It could be why Sikeston's coaching staff felt confident about the team's chances heading into Friday's Class 4, District 1 semifinal game against run-oriented Hillsboro.
But second-seeded Hillsboro bucked the trend and ran the ball with authority to the tune of 537 yards on its way to a 72-46 victory over the third-seeded Bulldogs at Hillboro High School.
With the win, Hillsboro (9-2) advances to the district championship game where they will host fifth-seeded Cape Central, which defeated top-seeded Farmington 35-14, next Friday.
Sikeston's season ends at 7-4.
After the game, Sikeston coach Kent Gibbs talked about Hillsboro's rushing attack led by the sensational game by junior running back Michael Keller, who finished with an unbelievable 443 yards rushing on 36 carries with seven touchdowns.
"The kid (Keller) is a tremendous running back," Gibbs said. "They do a nice job getting off the ball. There were times that he was seven or eight yards before we'd put a lick on him. He did a nice job of breaking tackles, and then when he'd get in the open field there wasn't anybody we had that was going to catch him. They were the better football team."
Keller came into the game with 1,589 yards rushing and 26 touchdowns despite missing last week's district opener against DeSoto.
"Michael's been helping us all year," Hillsboro coach Lee Freeman said. "He's a good kid and a hard worker and tonight a few things came together for us. I thought our offensive line played well tonight as they have the whole season. We were just doing what we've done all season. If we can stay where we need to be on first down then that works in our favor."
Sikeston struck first with quarterback Dre Johnson throwing a perfect pass to Phayzun Fobbs for a 55-yard touchdown on the second play of the game to lead 7-0.
Hillsboro responded with an eight-play, 74-yard drive capped by a 43-yard touchdown run by Keller. Keller then ran in the two-point conversion to lead 8-7.
After a Sikeston punt, the Bulldog defense forced Hillsboro to punt, but the snap sailed over the punter's head and he was brought down for a loss of 22 yards to give Sikeston excellent field position at the 14.
Three plays later Johnson scored from the 1 to reclaim the lead for the Bulldogs at 14-8.
That would be the last lead of the game for the Bulldogs.
Hillsboro took the game over in the second quarter with Keller scoring on runs of 24, 61 and 38 yards to give the Hawks a 32-14 lead.
Johnson stopped the bleeding momentarily with a 42-yard touchdown run on an option keeper to trim the gap to 32-20, but Hillsboro answered with a 10-play, 80-yard drive, scoring on Isaiah Martin's one-handed 29-yard reception while falling out of bounds with 41 seconds left in the half. Keller ran in his fifth two-point conversion run to take a 40-20 lead into halftime.
"We just couldn't get that key stop," Gibbs said. "We just never could get the momentum going. We couldn't slow them down and get them off the field. My hat's off to them. They really executed well."
In the second half Keller added three more touchdown runs of 5, 59 and 45 yards, adding two-point conversion runs with each one.
Even with the Hawks putting points up in bunches, Sikeston never would go completely away, trimming the lead to 48-28 on a 19-yard touchdown reception by Fobbs in the third quarter and then later in the fourth quarter slicing the lead to 64-40 after Justus Faulkner scored on back-to-back touchdown runs of 60 and 53 yards.
On that final touchdown run, the coaching staff announced to Faulkner that it was going to be his last run of the game and to "make it count." Faulkner did just that, bursting through the middle for a 53-yard touchdown with 3:30 left.
Johnson added a 58-yard touchdown run with 16 seconds left to reach the final margin.
"Hat's off to Sikeston and coach Gibbs and that staff -- I've got a lot of respect for those guys," Freeman said. "I know they work really hard and the kids work really hard. It's just unfortunate somebody had to lose this game tonight. But I respect the heck out of those guys. They do a really good job down there so I don't take anything away from them. A couple turnovers here or there and that game can go a completely different way. I'm proud of both teams' efforts. I like playing good, wholesome football games and I think that was one tonight."
Sikeston had some strong performances by seniors playing in their final game.
