COLUMBIA — What a difference a year makes for the Hickman football team.
"Last year at this time, we were preparing for the Jamboree," Hickman coach Jason Wright said. "We would've had another week to clean things up. Now, we’re preparing for the No. 5 team in the state.
Hickman at No. 5 Liberty
WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday
"You never know what the first game of the season will bring. There are some apprehensions and nerves. The team that can eliminate or try to eliminate offsides, false starts or lining up wrong should do well.”
The Kewpies play Friday night against the Liberty Blue Jays, who are ranked fifth in Class 6A. Last season, the Kewpies lost to the Blue Jays 34-10.
“They have no glaring weaknesses, I can tell you that,” Wright said. “They’re fast and play fast. They run and hit as well as I’ve seen on film in a while.”
The Kewpies brought in offensive coordinator Eric Thomas last season, and he implemented the spread offense. Wright admits there was some trouble with it last year.
“No question about it,” he said. “When you have a transition like the one we had, you’re going to have some (difficulty). When you have a young team – we had a lot of sophomores last year – you’re going to have bumps in the road.”
Kewpies quarterback Matt Herman said he had trouble adjusting to the new system and being consistent in the new attack, but he feels as if he’s improved since the team began working out in January.
It doesn’t hurt that Herman has an excellent offensive weapon in wide receiver Wesley Leftwich, who has posted excellent times in the 40-yard dash, reaching 4.3 seconds this summer.
“Matt’s gotta get him the ball,” Wright said. “If he gets the ball, he can do some things with it. We’ve gotta be right on for this offense to click. When it’s on, it’s on.”
Line play could be a concern for tonight’s game for the Kewpies. They graduated two players – Josh Harvey (Miami of Ohio) and Evan Conrad (Southeast Missouri State) – to Division I football programs last season.
“The key is going to be the offensive line,” Wright said. “We’re not playing bad there, but we’re not great. I’d like for us to be more physical.”