COLUMBIA — The players on the Hickman and Rock Bridge boys soccer teams are competitors on the field, but are close friends off the field.
Rock Bridge seniors Brady Wulff, Ryan Taylor and Danny Baird have been close friends with Hickman's Andy Atkins, Colin Janicek and Alex Holliday for about five or six years. They all play on the Columbia Pride, a club team in Columbia.
“It’s a lot different playing against them,” Taylor said. "I have a lot of respect for them on and off the field. I have to get it out of my mind that we’re friends when we play against each other."
They talk to each other a little on the field, but for the 80-minutes of the game, the focus is on bringing their school a win. Rock Bridge prevailed Tuesday night securing a 4-0 victory over visiting Hickman. Matt Kelly had two first-half goals for the Bruins, while Taylor and Ty Griggs scored in the second half.
“It’s a pain playing against them. They’re great guys to play with, but when you play against them, you know that they’re going to give 100 percent,” Atkins said. “We all go hard, it’s the same intensity, but I’m more cordial to them than any other player. It’s definitely nice to talk to them before and after the game though.”
The players know the ins and outs of how the others play, which works to their advantage both as teammates and as opponents. No one is just another player. They are players that they’ve cheered on, encouraged and traveled to out-of-town tournaments with.
“It’s definitely more competitive on the field against them. Once the season is over, there’s always bragging going on about who won during the season,” Taylor said. “It’s business on the field, but jokes off the field.”