JEFFERSON CITY – At halftime it looked like the Kody Walker show was in full swing. That was before Rock Bridge sophomore Freeman Simmons checked his nerves at the locker room door and upstaged Walker on his own turf, leading the Bruins over Jefferson City 39-36 Friday night at Adkins Stadium.
By halftime Walker was unequivocally dominating the game. The University of Arkansas recruit had racked up 172 yards on 24 carries and two touchdowns before the break and Jefferson City had controlled the game, taking a 14-10 lead to the locker room.
- Mark Pickerel, Rock Bridge Sr., QB: 14-21, 167 yds, 4TD, INT. 11 carries, 107 yds, TD
- Freeman Simmons, Rock Bridge So., RB: 13 carries, 128 yds. 2 catches, 14 yds, TD
- Austin Ray, Rock Bridge Jr., TE: 2 catches, 20 yds, 2TD
- Kody Walker, Jefferson City, Sr., RB: 40 carries, 235 yds. 1 catch, 15 yds.
- Devon Moore, Jefferson City, Jr., RB: 14 carries, 115 yds, 2TD.
- The win marked the first time Rock Bridge had defeated the Jays since 2006 when they defeated Jefferson City 49-28. It was just the fourth win in series history for the Bruins, whose record stands at 4-13 overall against the Jays.
- Austin Ray's two touchdown catches gave him four in the past two games. Those four scoring grabs are Ray's only four catches in the past two contests.
- The Bruins prevailed despite the fact that Jefferson City racked up 385 yards rushing. Rock Bridge were no slouches on the ground, picking up 235 rushing yards of their own. The biggest difference came in the air, where the Bruins and Mark Pickerel outgained the Jays 167-72.
Simmons’ first 24 minutes were the polar opposite. The 5’10, 170-pounder managed just five yards on four carries. All four plays looked the same. Simmons would take the handoff and run straight into the middle of the eagerly awaiting Jefferson City defensive line.
At halftime Rock Bridge coach A.J. Ofodile pulled Simmons aside and told him to relax.
“I told him he was going to have a big day,” Ofodile said. “I just wanted to make him loose.”
Simmons looked like a different back in the second half. On the first play from scrimmage he bounced to the outside and ran 54 yards to the Jefferson City seven yard-line to set up the first of Mark Pickerel’s four second-half touchdown tosses.
“We changed our scheme a bit in the second half,” Ofodile said. “We changed based on what they were showing and ran some counters that we had set up with what we did in the first half.”
Simmons continued to bust huge outside runs for the remainder of the half. With seven gains of ten-plus yards, it appeared to be coming with ease for the sophomore. He finished the second half with 123 yards on nine carries and also caught a touchdown pass.
“It was really nerve wracking starting as a sophomore,” Simmons said. “It’s just something I had to overcome. The coaches told me to just do like I do in practice.”
Walker’s second half was far less productive than his first. The 6’2, 240-pound bruiser totaled 63 yards on 16 carries because of a Rock Bridge defense that was swarming defenders to the ball far better than they were early on. Walker’s runs in the first frame typically consisted of him breaking multiple tackles and dragging the pile two to three extra yards on every carry. Simply put, the Bruins defenders, just one of whom is heavier than Walker, couldn’t solo tackle the big back.
“They ran a lot of the same plays in that first half,” Ofodile said. “When they see a weakness they will really come right at you.”
In the second half, the Bruins had two, three and four defenders meeting Walker, who found the sledding much tougher.
“We knew we had to get him slowed down,” Ofodile said. “After three years of seeing him, stopping him is easier said than done especially when he gets a rhythm.”