PARK HILLS, Mo. -- The Sikeston Bulldogs knew what had to be done to secure home-field advantage for the district playoffs.
All they had to do was beat an undefeated, state-ranked Park Hills Central team on the road.
Certainly no easy task, but the Bulldogs took care of business and they did it emphatically, stunning the Rebels on their Senior Night, 54-30.
With the win, Sikeston has preliminarily vaulted up from the fourth seed to third, guaranteeing home-field advantage next Friday against sixth-seeded Festus.
However, final district standings will not become official until Sunday afternoon.
"When we were in the locker room all we were talking about was having a home game," Sikeston senior Justus Faulkner said. "We wanted the last home game for sure."
Faulkner, in yet another monster outing, showed how badly he wanted it by posting his third straight game with a career-high in rushing yardage, gashing the Rebel defense for 320 yards on 29 carries with a career-high four touchdowns.
His big night finished just shy of Sikeston's single-game rushing record of 328 yards held by James Watson in 2011, but Faulkner's total pushed him past Justin Robinson's 318-yard game in 1999 for the second highest total in school history.
Faulkner said he knew he had a special night going, but wasn't for certain of his total yards until he was informed of his total following his touchdown run with 2:19 left in the game to seal the victory.
"I had no clue until the last touchdown I had," Faulkner said. "I had a lot of help from the outside blocking. The line blocked exceptionally well, but the outside I'd say they did way better than they've done all season, and they've done really well all season."
Faulkner, who missed three games with mononucleosis, has rushed for 750 yards in the last three games that he has played. He now has 995 yards on the season.
"That running back they had come back, he's a heck of a player," Park Hills Central coach Kory Schweiss said of Faulkner. "To be quite honest we didn't do a very good job tackling him. He runs fast. He runs hard. Defensively we haven't seen that this year. I think Country Day's got some kids like that, but we played them earlier in the year when they weren't clicking yet. Sikeston was tough to defend for us."
But it wasn't only Faulkner providing the highlights for the Bulldogs.
Quarterback Dre Johnson continued to impress as he ran for 67 yards and a career-high three touchdowns along with passing for 100 yards and a TD.
"The offensive line, the receivers, the 2's and 4's and receivers, they stalk blocked excellent and Justus ran hard," Johnson said. "I feel like we've got the momentum that we want heading into districts."
Park Hills Central (8-1) forced the Bulldogs to punt on its opening possession and promptly marched 90 yards on just four plays to reach the end zone.
Faulkner blocked the extra point, to leave the Rebels with a 6-0 lead.
On Sikeston's ensuing drive, Sikeston was faced with 4th and 8 at the Rebel 13. Johnson dropped back to pass and was flushed to his left, somehow evaded two defenders closing in for a potential sack, and sprinted the opposite way to his right where he slipped two more tacklers to score the touchdown.
Bryce Bays' extra point gave the Bulldogs a 7-6 lead.
"I was just thinking, 'get out the box. Get to the outside,'" Johnson said of the play. "I was intending to throw the ball to Justus, but two of their guys went to Justus, so I just thought I could make the first down where the sticks were so I just ran and made a couple of moves to get to the end zone."
Sikeston coach Kent Gibbs said it was important to answer Park Hills' opening score.
"That was the touchdown that answered their opening touchdown," Gibbs said. "If Dre doesn't make that 4th down play, then we don't answer so that was a big play to turn the momentum back to us."
The Rebels reclaimed the lead with 7:32 left in the second quarter when quarterback Jace Bland hit Matt Richardson for a 48-yard touchdown pass to lead 12-7.
Sikeston (6-3) immediately responded with a four-play, 56-yard drive capped by Johnson's 6-yard touchdown run to lead 13-12.
The Bulldogs would never trail again.
Following a Rebel punt, Sikeston's offense began to establish control of the game as they marched 85 yards on seven plays with Faulkner scoring on a 1-yard plunge to lead 20-12 with 2:05 left in the half.
"I felt in the second quarter we were kind of starting to take control a little bit," Gibbs said. "We told them at halftime, 'if we just keep doing what we're doing and have a big second half and not have that bad quarter that we've had in the past, then we'll win the game.' I thought our offensive line dominated about midway through the second quarter and into the third and fourth quarter and I thought that was the difference in the game."
The Rebels had one final drive before the half, but with no timeouts left, the clock ran out after quarterback Bland was tackled at the 1-yard line, sending Sikeston into the locker room still clinging to the momentum of the game.
Sikeston tacked on a pair touchdowns early in the third quarter when Faulkner broke loose for a 30-yard touchdown, and, following an interception by Don Larry, Johnson connected with sophomore wide receiver Ricky Scott on the next play for a 32-yard touchdown pass to lead 34-12.
On the play, Scott was well-covered but used his 6-foot-2 length to out-jump the Park Hills Central defender for the catch, and then dragging the defender into the end zone.
"When I pass it to Ricky I'm thinking Calvin Johnson," Johnson said. "Ricky, that kid can go up and make the play. He fights for the ball. He's a hard-working kid. He is not that type of buff guy, but he's strong and can go make the play."
Scott finished with three catches for 94 yards.
Park Hills fought back on its ensuing drive with a 48-yard touchdown pass to Nick Haney on 2nd and 32. Then, following a Bulldog fumble at the 50-yard line, the Rebels took advantage and scored on a 1-yard plunge by Triston Campbell to trim the Sikeston lead to 34-24 with 10:41 left in the game.
