Jackson coach Brent Eckley pleased (sort of) after rout of Sikeston

Sikeston's Joseph Heckemeyer (10) handles the ball near Jackson's Garner Horman (16) during the Jackson Indians' matchup against the Sikeston Bulldogs on Friday in Jackson.
Jacob Wiegand ~ Southeast Missourian

Very few expected Sikeston to give Jackson a competitive football game Friday at “The Pit,” and the expected result did end up happening, as the Class 5 No. 4-ranked Indians annihilated the Bulldogs 53-0.

It was the seventh consecutive year in which Jackson (4-0, 2-0 SEMO North) beat Sikeston (1-3, 0-2) by a wide margin.

“They are a good ball club,” first-year Bulldog coach Terry Flannigan said of Jackson. “They are better than most ball clubs that they are going to play.”

Flannigan knows that is the case and veteran Indian coach Brent Eckley also understands his team’s reality. So with that in mind, Eckley challenged his team to – in some ways – play itself, which meant focusing and executing to the Indians’ potential.

Eckley was half-way pleased afterward.

“Defensively,” Eckley said, “I’m really excited our kids played together. They were physical and fast up front in the box. Our secondary didn’t get a whole lot of work because of how well we played in the box.”

The Jackson defensive front dominated all night and limited the Bulldogs to minus-31 total yards of offense.

Sikeston struggled so much offensively that it completed just one pass and never gained a first down.

“They are a whole lot more physical than us,” Flannigan said. “That is one thing that is big in separating us from them was the physicality part.”

Flannigan said his players would come off the field and be blunt in their self-assessments that the Indian athletes were “just stronger than us.”

No Jackson player was busier than defensive lineman Cole Amelunke.

The senior was constantly in the Bulldog backfield wreaking havoc.

“He is a quick, athletic and physical kid,” Eckley said. “He’s done a good job in the weight room for us.”

Flannigan can attest to that and did so after watching the Indian defense score eight points on a touchdown and a safety.

“Once you can achieve that physicality part,” Flannigan said, “you’re going to win games that you’re not supposed to. And you are going to play in games that you should be playing in.

“I know what Jackson does in the off-season.”

As good as the Indian defense was – and it was great – the offense wasn’t bad, but for the second straight week, Eckley wasn’t pleased.

“I told our guys that I didn’t really want to steal their joy,” Eckley said, “at the same time, I’m looking at it offensively and I know we weren’t sharp.”

That showed on the first series when Jackson failed to convert a fourth down.

Eckley said that failure was indicative of a lack of focus, which he and his staff had harped on all week.

“I know they weren’t focused,” Eckley said, “and I’m frustrated with that.”

Indian quarterback Cael Welker was 8 of 11 passing for 240 yards and four scores, highlighted by a 97-yard connection with senior receiver Luke Starzinger.

Starzinger finished with four receptions for 152 yards and two touchdowns.

“They get you misaligned,” Flannigan said of the Jackson offense. “That is what happened to us a couple of times. We weren’t where we were supposed to be and they are going to hit you.”

Regardless of the success, the fact is Jackson hasn’t played a close game yet and Eckley wants his players to execute properly regardless of the score.

“Defense isn’t as much about being focused and executing,” Eckley said. “A lot of times you line up and you can react and play physically. You don’t have to think as much.

“Offensively, you have to think, you have to adjust, and you have to be able to fit right, and everybody has to do their job right. I just didn’t think we were as focused as we need to be. But the kids are trying and I think they played hard.”

Sikeston will host Cape Girardeau Central (2-2) Friday at 7 p.m., while Jackson will host Battle (3-1) at the same time.

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