COLUMBIA — The Rock Bridge football team trailed Riverview Gardens 12-0 midway through the first quarter Friday night. After an emotional week that included the death of a former teammate and Homecoming Week, the Bruins were flat.
On the drive following Riverview Garden’s second touchdown, Rock Bridge coach A.J. Ofodile put the football into the hands of senior Trey Millard, who took the ball and took over the game, leading the Bruins to a 36-32 victory.
“It’s something we feel confident we’re going to get some positive yards and assert ourselves,” Ofodile said. “I don’t think people are really anxious to tackle those big guys running downhill like that.”
Millard, a 6-foot-3, 250-pound senior, touched the ball on 10 of the Bruins’ 15 plays during the drive which concluded with a 5-yard touchdown run by Millard. The score cut the Rams’ lead to 12-8 after a successful two-point conversion.
Millard did a little of everything on the drive. He accounted for 68 of the 83 yards on the series. He used his strong frame to muscle his way up the middle after taking direct snaps. He completed a 14-yard pass. He caught a pass. He took hand-offs and bruised his way inside. He zipped his way outside. He set the tone for 22 unanswered first half points for the Bruins, which ultimately led to their victory.
“We were just trying to do whatever it takes to win,” Millard said. “If that means getting me the ball, that’s what it means.”
Lately, nothing has come easily for Rock Bridge and Millard, and the game was no exception. Aided by two late Millard fumbles, Riverview Gardens cut 12 points off the Bruins' 36-20 fourth-quarter lead before Rock Bridge (4-3) was finally ran out the clock.
The win came in the Bruins' first home game since former player Stuart Eiken’s death last Saturday. Eiken’s presence could be seen throughout the game. Before the opening kickoff, fans, players and coaches honored Eiken with a moment of silence. Millard had “Stu” written on one his eye-blacks, and “22” (Eiken’s former number) on the other. Cheerleaders all wore T-shirts featuring No. 22.
Ofodile said the win felt especially good this week.
“You go from heartbreak and sadness to having to be focused and get prepared for a really good opponent,” Ofodile said.
It was a week full of distractions. Millard and others on the team attended the funeral of their friend earlier this week. The excitement of Homecoming, though dampened, still buzzed through the school.
“We were mourning Stu’s death and Homecoming is an exciting time, so we had conflicts,” Millard said. “But we tried to stay focused, do our assignments and get a win, which we did.”
Ofodile was proud of the way his athletes handled themselves during a time of adversity. He said football, and the fun his team has playing it, is a big help.
“These kids know full well this (football) is not life and death, it’s a game,” Ofodile said. “They were able to shake off some of those feelings to a certain extent and get out here and play football again.”