COLUMBIA — The Hickman football team headed into halftime during Friday night's game against Jackson tied at seven, and head coach Arnel Monroe was far from satisfied.
Monroe thought his team lacked focus through the first 24 minutes of the game. The Kewpies were entering the contest undefeated at 6-0, after a bye week and had just celebrated both senior night and homecoming.
A week's worth of activities ended with a pep rally for the players. It was easy for the team to get caught up in the distractions, Monroe said.
"With the week off, I was worried about this team's focus," he said. "We had a lot going on this week. I told them at three o'clock, I just didn't think we were focused enough. We needed to be ready to play football."
Hickman responded to Monroe's half-time talk with 20 unanswered points in the third quarter, and took a 27-7 lead that they never relinquished. The game ended 27-14 after a late Jackson touchdown.
"We got back to playing like we play," Monroe said. "We dealt with some adversity, and we fought back."
Kewpie quarterback Mason Murray dealt with some adversity of his own after throwing his first interception since the season opener against Lee's Summit North.
Monroe tried to calm his quarterback down during halftime as Murray took his usual warm-up tosses.
"Everybody thinks it's all about the quarterback," Monroe said. "It's not. He's one player on the team. Mason's a proud guy. He doesn't want to make mistakes."
After the game, students crowded around the locker room to congratulate the team. With the mistakes still fresh on his mind, Murray could barley force a smile for the cameras.
"It's very frustrating," Murray said. "But I know my team has my back. They just told me to keep doing what I do."
The victory continues Hickman's undefeated season (7-0), but another stern test awaits as the Kewpies travel to Rockhurst next week for their final regular season game. Rockhurst is 5-2 but ranked No. 4 in the state. Monroe is confident Hickman will regain its usual for that contest.
"All you have to say is the name," Monroe said. "We're going to be back focused. I'm going to make sure of it at eight o'clock tomorrow morning."
As for Murray, he hopes to put his mistakes behind him and get ready for another tough opponent.
"Everybody makes mistakes," Murray said. "I just have to learn from them."