COLUMBIA — The Rock Bridge offensive linemen huddled Wednesday after completing a tackling-dummy drill at practice. Senior center Skyler Hinton looked around at his teammates and said a few words. They broke the huddle.
“Showtime,” they all said together.
Jefferson City at Rock Bridge, 7 p.m.
The linemen sometimes substitute “fury” for “showtime,” but the meaning is always the same: They are itching to get on the football field and squeeze every ounce of fun out of the game.
“They’re (the offensive linemen) fired up in games, but at the same time can laugh about the game and have fun during the game,” coach A.J. Ofodile said. “They really as a group epitomize what we want the tone of our program to be.”
After every good block, they all whoop and holler. After every penalty, everyone encourages the culprit. At practice, one of their legs got stuck under the tacklingdummies. Every lineman rushed to quickly lift up a machine that could have been lifted by just a few of them.
The line is anchored by its five starters, which includes junior left guard Will Bryan and seniors Brian Keller (right guard), Josh Capron (left tackle), Patrick Heflin (right tackle) and Skyler Hinton (center). Because Bryan played up a level as a freshman, this season is the third the unit has been together.
Keller, Capron and Heflin stand talking after practice.
Their time together extends beyond the trenches. The five spend hours together off of the field, doing everything from video games to dinners to a unusual type of tag involving squirting silly string and toothpaste on each other’s cars.
“Off the field we do all kinds of crazy stuff,” Capron said. “But during practice and games, it’s all football.”
Football successes have been few for this group of upperclassmen. The Bruins' two wins (2-1) in 2009 are as many as they’ve had in the past two seasons combined. The past failures have done nothing to deter the line’s enthusiasm. They feel their preparation leading up to this point has them ready to break through. For the athletes up front, that preparation started in the weight room.
“The common thread among all of them is they’re all weight room guys,” Ofodile said. “They have physically developed because of it.”
Capron and Co. know that just being physically strong is not enough. When asked what they need to improve the most, Keller, Capron and Heflin all responded with "footwork." Too many times, they find themselves taking their first step backward off the snap. During practice, they have repeatedly worked on moving their momentum forward, wanting desperately to accomplish more than just winning a few more games than last year.
“Beating Jeff City, beating Hickman and going undefeated in districts,” Keller said, listing what he wished to accomplish.
Keller and the rest of the Bruins have an opportunity to check off his first goal when unbeaten Jefferson City visits Rock Bridge on Friday.