COLUMBIA – It’s easier said than done. When the team on the other sideline has lost just three games and won two Class 6 state titles in the past two seasons, it’s easy to get lost thinking about that team's ability.
Rock Bridge can’t afford to do that Saturday in Florissant when it lines up against Hazelwood Central, the state’s No. 2 team. If the Bruins are to have a chance, they will have to be confident that they belong on the field with the Hawks.
Rock Bridge (2-0) at Hazelwood Central (2-0)
Time: 1 p.m., Saturday
Radio: KFRU/1400 AM
Hazelwood West (0-2) at Hickman (1-1)
The Kewpies look to build off of last week's shutout victory over Wentzville Holt when they get a visit from Hazelwood West. The Wildcats are coming off of a 20-0 loss at the hands of Harrisonville last week.
Time: 7 p.m., Friday
Radio: KTGR/1580 AM
“The question is: Can we believe?” Bruins head coach A.J. Ofodile said. “If we can do that, physically we’ll be OK.”
Rock Bridge’s play thus far in 2010 has inspired belief. The Bruins enter Saturday having won back-to-back games for the first time since 2006. After an emotional win in the opener against rival Hickman, they beat Riverview Gardens 43-12 this past Friday. But the competition is about to get a lot tougher. The Hawks also come in at 2-0. They are ranked second in the state behind Rockhurst.
“They’re fast, physical, they have great tempo, and did I say they were fast?” Rock Bridge defensive coordinator Justin Conyers said. “They are the fastest offensive team we’ll see probably.”
Conyers’ job is to show his defense how to combat the speed. The Rock Bridge coaching staff says their team hasn’t been outgunned physically in years, so Saturday will come down to the mental game. If the Bruins can read coverages properly, recognize defensive fronts and execute, they believe they have a shot against the Hawks.
“We’ve watched as much film so that we can see that we matchup with them,” Conyers said. “We want the kids to know they aren’t superhuman, they’re high school kids just like them.”
Quarterback Mark Pickerel said he thinks Saturday could be a landmark day for the Rock Bridge football program, but getting there will be a daunting task. The Bruins have not beaten a team with a winning record since 2006, while Hazelwood Central comes in with wins over No. 3 DeSmet and rival Pattonville.
“No one expects anything, it’s all on us and we have high expectations for ourselves.” Pickerel said. “It’s a chance to get Rock Bridge football back on the map.”
The past two seasons, Rock Bridge has lost to Hazelwood Central by a combined score of 66-21 in games that the Bruins look back on as missed opportunities. Each has featured prominent Rock Bridge first-half missteps that have set the tone for the game.
In 2008, it was a Hawks punt that rolled from the 50 to the 2-yard line. The Bruins tried to return it and ended up fumbling the ball away, and the Hawks jogged in to take a 7-0 lead. Last season, a muffed punt and dropped pitch led to 14 of Hazelwood Central’s 17 first-half points.
“It should have been 14-3 (Rock Bridge) at halftime,” Pickerel said. “We can’t shoot ourselves in the foot like we have in past years.”
The Bruins are doing their best to prepare for Saturday’s showdown like it’s any other game, but at times, it can be tough to ignore the magnitude of the opponent.
“It’s a big revenge game for me,” safety Shawn Rush Jr. said. “At the same time, we don’t want to think to much of it because it’ll be more than it normally is.”