COLUMBIA — The Rock Bridge football team had some tough bounces Friday night against Liberty High School.
One ball bounced off receiver Kenny James' chest and into the arms of a Liberty defender, and another bounced up and hit Eli Caldwell-Stout in the facemask, causing a turnover on a fourth-quarter punt.
But he who bounces last, bounces best.
After streaking down the sideline on a 20-yard run, Liberty running back Matthew Zombo fell forward in an attempt to reach the end zone and tie the game in overtime. The ball slipped from Zombo's hands and out of the back of the end zone, giving Rock Bridge a 28-21 victory.
"I had no clue (Zombo fumbled)," Bruins coach A.J. Ofodile said. "When I saw him approach the end zone, I assumed he was going to score."
After talking it over, the referees signaled a touchback, and the arms of Rock Bridge defenders shot in the air. Ofodile commended the referees.
"This crew is really good. They don't miss much. So if they call it, I'm assuming it was (a fumble)," he said.
The Bruins might have given the referees a little help.
"I think they were going to call him down, but we had about five dudes run over there and yell 'touchback, touchback, touchback,' and they talked about it, and they called touchback," senior West Wilson said.
The Blue Jays were trailing in overtime because of Logan Twehous' 4-yard pass to senior Sam Mulholland in the end zone. It was crucial for the Bruins to score a touchdown on their overtime drive instead of relying on the field goal. Kicker Joe Barbee was playing with a bruised thigh, and the Bruins had elected to go for the two-point conversion after their first touchdown.
"We were about 80 percent saying we'll just go for it on fourth, which would've been probably insane on my part," Ofodile said. "But I just felt like we may have had a better chance in that regard, putting the ball in Logan's hands, than we did trying to kick it with Joe having one leg."
Zombo was unable to tie the game in overtime, but he had no shortage of success in the fourth quarter, scoring on touchdown runs of 55 and 19 yards. Ofodile said there was only so much the Bruins could do to contain him.
"We had some fear going in," Ofodile said. "We tried to bottle him up. We thought we had a good plan for it, and I think we generally did, but great players make great plays."
The Bruins led 13-7 at halftime but struggled to find rhythm on offense.
Junior Zach Reuter was a bright spot for Rock Bridge, returning an interception for a score from within the Bruins' own 10 yard-line and catching a 28-yard pass to set up Freeman Simmon's one-yard touchdown run.
The Rock Bridge passing attack opened up in the second half, a testament to the Bruins' commitment to the running game.
"Freeman ran really hard tonight, and they kept on respecting that, and when we started throwing, it was open," Twehous said.
Reuter scored on a 15-yard catch in the front corner of the end zone to give the Bruins a 21-14 fourth-quarter lead.
However, after recovering the face mask-deflected punt, Liberty scored on a 19-yard run by Zombo to tie the game with 1:45 left to play.
Rock Bridge faces divisional foe Jefferson City on the road next week. For now, the Bruins will enjoy their strange, exciting homecoming victory.
"We shouldn't have played them that close, but it feels so good," Wilson said. "I'm still out of breath."