COLUMBIA — As they prepared to bounce back from a two-game skid, the Rock Bridge High School football team watched a film whose title describes where they stood just two weeks ago, "Undefeated."
Coach A.J. Ofodile said the Oscar-winning documentary, which centers around a Memphis high school football team, left the team with a main idea. An idea he personally relates to: You never know when your time on the football field will end, so you better enjoy it.
The Bruins had plenty of enjoyment Friday night when they defeated Helias Catholic High School 35-6.
"That's one of the things we to try to really impress upon the kids, is have fun," Ofodile said. "You don't know how long you're gonna have this as part of your life."
Ofodile, a former NFL tight end for the Ravens and Bills, said he had no idea a three-yard reception against the Cincinnati Bengals in November 1999 would be his last in the league. Failed physicals and a patellar tendon tear ended his career.
"I wouldn't have played harder if I knew that was gonna be my last game," Ofodile said. "I played as hard as I could in the NFL. I just would've enjoyed it more. I would've had less reservation, less apprehension. Hopefully that message sticks."
Senior Kenny James seemed to get the message. He wrapped quarterback Logan Twehous in a giant bear hug as the Crusaders took a knee to end the game.
"You always have to come out and play hard, read your keys, technique, but the main thing is to have fun while you're out there," James said.
It's hard not to have fun when you score three touchdowns. The senior receiver scored touchdowns from 50, 78 and 82 yards out.
The crowd was more than happy to cheer the Bruins to their first victory in three weeks. A cappella renditions of Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" broke out throughout the fourth quarter, and a handful of fans joined the cheerleaders after the game to form Rockettes-style dance lines and sing Hot Chelle Rae's "Tonight Tonight."
The night's fun was on the field, too, as the ball bounced Rock Bridge's way for most of the night. The Bruins recorded five turnovers, including one interception that bounced off the shoulder pad of safety Shelby Wilson and into cornerback Zach Reuter's hands.
"It was crazy. It was bonkers. That's what I'm going to call it. I'm going to call it bonkers," James said.
With the big lead, Rock Bridge was able to hand the ball to the backups for the first time this season. The first play was muffed on a high snap to second-string quarterback Zach Baier and the second play resulted in a botched handoff.
"With us, (chances for the second string to play) are going to be few and far between," Ofodile said. "Every game's gonna be a war, at least we hope it is. I never would have dreamed in a million years they would've got in in this game. It wasn't pretty, but at least those guys got a chance to get a couple snaps."
The three and out followed by a miscommunication on the punt resulted in a good field position for the Crusaders. Ignoring the crowd's farewell chants of "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye," Helias drove quickly for its only score of the game.
James deprived the Bruin backups of one more snap when he took the ensuing kickoff for a 82-yard score practically by accident.
The Bruins have no backup hands team, and Ofodile didn't want to injure the starting hands team, which includes a quarterback and other key players. They had no choice but to leave the regular return team on the field. The coaches were expecting an onside kick, so they never bothered to tell James to fair catch the kick.
"I was thinking, 'Let me slide, take a knee or whatever and we can run the clock,' but I don't know," James said with a laugh. "I just went."