(David Jenkins/Standard Democrat)
DEXTER -- The Dexter Bearcats went into Friday night's jamboree with a lot of unanswered questions after losing 17 starters from last season's 8-2 team.
However, when the dust settled at Charles Bland Stadium, many of those questions are beginning to be answered.
The Bearcats offense seemed to be clicking most of the evening, scoring three times against both Portageville and Ste. Genevieve Valle.
"I saw a lot of good things," said Dexter coach Aaron Pixley. "I felt my backs ran the ball really hard. I think the weight room has helped a lot of them, they ran hard and they lowered their shoulders well. And we did a few good things in the passing game."
Dexter showed a balanced offense, scoring three touchdowns through the air and three on the ground. Sophomore quarterback Ben Mills, in a quarterback battle with junior Jerod Stephens threw all three touchdowns, including a 40-yard pass to Eric Windham against Portageville.
Pixley said Mills will be the starter for the Bearcats Friday night when they host highly-touted Ste. Genevieve.
"He did a good job tonight," Pixley said. "I got Jerod some reps in there late against Valle and he did a real good job as well. Right now both of them can do the job but Ben Mills is our starter. Jerod Stephens is a good athlete and he is going to help us in other places, that's for sure."
(David Jenkins/Standard Democrat)
"Defensively, right now, I thought we swarmed decently," Pixley said. "You can't really tell until you watch film, so we have to be cautiously optimistic here. I know going into next week, against one of the state's best teams, we're going to have to improve."
Overall Pixley was pleased with the Bearcats performance.
"I really came into this hoping we could have some good positive plays on both sides and I believe we did," Pixley said. "Whenever you're replacing 17 starters it is a big deal. It is time for our young guys to step and for our older guys who haven't played, they have to step up as well. Hopefully, our seniors who have been in the wars for us the last few years will lead them down that road."
The Portageville Bulldogs came into Friday's jamboree trying to rebuild, coming off two straight winless seasons. With a lot of young faces, Portageville struggled at times both offensively and defensively but first-year head coach Lee Wallace said that was to be expected.
"We had a lot of new faces and we're excited about those kids coming in and helping the program try to turn things around, but they are going to have to get some experience," Wallace said. "They are going to have to make some mistakes in order to learn and fortunately we had tonight to let them see what the game's about and of course those mistakes happen. That is going to be part of our learning process."
Wallace said the Bulldogs aren't as concerned about the immediate future as they are the big picture. "Our biggest challenge is to keep them focused on how difficult it is going to be to turn it around and not look for a quick fix," Wallace said. "If they'll climb on board for the long haul we're going to take it one step at a time, one game at a time and we're working toward the middle of the season to districts. Not right now."
Portageville will open the season Friday night when it hosts the Piggot, Ark. Mowhawks at 7 p.m.