COLUMBIA — No one saw it coming.
After losing the coin toss, eleven Hickman football players trotted on the field to kick off. Instead of sending the ball soaring in to the night sky, Andrew Cox sent the football trickling off to the right. It was simple. It was easy. No dramatic bounces. No mad dashes. After about 11 yards, Brian Underwood fell on the football. The Kewpies onside attempt was a success.
Hickman needed the boost after recent struggles. The Kewpies came in losers of three straight and Ryan Nesbitt, Hickman's special teams coordinator, saw some things on tape that gave him the idea. Coach Arnel Monroe hoped the strategy could help give Hickman some momentum, especially in front of a homecoming crowd.
This would set the tone for an improved performance from the Kewpies (3-4) and would propel them to a 27-15 victory against the Gateway Tech Jaguars.
"(Coach Nesbitt) said let’s get that done and it happened for us," Monroe said.
After being shutout two of the last three games, the Hickman offense followed the onside kick with a lively first drive. Quarterback Logan Fitch completed three passes for 21 yards. This early energy faded when running back Deven Larry fumbled inside Gateway Tech's 10-yard line.
The Kewpies recovered, and, in the closing seconds of the first half, Fitch connected with Alex Keith for an 8-yard touchdown pass that put Hickman up 15-8 at halftime.
"When you've got a kid who's under the kind of pressure that he's under, and he has the dreams that he has, you know it's hard to stay focused and positive," Monroe said of Fitch. "All credit goes to him. He's a great talent, just a phenomenal talent and we had to have some guys step up and they did today."
Fitch, a Division 1 prospect, not only threw the ball well, but he also had touchdown runs of 28 and 22 yards .
"I think this game was a must for Logan to get his confidence back," running back Will Owens said. "We've been slacking on blocking and catching the ball offensive wise so to get him some yards and something to build on for districts is a good thing."
Larry carried the football 24 times, meaning Owens was called on to wear down the Gateway Tech defense late in the game. Owens was given the ball repeatedly in the second half, and he would capitalize with a five-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
"Will is coming back," Monroe said. "He’s getting back in his stride. Will, Devin, and of course Bohannon (Davidson) are gonna be a great punch for us going in to districts. Those guys are going to be a great compliment to each other. Deven’s speed, Will’s power and tenacity, and Bohannon is allergic to the ground."
Hickman didn't play a mistake free game, it had plenty of penalties and turned the ball over twice, but Monroe knows a win like this has a way of helping the team move forward.
"The kids hung in there and I’m proud of them," Monroe said. "They believed the whole time, and we dealt with some adversity."