COLUMBIA — As the third quarter neared its end, Hickman punter Mason Murray prepared for his sixth punt of the game. After a clean snap and punt, the ball soared toward Rockhurst returner Victor Brancato. It squirted right through his arms and skipped into the hands of diving Hickman coverage man Andrew Bair.
The crowd roared as the Kewpies took possession in Hawklet territory — for the first time all game.
Before that, the Kewpies had managed only one first down, the result of a personal foul call.
An inability to make plays offensively resulted in two interceptions, two turnovers on downs and seven three-and-outs for the Hickman offense in its 21-0 loss to No. 1 Rockhurst on Friday.
"We’re going to have to work on some things, some philosophies, and get everyone on the same page," Hickman coach Arnel Monroe said. "This is a process, a new offense, and we’re still trying to get there and find some answers. We're still trying to find our rhythm and our game."
The Kewpies' inability to run the football may have been what hurt them the most.
"You're going to play better people," Monroe said. "Unless you have the line they had with four guys 265, 270 pounds, you can’t line up in an I-backfield and just run over top of everybody. So we’re going to have to spread things out, we’re gonna have to do some other things, and we’re going to have to have some people step up."
The ineffective Hickman offense might have overshadowed great plays from its defense. Cornerback Lamont Cooper intercepted Rockhurst quarterback Nick Jones twice, and the Kewpies repeatedly stifled running back Victor Brancato at the line of scrimmage.
A lack of focus in the Hickman secondary during the first half was the only blemish: Jones had one pass go for a touchdown from 42 yards out.
"It's a constant battle with fundamentals," Monroe said of his secondary. "We didn't put our eyes in the right place."
Linebacker J'den Cox was proud of the effort put forth by the defense.
"We had a few missed assignments, but that's going to happen," Cox said. "You’re going to have good plays, and you’re going to have bad plays. But you have to keep moving on, and I think that’s what we did. I’m proud of the defense, and I’m proud of our team. We took the number one team pound for pound in a heavyweight fight."
Monroe, too, was optimistic in the loss.
"It’s going to sound crazy to Kewpie nation out there, but I’m more pleased with this loss than the two wins at Holt and Hazelwood West," Monroe said. "This was more fundamental football. We’ve got some things we’re going to clean up, but we’ve gotten better. Coming back after a tough loss, we were looking Godzilla in the face, and we went out there and fought him. I’m really pleased about that."