That message, delivered by a career rushing night by junior running back Chris Word, along with Jackson's continuing problem with turnovers and a haunting inability to make a stop in critical third-down situations, conspired to hand the Indians their first loss under first-year coach Brent Eckley.
Jackson's high-octane offense that had been churning out yards and points all season was held to season-low totals in both areas in a 26-17 loss in a battle of unbeaten teams Friday night.
Jackson (5-1) came into the game averaging 39 points and more than 460 yards of total offense and looking to match its win total from the past three seasons combined.
The Indians fell 22 points and close to 200 yards short of those averages against Sikeston (6-0), which entered the game ranked fourth in Class 4.
Word, who began the night with 258 yards rushing and averaging only 3.8 yards per carry, broke loose for 193 yards on 25 carries. That production complemented the 127 yards rushing by senior quarterback Kyland Gross, who came into the contest with more than double Word's season yards and 9.7 yards per carry.
"Chris Word is quick and hard to take down, and [Gross] is fast and definitely slippery," Jackson junior linebacker Garrett Miller said.
Word rushed for 164 of his yards in the second half when Sikeston seized control, scoring touchdowns on three consecutive possessions to overcome a 9-7 halftime deficit.
"Kyland is very dangerous, and he made a couple plays early that kind of got us going, and kind of got us out of some bad situations," Sikeston coach Kent Gibbs said. "The thing that happened is they started keying on him, and we'd give the ball back in to Chris."
Sikeston accumulated 332 yards rushing -- 378 yards overall -- and clinched at least a share of the SEMO Conference Northern Division title.
"I was talking to myself today," Word said. "I was just like, ‘Man, it's time for me to regroup myself and just go.' Because my team needs me, and I need them. And we just all came together and it happened."
Just as damaging as Sikeston's running game was Jackson's turnovers.
The Indians committed three turnovers on their first seven possessions of the game, a week after committing five in a three-point comeback win over rival Central.
"We've talked about it for the last month with our guys that it's going to cost us against good teams. It's going to cost us a win, and it did," Eckley said. "It cost us possessions. It cost us field position, and it gave them so many more snaps in the third quarter. Just like when we're on offense, if we get a bunch of snaps, the other team's defense is in trouble."
Jackson had a promising 13-play drive snuffed by a fumble at the Sikeston 7 in the second quarter, but the Indians still managed to score later on a 3-yard run by quarterback Ty Selsor and a 30-yard Adam Brown field goal to take a 9-7 lead into halftime.
"We had a couple opportunities for touchdowns early on and we didn't' get it done, and I thought that affected dramatically the way the game played out," Eckley said. "And it wasn't anything the defense did. It was us not executing."
The real problems arose in the second half, which opened with Sikeston recovering an onside kick.
The Bulldogs fumbled on their first play from scrimmage to give Jackson possession at its 48, but Selsor threw the first of two third-quarter interceptions on the Indians' second play.
Audrea Golden's interception return gave Sikeston possession at the Jackson 30, and a pattern quickly was established when Gross broke containment for a 27-yard run on a third-and-9 play at the Jackson 29. Word scored from two yards out on the following play to put Sikeston ahead 13-9 with 10 minutes, 5 seconds left in the third quarter.
Jackson's next possession started at the Sikeston 49 but ended on downs at the 33.
Sikeston then put together a 13-play drive that featured four conversions on third down. Gross ran for the first downs on plays of 10, 15, 14 and 5 yards. The latter run was the shortest distance the Bulldogs needed to convert, coming on a third-and-4 at the Jackson 5. Gross' touchdown extended Sikeston's lead to 19-9 with 3:15 left in the third quarter.
"They figured out how to run the dive in the middle and get seven, eight yards," Jackson defensive back Lowgn Wren said. "We'd have them on a third-and-8 and third-and-9, and that's not something that should happen. Once you stop them you ought to be able to get a three and out. And it would be stop 'em, stop 'em, big play. Stop 'em, stop 'em, big play. And you can't have that."
Gross darted and dashed for 68 of his rushing yards in the third quarter on six carries.
"We were accounting for him. We just didn't make plays," Eckley said. "We were in position. We just didn't make the tackle on him."
Jackson's ensuing possession resulted in an interception, and Sikeston capitalized again. Word carried eight times and had a gain on a shuffle pass on a scoring drive that covered 76 yards in 12 plays. Word finished the drive with a 1-yard plunge for a commanding 26-9 lead with 7:45 left in the game.
"They've got a great offensive football team and they put a lot of points on the board," Gibbs said. "One of the things you do is you try to play a little bit of keep-away with them. And in that fourth quarter we didn't try to do anything fancy. We just let Chris take the job over, and he did a good job.
"It's one of those things we haven't been real good up front, and this week the kids just played really well up front. They did what they needed to do, and we were able to control the game."
The Indians scored on their final possession of the game when sophomore Dante Vandeven threw his first varsity touchdown pass to Skyler Steele with one second remaining.
Jackson accumulated 283 yards total offense, but 92 yards came in the final minute on the scoring drive.
Eckley credited Sikeston with a good defensive scheme that shifted between four- and five-man fronts.
"It made it difficult for us to get in a rhythm, so we were trying to take what they were giving us and they changed the looks," Eckley said. "It was kind of cat and mouse."
Jackson had 123 yards rushing, with junior running back Colten Proffer leading the way with 68 yards on 14 carries.
The Indians had just four possessions in the first half, but they were in Sikeston territory on all four.
"We'd get down to the red zone, and then we couldn't punch it in," said Proffer, referring to two first-half possessions that ended in a fumble and a field goal.
"We had about three opportunities to put it in, and we didn't capitalize on it," Wren said. "We talked about this the entire week that we couldn't make the same mistakes we made last week and beat this team because they're better, they're faster, they're athletic and play with a lot of passion and emotion."
Jackson has an open date next week and will play next at Class 6 power Columbia Hickman on Oct. 12.
"The biggest point right now is to keep going," Wren said. "We have to build on what happened tonight and come back in two weeks when we play Columbia Hickman and really make something happen with our offense. Defensively, also."
S -- Kyland Gross 18 run (Nathan Hampton kick), 2:59
J -- Ty Selsor 3 run (kick failed), 8:26
J -- Adam Brown 30 FG, 0:00
S -- Chris Word 2 run (kick failed), 10:05
S -- Gross 5 run (kick failed), 3:15
S -- Word 1 run (Hampton kick), 7:45
J -- Skyler Steele 18 pass from Dante Vandeven (Steele pass from Vandeven), :01
RUSHING -- Jackson, Colten Proffer 14-68, Selsor 13-30, Lowgn Wren 3-2, Brannon Wright 1-8, Vandeven 3-15; Sikeston, Gross 16-127, Word 25-193, Nick Nichols 1-(-2), Reese Porter 6-15, Markieth Bratch 1-7, Team 1-(-8)
PASSING -- Jackson, Selsor 9-22-2-127, Vandeven 3-3-0-32; Sikeston, Gross 6-9-1-46
RECEIVING -- Jackson, Steele 4-50, Wren 3-33, Proffer 2-7, Hunter Schuette 1-8, Wright 2-61; Sikeston, Clay Porter 1-(-3), Spenser Clark 2-31, JeTerrance Harris 1-3, Bratcher 1-10, Word 1-5