Train encounters wall at Houck

Friday, September 7, 2001

Cape Central can be a brick wall.

New Madrid County Central can be a speeding locomotive.

The immovable object meets the irresistible force tonight when two of the area's best teams hook up at 7:30 p.m. at Houck Stadium.

New Madrid, the eighth-ranked team in Class 3A, has to be considered the favorite going in, considering it has beaten Cape Central the last two years (20-7 last year) and because it returns most of its skill-position players from a year ago.

But Central played New Madrid as tough as anyone last year and this year's Tiger team appears to be more talented than last year's team.

"I think it'll be a knock-down, dragout," first-year New Madrid coach Steve Rogers said. "It's going to be a hostile environment and I think our guys are ready to go."

New Madrid could be the fastest team in the area this year with returning all-state running back Dereke Tipler, wide receiver Desmond Sims (verbally committed to the University of Arkansas) and quarterback Brian Murph, who burned Central a couple times last year as a wide receiver.

"You have to respect their athletic ability at the skill positions," Central coach Lawrence Brookins said. "By the time midseason rolls around, this might be the best team they've had."

Even with all the speed, New Madrid couldn't run the ball very well in the Eagles' 28-0 win over Blytheville. Tipler had only 40 yards rushing.

Rogers said his team had troubles against a big Blytheville defensive line. This week, the Eagles will go up against arguably the best defensive tackle in the area in Chris Smith, who is 6-foot-3 and weighs 315 pounds.

"Their size definitely could cause us some problems," Rogers said. "Our offense and defense is predicated on speed and quickness and hopefully we'll be able to do some things."

The Tigers, though, don't have as much size as what they started the year with. Defensive tackle and center Justin Wells (6-2, 250) injured his knee and won't be back until at least the Poplar Bluff game on Sept. 31. Starting defensive end and offensive guard Adrian Wren (5-10, 220) is probable out after spraining an ankle last week.

Tough defenses

Central has proven over the last two years that it can be tough to run against. Last week, the Tigers held St. Charles West to less than 100 yards rushing in a 24-7 victory. The Tigers held New Madrid's potent offense to only 251 total yards in last year's game, including only 29 yards rushing in the second half.

Brookins is more worried about New Madrid's passing game, which appears stronger than it was a year ago.

Murph passed for 213 yards last week, most of that coming on big plays.

"I'm not worried about the underneath stuff," Brookins said. "We'll trade five yards for a headache anytime. But the demoralizing thing is when a guy gets behind you and turns a no-gain into a 70-yard touchdown."

Like New Madrid, Central struggled running the ball last week and had much more success when it took to the air. Brookins said he should've made the adjustment earlier and may go to the spread-out formations sooner tonight.

New Madrid poses an unyielding defense as well. The Eagles gave up an average of 8.4 points per game last year and posted three shutouts. Central allowed 7.8 points per game and had five shutouts.

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