwing wild all night and I just watched his eyes."

Up 21-14 late in the game, the Tigers failed on a fourth-down attempt deep in Dexter territory, giving the Bearcats a last chance to tie the game. But after three short plays, Dexter also failed on fourth down, turning the ball back over to the Tigers on its own 14-yard line.

Central iced the game with a 14-yard strike from Mitch Craft to Phil Kiefner. The touchdown was Kiefner's first of the season.

Craft finished the game 10-for-19 for 123 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. Craft led the Tigers in rushing with 54 yards.

Dexter managed only six yards rushing and stayed in the air much of the second half. Espey finished the game 14-for-35 for 157 yards, one touchdown and five interceptions.

Reece said the Tigers will be ready by next Thursday when they meet rival Jackson.

"I'm sure we can shake it off," he said. "If you can't get up for Jackson you can't get up for anyone."

Noteworthy

  • Central running back Will Johnson made his first appearance since suffering a compound fracture to a finger in Central's opener. Johnson rushed for a touchdown and eight yards on six carries.

  • Central's top receiver Mark Dunaway dislocated a finger in the first half and sat out the rest of the game.

    jjoffray@semissourian.com

    335-6611, extension 171

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