COLUMBIA – With the third quarter winding down and Har-Ber High School driving near midfield with a 16-7 lead, the Rock Bridge Bruins were staring their first loss of the season right in the facemask.
The Bruins had struggled on offense and the visiting Wildcats of Springdale, Ark., had put up as many points in three quarters as Rock Bridge had allowed all season. That’s when senior Matt Bush decided to take things into his own hands. Literally.
He intercepted a Har-Ber pass and ran the ball back to within three yards of the end zone. Quarterback Logan Twehous dropped a four-yard touchdown pass into the hands of sophomore receiver Alex Ofodile, and the Bruins recorded their first of 20 unanswered points in a 27-16 victory.
“(Bush) made a hell of a play, and it woke us up,” Coach A.J. Ofodile said. “I think sometimes our young guys look up and 9 points is kind of daunting, but you get an easy (touchdown), it’s two points, and the hope comes back in and your guys keep fighting.”
That two point Har-Ber advantage didn’t last long. After a quick stop by the Rock Bridge defense, the Bruins found themselves pinned up near their own goal line. Tailback Freeman Simmons got out of there as quickly as he could.
What looked like another instance of Simmons getting stung by a swarm of Wildcat defenders quickly turned into a cutback, a roar from the crowd and a 93-yard touchdown.
“We know with Freeman in the backfield that he’s a very explosive runner,” Twehous said. “Just one play, and next thing you know it’s a 90-yard run. That was crazy.”
A 93-yard run is never a small matter, but the play was especially crucial for Freeman and the Bruins, whose ground game had been running into a brick wall for most of the night.
“You just gotta stay patient with your line,” Freeman said. “I’ve been playing running back for years, and you gotta know not to get frustrated.”
The Rock Brige offensive front required extra patience for this particular game. Due to a string of injuries and illnesses, sophomores Jonah Dubinski and Jace Neville found themselves starting on Friday after playing only junior varsity and defensive linemen, respectively.
While Twehous found himself on his back more than usual, he was actually pleasantly surprised by the newbies’ showing.
“They both only got one or two practices in this week, and they did a lot better than I thought they were gonna do,” he said. “They held their own out there.”
Any shortcomings to be found on the Bruins offense seemed to be made up for by the defense’s play. The defense contributed six turnovers, including another interception and long return by Bush.
That interception was followed by another Alex Ofodile touchdown on a fade route, which punctuated the game’s scoring.
The win was a big one for the Bruins in more ways than one.
“A lot of people doubted us,” Simmons said. “But we showed ‘em.”
Many of those doubters came from down below, Twehous said.
“Coach Ofodile was talking before the game about how tired he was of the SEC people coming and talking about how much better Southeast football is,” he said. “It’s really nice to come out and get this win.”
That’s not to say there’s not any local significance to the third victory for the undefeated Bruins.
“I think it’s a real momentum changer,” Bush said. “People will start taking us seriously now.”