One was methodical in the way he picked apart the defense. The other used big plays with his arm and legs. They did it in contrasting fashions, but quarterbacks Logan Fitch of Hickman and Mark Pickerel of Rock Bridge were the stars of Rock Bridge’s thrilling 24-20 victory in Friday’s Providence Bowl.
While Fitch’s team came up on the losing end, the junior quarterback turned heads in his first varsity start by spearheading a 20-point second-half comeback.
Mark Pickerel (Sr.), Rock Bridge: 10-20, 178 yds, 2 TD, INT, 145 rushing yards, TD
Logan Fitch (Jr.), Hickman: 27-42, 311 yds, 2 TD
The Kewpies found themselves staring at a 17-0 halftime deficit after two second-quarter turnovers. Fitch failed to handle a snap on Hickman’s 43-yard line and after a Rock Bridge touchdown, was intercepted by Shawn Rush Jr. on the second play of the very next drive.
“It was really low,” Fitch said of the mood in the Hickman locker room at halftime. “In the first half we made a couple mistakes, first-game kind of stuff but we loosened things up and got back to it in the second half.”
By ‘getting back to it,’ Fitch speaks of two touchdown drives that were part of Hickman’s furious rally.
The first of those drives was capped by a gorgeous pass that floated past the outstretched hands of three Bruin defenders and fell snugly into the breadbasket of running back Ryan Asbury for a 17-yard touchdown toss.
The second drive looked like it was going etch Fitch’s name in Hickman lore forever. Seventy-four yards and 15 plays in 5:33 that culminated in Fitch finding Tyler Sprigg on 4th and goal from the three-yard line to put the Kewpies ahead 20-17 after a two-point conversion with 1:45 remaining.
It appeared at that moment, Fitch would be the hero of the night. The Dawg Pound Order, Hickman’s cheering section, was in a full-out frenzy. Sprigg was so excited that he took his helmet off on the field, costing the Kewpies 15 yards on the ensuing kickoff for excessive celebration. Fitch, however, stayed grounded.
“We thought we had the game,” he said. “But I kept telling everybody that it’s not over yet.”
Despite the loss, the 6’2 left-hander was 27 of 42 for 311 yards with 19 of those completions coming in the second half. As impressive as the raw numbers were, Fitch’s poise in the pocket and his ability to step up and make strong, accurate throws left a lasting impression.
“He did a veteran job of sitting in the pocket and being poised,” Rock Bridge coach A.J. Ofodile said. “I wish he was a senior. I look up and see he’s a junior, I can’t imagine what he’s going to be like in this game next year.”
Pickerel may have had only ten pass completions but two went for 50-plus yard touchdowns and he added two running plays for more than 40 yards, one of which went for a score. On that particular play, Pickerel bamboozled three Hickman defenders with a fake handoff to running back Brian Troyer. The Kewpies thought they had Troyer wrapped up for a loss and before they could react, Pickerel was off to the races for a 45-yard touchdown run through the right side.
“He’s dangerous,” Ofodile said of Pickerel. “He’s a guy that gives you that classic big-play threat as a spread-option quarterback.”
Pickerel carried the ball 10 times for 145 yards but the play that everyone will remember from the 2010 Providence Bowl came from Pickerel’s arm.
After Fitch’s pass to Sprigg put the Kewpies ahead, Rock Bridge took over at their own 19-yard line. An 18-yard completion to Sheldon Gerau set up the 63-yard strike to Jerome Fulcher that won the game with 1:09 remaining. The senior took the pass over the middle near the Hickman 45-yard line, spun out of what looked like a sure tackle by Hickman safety Jeff Treadway and sprinted to the end zone to give the Bruins the victory.
“That was his play,” Pickerel said. “We were looking to him the whole way.”
As if the victory wasn’t exciting enough, it came in Fulcher’s first-ever football game, after he decided to join the team this year because he “was tired of sitting around.”
“My whole body is tingling,” Fulcher said. “I’m just so happy I was able to make a play.”
In the end, the two excellent quarterbacks were part of what was a special night for Columbia.
“I was very confident,” Pickerel said. “We had all the abilities to come back and win that game.”