Cooper knows both sides of Rock Bridge-Hickman rivalry

Thursday, September 25, 2008 | 10:21 p.m. CDT
The summer before his sophomore year in high school, Jaimonte Cooper's family moved from the Hickman school district to the Rock Bridge district.

COLUMBIA — One mile made all the difference for Jaimonte Cooper.

The summer before his sophomore year in high school, his family moved from the Hickman school district to the Rock Bridge district. His new home is only one mile from his old one.

“It was a family choice,” said Cooper, a senior. “I really wanted to go to Rock Bridge bad, and we decided, as a family, if that’s what I wanted to do, we were going to make the move.”

Having been with both teams, he has a unique view of the Hickman-Rock Bridge football rivalry. Tonight’s Providence Bowl matchup between the two teams begins at 7 p.m. at Memorial Stadium.

Both teams are 1-3 on the season.

The Kewpies and Bruins played their first game against each other in 1981, when Rock Bridge defeated Hickman, 7-0. Overall, Hickman is 7-4 against Rock Bridge, which lost last year, 23-0.

Cooper is conflicted about whether or not the game means more to him than any other.

“It’s a little bit of both,” he said. “I played with those guys when I was a kid. But I don’t really think about it during the game.”

He said his team feels the same way.

“We just want to be focused and win this week,” Cooper said. “We want to score. We want to stop them on defense.”

Cooper began his high school career at Hickman, where his older brother Daunte Smith played. Cooper practiced with Hickman during the summer of 2006, but his family moved shortly thereafter.

Smith, who was part of the Kewpies’ 2004 football state championship team, nudged his little brother toward Rock Bridge.

“He didn’t really care” if Cooper left Hickman, Cooper said. “He thought Rock Bridge was a better opportunity. He encouraged me to go after it. He told me to be a leader out there for my team.”

Cooper said he would’ve been a running back at Hickman, but when he arrived at Rock Bridge, Bruins coach A.J. Ofodile slid Cooper into the cornerback position.

Over the summer, he won an MVP award for defensive backs at a camp hosted by MU. Cooper has also split time at running back this season. He is tied for the team lead in rushing touchdowns with two and is second with 3.4 yards per carry.

“We’re going to try our best,” Cooper said. “Everybody’s going to play hard.”

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