COLUMBIA — Timberland's Devin McDaniel should have gone down when he had the chance.
Hickman was already ahead of Timberland 6-0 after Kewpies linebacker J’den Cox returned a fumble 30 yards for a touchdown. On the very next possession, Timberland handed the ball off to McDaniel, who sputtered past the line of scrimmage only to be met by a swarm of Hickman defensive players.
Instead of allowing himself to be dragged to the turf, McDaniel plunged forward, keeping the play alive around midfield but remained on his feet a split second too long as Cox got his hands on the football and ripped it away from the running back.
With only green grass in front of him, Cox sprinted towards the end zone and crossed the goal line for the second time in the game (and fourth this season), giving the Kewpies a 13-0 lead. That’s as close as Timberland would get, as Hickman won 34-14 to advance to the second round of the regional playoffs.
“I think it gave a boost of confidence to the team,” Cox said. “I was just doing my part for the team. Everybody pulled their weight today.”
Hickman was determined to make a strong statement against Timberland after losing their last regular-season game against Rockhurst. Coach Arnel Monroe urged his team on from the sidelines, not cracking a smile until the final whistle, while making sure the Kewpies left no room for error.
"We didn't like the way we played last week," Monroe said. "The kids took it personally that they didn't play well last week on a big stage against a big opponent. They came out focused today and ready to go."
Senior tailback Deven Larry was again the Kewpies' offensive spark. In the second quarter, he took advantage of a small opening in the Timberland defense to break a long touchdown run, giving Hickman a 20-0 lead.
"I just see all green," Larry said. "My eyes open real big, and I use some of my track skills.
Despite a Timberland touchdown drive to end the first half, the Kewpie student section danced confidently during halftime to the tune of a student-made rap song about Hickman athletics that blared over the stadium's sound system.
Timberland did its best to quell the celebration, scoring on the opening drive of the second half. Larry soon got Hickman started again by bursting out to the 20-yard line, where he made a cut that left a helpless Timberland defender lying on the turf. From there the Hickman running back strolled easily to the end zone for a 35-yard touchdown.
"I give it to my linemen," Larry said. "They open up those holes, and I just hit them."
As Larry and his teammates walked off the field, they were met by the usual crowd of supporters, who stuck through sub 40-degree temperatures to witness the win and hear the Hickman rap song a second time for the victory celebration.
Another celebration was taking place just down Providence Road, as Rock Bridge beat Troy 34-0 to set up a rematch between the rival Columbia Schools.
The first meeting ended in a narrow Hickman victory. Next week's game will be played at Hickman's newly-named Alumni Stadium, where they have yet to lose this season.
The Kewpies will hope to retain local football pride next Friday and replay their new favorite victory song.