With the game's momentum clearly pointing towards Park Hills Central, Faulkner struck again on the first play of the next series, bouncing to his right and running untouched for a 56-yard touchdown to extend the lead to 41-24.
"Park Hills kept coming back and coming back," Gibbs said. "You keep worrying that they're going to punch one in and get an onside kick, but Justus took one to the house and nobody touched him. It's fun to watch him sometimes. I'm sure he'll be the first to tell you that the offensive line did a great job for him."
Johnson scored his third touchdown with 5:53 left on a 4-yard option keeper to lead 47-24.
Park Hills answered with a 3-yard TD run by Tyreece Welch, but Faulkner put the game on ice with a 43-yard TD run and into the Bulldog record books.
"Coach Gibbs and the rest of the coaching staff said this is the first week of the playoffs," Sikeston senior Josh Stinnett said. "This is when we need to get polished. This is when everything we had to do needed to come together. Less penalties and less turnovers and come together as a team. Our offensive line came big. Justus Faulkner had a great game. Dre Johnson did some unbelievable stuff with his feet. We just did well as a whole."
The Bulldogs finished with a season-high 495 yards of total offense. They were flagged six times for 40 yards, a respectable total, but one of the flags erased a 56-yard touchdown run by Phayzun Fobbs. The Bulldogs had one turnover in the game on a fumbled handoff.
"I know we had the one fumble, but we didn't have a boatload of fumbles and we didn't have a boatload of penalties," Gibbs said. "When our offensive line is blocking like that and we don't make those kind of mistakes it certainly changes how you call plays and do some of the things that you do."
Park Hills Central finished with 484 yards of total offense. Normally a dominant ground team, Sikeston's defense held firm enough to force the Rebels to throw the ball.
Bland completed 15 of 29 passes for 277 yards with a pair of touchdowns and an interception, but two crucial dropped passes contributed to the loss.
One of the drops was a wide open pass in the end zone to start the third quarter, leading to a turnover on downs. The other drop went through the hands of the Rebel receiver and into Larry's hands for the interception. Sikeston scored on the next play.
"We had some things go our way, I mean let's be honest about it," Gibbs said. "They dropped a touchdown pass and another pass that we got a pick on, so they helped us a little bit, but at the same time we took advantage of those things."
Branch led the Rebels with 115 yards rushing on 11 carries, however, after rushing for 96 yards on his first four carries, he only managed 19 yards on his final seven carries.
The Rebels finished with 203 yards rushing on 49 attempts.
"I know they scored 30 points but I thought our defense played pretty good for most of the evening," Gibbs said. "We got some stops when we needed it and some turnovers when we needed it."
Park Hills will retain its top seed in Class 3, District 1 despite the loss, but Schweiss hopes that his team learned some things in its final regular season game against Sikeston.
"I like playing Sikeston in Week 9," Schweiss said. "They give us speed. They give us power. They give us looks like the inside zone-outside zone stuff we don't see a lot of. Or at least teams that run it as well as Sikeston does."
With the win, Sikeston assures itself of its eighth-straight winning season. Now the Bulldogs will try to keep the season going heading into district play.
"We feel like we are playing well and we have some momentum going into district play," Johnson said. "I think we'll come out ready to play."
Sikeston 7 13 14 20 -- 54
Park Hills Central 6 6 6 12 -- 30
P -- Ethan Branch 46 run (kick blocked), 8:34
S -- Dre Johnson 13 run (Bryce Bays), 4:06
P -- Matt Richardson 48 pass from Jace Bland (run failed), 7:32
S -- Johnson 6 run (run failed), 6:19
S -- Justus Faulkner 1 run (Bays kick), 2:05
S -- Faulkner 30 run (Bays kick), 8:43
S -- Ricky Scott 32 pass from Johnson (Bays kick), 6:00
P -- Nick Haney 48 pass from Bland (pass failed), 1:54
P -- Triston Campbell 1 run (pass failed), 10:41
S -- Faulkner 56 run (Bays kick), 10:23
S -- Johnson 4 run (kick failed), 5:53
P -- Tyreece Welch 3 run (run failed), 2:58
S -- Faulkner 43 run (Bays kick), 2:19
First Downs 16 21
Total yards 495 484
Rushes-yards 44-395 49-203
Passing yards 100 281
Comp.-Att.-Int. 5-11-0 16-30-1
Fumbles-lost 1-1 3-0
Penalties-yards 6-40 8-78
Turnovers 1 1
Rushing -- Sikeston, Justus Faulkner 29-320, Dre Johnson 11-67, Phayzun Fobbs 2-7, Elijah Faulkner 1-4, Team 1-(-3). Park Hills Central, Ethan Branch 11-115, Triston Campbell 15-41, Tyreece Welch 8-39, Jace Bland 10-23, Davian Powell 2-3, Garett Bowen 2-2, Team 1-(-18).
Passing -- Sikeston, Dre Johnson 5-11-0 100. Park Hills Central, Jace Bland 15-29-1 277, Dylan Corcoran 1-1-0 4.
Receiving -- Sikeston, Ricky Scott 3-94, Phayzun Fobbs 2-6. Park Hills Central, Nick Haney 5-128, Matt Richardson 5-111, Triston Campbell 2-20, Ethan Branch 2-15, Garrett Winkler 1-4, Dawson Day 1-3.