JEFFERSON CITY — The smell was foul and the air was hot inside the locker room at Adkins Stadium on Friday night. The Hickman football team was inside and players jumped up and down in their own mosh pit, stained with sweat and blood. They reveled in the triumph of a come-from-behind 27-17 victory over Helias, the third-ranked team in Class 4.
The words of it were fading, but they were still belting out a song.
What was the song?
"Hickman secret," players said. "Hickman secret," coaches said. "Hickman secret," the student filming the game said.
After two early-season losses, this was the sound of a statement win.
"Hickman secret," senior tight end Grant Jones said.
However, what wasn't a secret: The Kewpies, coming out of halftime with a 17-0 deficit, were in desperate need. And on three occasions, Jones, a Missouri commit, provided.
Midway through the third quarter, senior quarterback Mason Murray ran in for what would have been the team's first score. But it was called back due to a penalty. Coach Arnel Monroe put his arms out on the sideline and looked up in frustration at the cloudy sky.
A play later, on a 4th-and-7 situation, the team got on the board with a field goal. But it was also called back due to a penalty. Monroe now faced a 4th-and-12.
He stood firmly. There was no reaction this time.
He said he believes that in football, you can only move on.
"When we conditioned this summer, we never worried about how many times we needed to sprint. We never worried about the number on the board," Monroe said. "We worry about each play and after that play's over, you move on to the next play and you never look back."
So this time, with the field goal called back, he shook his head and waved for his players behind him.
"Offense," Monroe said. "Offense."
"I told the kids when I called the play, 'I believe,'" he said. "I truly believe. I believe in all my boys."
He's tough on one of the boys in particular. At 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, Jones has a hopeful football future ahead of him.
"When you're the guy – and without a doubt he's one of those guys – you're level of play can control a game," Monroe said. "I'm hard on Grant, and I know that. Grant knows that. But I expect him to be out there, I expect him to do all he can to win and set an example."
On 4th-and-12, Murray lofted the ball up. Jones, draped by two defenders, came down with it in the corner of the end zone.
A possession later, Jones did it again to bring his team within three points of Helias. Hickman's first lead of the game came on the next possession thanks to a Justise Keith 7-yard run.
The momentum completely changed," Keith said. "The defense came together. I had (senior linebacker) Christian Geen (saying) I'll fight for you and I said I'd fight for him on offense. That's how it works."
Two possessions later, Murray was scrambling back and forth on a 4th-and-4 with his team looking to close out its rallying act.
Minutes earlier, before Jones took the field for the drive, Monroe pulled him aside.
"I know I'm hard. I know I'm hard," Monroe said to Jones. "Finish. Let's finish this thing."
So Jones did. It came like the other two: in desperation, with defenders covering him.
Jones finished with three catches, three touchdowns.
"He tries to be hard on me just because he sees so much potential in me and I can be so much more than I am right now," Jones said of Monroe. "He wants me to work to be the best I can be, and I appreciate that."
The comeback was fast and furious – 27 points straight.
Monroe made it sound simple.
"We believed," he said, "and we're gonna continue to believe."