COLUMBIA — Down 14-0 in the second quarter, the Rock Bridge football team had the ball inside Jefferson City’s 8-yard line. Normally sure-handed Trey Millard took a hand-off and headed toward the end zone.
Fumble. Jays recover. Ninety-five yards the other way. Touchdown Jeff City.
Just like that the Bruins' opportunity to cut the Jays' lead in half turned into a nightmare, leaving Rock Bridge down 20-0. The play represented a pivotal moment in a game in which the Bruins trailed from start to finish, finally falling 41-14.
Millard’s fumble ended a 91-yard drive, highlighted by junior quarterback Mark Pickerel’s 74-yard run down the sideline. Pickerel said he could not believe what had happened when he looked up and saw Jeff City scoop up the ball and sprint the other way.
“It happened in slow motion for me,” Pickerel said. “I thought we were in. Apparently we have to work a lot harder to get in the end zone.”
Not getting into the end zone developed into a theme for Rock Bridge. Its offense moved the ball into Jeff City territory in each of its five first-half possessions. Two turnover-on-downs and two interceptions (including one in the end-zone) ended promising looking drives.
“We moved the ball up and down the field pretty well against a pretty good team,” coach A.J. Ofodile said. “The next step in the process for us is finishing. Finishing drives, finishing plays. We didn’t do those things enough especially early in the game.”
Moving the ball was never an issue for the Bruins. They gained 308 yards of total offense in the first half alone, yet hadn’t scored as they headed to the locker room during halftime.
“It’s very frustrating,” Ofodile said. “Have you ever felt better about an offensive performance being down 27-0?”
Pickerel pointed to the four turnovers as the aspect of the game that hurt his team the most. Combine that with nine penalties and finishing drives becomes near impossible against a team of Jeff City’s caliber.
Ofodile believes the Bruins are closer to being able to compete with the top teams in the state than the lopsided score may lead some to think.
“Physically we’ve got the ability to play with the top teams in the state right now,” Ofodile said. “Championship teams have a confidence they conduct themselves with and we have to take that next step.”
The next step for Rock Bridge (2-2) is its game against Hickman Thursday night at Faurot Field. Ofodile knows his players aren’t happy with Friday night’s result, but still likes the direction his team is heading. After back-to-back 1-9 seasons, he says people can’t expect an immediate turnaround.
“You don’t go from where we were a year ago and be perfect,” Ofodile said. “But I think we’re going to be a team to reckon with down the stretch.”