Faulkner, who was held in check in the first half with just 21 yards on five carries, ended his night with 152 yards rushing on 13 carries and two touchdowns.
He finishes his outstanding senior year with 1,313 yards rushing and 16 touchdowns.
Faulkner's statistics are even more impressive considering he missed three games with mononucleosis.
"It's a shame that he had to miss those games, but he had a tremendous year," Gibbs said. "There's not many kids that are able to do some of the things that he can do. I think the kind of person he is carries over to the football field. He had a great senior year."
Faulkner finished his Sikeston career with 1,860 yards, averaging 10.2 yards per carry.
Johnson completed the night with 115 yards passing with two touchdowns and 108 yards rushing with three touchdowns.
Johnson finished his season with 868 yards passing and 715 yards rushing, giving him the fourth highest rushing total by a Sikeston quarterback ever, with only 2013 grad Kyland Gross (1,521), 2011 grad Trey Lewis (1,411) and 2010 grad Juqualin Wiggins (1,051) rushing for more.
"From about the third week on he just got better and better and he got tougher," Gibbs said of Johnson. "He got tougher mentally. A lot of people don't realize is for about a month there he was hobbled up and took quite a beating with Justus being out. But he really progressed well this year. I'm proud of Dre."
Fobbs finished the game with four receptions for 87 yards and two touchdowns. He finished his season with 874 all-purpose yards and eight touchdowns.
"Phayzun is a team leader," Gibbs said. "He's a hard worker. He does anything you ask him to do. He's the kind of kid that you want to have in your program."
Gibbs also pointed out that senior offensive and defensive lineman Josh Stinnett "just had a tremendous year for us."
Sikeston finished the year with a winning record for the eighth straight season, marking the longest such streak since a 20-year stretch of winning seasons from 1943-1962 under three different head coaches (Lou Bona, Kenneth Knox, Bill Sapp).
Sikeston will graduate 13 seniors.
"I thought we had a great year," Gibbs said. "We put ourselves in a position to win some ballgames. Outside of one game I thought we played pretty good and played hard and had a chance. The kids got better from Day 1 to the last day. We're going to miss the seniors. They've been a great group. I could name every one of them. They all contributed in one form or another. It's been a pleasure to have them. We had a lot of young kids get a lot of experience this season and hopefully that'll carry over into next season."
S -- Phayzun Fobbs 55 pass from Dre Johnson (Bryce Bays kick), 11:21
H -- Michael Keller 43 run (Keller run), 7:50
S -- Johnson 1 run (Bays kick), 3:58
H -- Keller 24 run (Keller run), 11:51
H -- Keller 61 run (Keller run), 7:03
H -- Keller 38 run (Keller run), 5:41
S -- Johnson 42 run (kick blocked), 5:25
H -- Isaiah Martin 29 pass from Tyler Isaacson (Keller run), 0:41
H -- Keller 5 run (Luke Skaggs run), 5:37
S -- Fobbs 19 pass from Johnson (Fobbs pass from Johnson), 2:36
H -- Keller 59 run (Isaacson run), 11:20
H -- Keller 45 run (Isaacson run), 10:10
S -- Justus Faulkner 60 run (run failed), 8:38
S -- Faulkner 53 run (run failed), 3:30
H -- Skaggs 5 run (Isaacson run), 1:23
S -- Johnson 58 run (run failed), 0:16
Rushing -- Sikeston, Justus Faulkner 13-152, Dre Johnson 7-108, Keshawn Ellis 4-17, Phayzun Fobbs 2-(-1). Hillsboro, Michael Keller 36-443, Joe Gregory 15-46, Luke Skaggs 9-46, Tyler Isaacson 5-24, Team 3-(-22).
Passing -- Sikeston, Dre Johnson 6-12-0 115. Hillsboro, Tyler Isaacson 3-5-0 62.
Receiving -- Sikeston, Phayzun Fobbs 4-87, Ricky Scott 2-28. Hillsboro, Isaiah Martin 3-62.