Tigers awaken, win opener

Saturday, September 7, 2002

When a ship is listing, nothing can be more important than the wise direction of a captain.

A struggling Cape Girardeau Central football team heeded the words of their newly appointed captains Friday night at Houck Stadium and survived some turbulent waters.

Central scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns to break a late deadlock and for the third straight year defeated St. Charles West in its season opener, winning 33-25.

Senior Monroe Hicks led the Tigers with two touchdowns, 111 yards receiving and 91 yards rushing, but his words also played a role.

He was one of several Central captains who spoke up at halftime with the Tigers leading 17-13. While Central led, the defense, which struggled a week earlier in its jamboree, allowed 184 yards rushing to the Warrior wishbone.

"I just told them it's time to wake up," Hicks said. "It seemed like we were asleep on defense. This is our home. I just told them to step up, sideline and all. When the sideline is cheering is when we do our best on the field."

The Tiger defense did stir in the second half, recording a safety, two turnovers and its only two sacks of the game. Central yielded just 80 yards rushing in the second half.

"The second half was a lot better," senior linebacker Jeremiah Dukes said. "The first half was horrible. It was like in the jamboree. But we sucked it up in the second half and got it together."

After the Tiger offense failed to score on a fourth-and-goal play from the Warrior 1, Dukes restored some momentum for the Tigers by wrapping up St. Charles running back Tyrell Jones in the end zone on the Warriors' next play. The safety gave Central a 19-13 lead at the 2:28 mark of the third quarter.

Central failed to capitalize on an ensuing possession that started in Warrior territory, and found themselves in a deadlock when St. Charles quarterback Zachary Garrison scored on an 18-yard run early in the fourth quarter.

Central answered with an eight-play, 61 yard drive, capped by a 3-yard touchdown run by Hicks. Colin Schermann's kick gave the Tigers a 26-19 lead with 8:21 left.

The Tiger defense forced turnovers on St. Charles West's next two possessions. Tiger linebacker Mikell Abraham recovered a ill-advised option toss to Brandon Williams at the Warrior 19. Two plays later Central quarterback Mitch Craft found receiver Chris Conrad over the middle for a 19-yard touchdown to expand the lead to 33-19 with 6:06 left.

Defensive linemen Michael Zimmer and Adrian Wren turned in sacks on St. Charles West's next possession, which ended with strong safety Seth Hudson pulling a pass away from Jones and returning it deep into Warrior territory to ice the game.

The interception came on Hudson's only defensive duty the entire game as he spelled Hicks for a play.

"I saw my opportunity and just took it," Hudson said. "I don't know, it was the best feeling I ever had. I would have loved to have taken it to the house."

Hudson, one of the Tiger captains, also took the opportunity to speak at halftime.

"We had a rough first half," Hudson said. "Our defense was poor. In the second half we just turned it on. Our sideline was quiet in the first half. We always play better when our sideline gets up. They helped our intensity level that was the main thing. Everybody stepped up."

On the night, St. Charles accumulated 396 yards offense, including 264 rushing. Garrison led the Warriors with 76 yards rushing.

Central finished with 387 yards total offense. Craft passed for 149 yards, completing eight of 16 attempts. He also rushed for 79 yards as the Tigers finished with 238 yards on the ground.

jbreer@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 124

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