JEFFERSON CITY – Mason Murray knew exactly where he was going with the football.
Hickman was trailing Jefferson City 9-7 with just under seven minutes to play. Momentum was firmly on the Jefferson City sideline, which was backed by a rowdy, red home crowd. Hickman coach Arnel Monroe decided to take a shot down field.
Murray faked a hand off at the Hickman 29-yard line and snapped his head around, immediately looking toward receiver Roderick Beasley, who was racing down the middle of the field covered by a lone defender.
Murray lofted a deep pass to Beasley, who leapt and twisted his body around the defender to come down with the football at Jefferson City’s 32-yard line.
The play worked so well that the Kewpies decided to run it again.
The Jays caught on, placing two defenders on Beasley, who already caught a touchdown earlier in the game. But this time, Murray threaded a 30-yard strike between the defenders and into his receiver’s hands for the eventual game-winning touchdown. The touchdown sent the outunmbered Kewpie fans into a frenzy and silenced the massive Jefferson City crowd. The extra point gave Hickman a 14-9 lead that would last until the final whistle.
“Roderick was so sure, and Mason was so sure,” Monroe said. “So we called it again. They trusted in me, and I have to believe in them.”
The two play, 71-yard touchdown drive gave the Kewpies the lead, but the defense was tasked with keeping the Jays out of the end zone in the game’s final moments.
The momentum barely shifted back towards Jefferson City, who came into the game ranked No. 2 in the state. Quarterback Thomas LePage led the Jays into Hickman territory with just over a minute to play but senior safety Eric Wise read LePage’s eyes and sealed the victory for the Kewpies with an interception.
“All coach ever talks about is eyes, eyes,” Wise said. “We play with great discipline. We saw what was going on and made a break on it, and we swarmed. That’s all that matters.”
The win was Hickman’s second win in a row against rival Jefferson City and marked the 53rdtime the Kewpies have beaten the Jays in program history. The victory pushed Hickman’s record to 6-0 and came just one week after a dramatic come from behind win in the Providence Bowl against Rock Bridge.
Despite the hype surrounding the team, focus was never an issue, Murray said.
“It’s Jeff City,” Murray said after the game in between congratulations from teammates and fans. “You have to come in focused. If we didn’t, they could have whooped us.”
As the Kewpies walked off the field and passed the empty Jefferson City stands, the Hickman pride that this team has worked so hard to restore meant a lot to Monroe.
"I'm an O'Kewpie," he said. "And this feels real good."