COLUMBIA — It doesn’t always have to be creative or entertaining. You just have to finish with more points than the other team. Just ask the Rockhurst Hawklets, who used 48 runs and just seven pass plays on their way to a 40-21 victory over the Rock Bridge Bruins on Friday night at Sells Field.
Rockhurst, the state’s No. 1 team, did not use tricky running plays, either. The team kept the ball moving downhill with enough consistency that the Rock Bridge defense was unable to get off the field.
Bruising run after bruising run from tailbacks Noah Pearl (18 carries, 177 yards) and Jordan Walker (13 carries, 79 yards) kept the clock moving and the ball out of the Bruins' hands. Even with eight or nine defensive players in the box, Rockhurst gained consistent yardage.
“They blocked the heck out of us,” Rock Bridge coach A.J. Ofodile said. “We threw a lot at them, but they got us blocked.”
Rockhurst was afforded the luxury of a quick lead, allowing them to keep the ball on the ground, when University of Oklahoma verbal commit Dan Tapko intercepted Rock Bridge quarterback Mark Pickerel on the game’s first play and jogged into the end zone.
Three plays later, Scott Herring intercepted Pickerel again, setting up an 11-yard touchdown run. Two minutes into the game, the Bruins trailed by two touchdowns.
“That left us pretty shellshocked,” Ofodile said.
The margin forced the Bruins into a vertical passing game that had some success (Pickerel finished with 292 yards through the air.) but ultimately fell short because of the Hawklets advantage in the ground game. Rockhurst had scoring drives of 10, 14 and 15 plays once it had the lead.
The coup de grâce came at the end of the first half. Paris Logan returned a kick back to midfield with under 10 seconds left to set up a potential Hail Mary situation. Pickerel then threw a fourth interception, and Alex Bales ran it back 60 yards for a score to put Rockhurst ahead 27-7.
But the Bruin defense felt that it shared the burden of responsibility.
“We failed today because of our mistakes,” senior safety Shawn Rush Jr. said. “We didn’t read our keys; we didn’t fight through our blocks; and we didn’t make good tackles.”
The Bruins, however, were not physically outmatched by the state’s No. 1 team and proved they can play with the toughest competition.
“We picked ourselves up off the canvas and played well in the second half,” Ofodile said. “This is a good measuring stick for us against a really good football team.”