COLUMBIA—Arnel Monroe can remember the time his feet first touched the Faurot Field turf. His eyes lit up as he took in the scene.
Monroe remembers being about 10 at the time, playing a scrimmage in his youth football uniform during halftime at a Missouri game.
Results of Hickman-Rock Bridge football games dating back to 1981
2012: Hickman 10-7 (OT) (District Playoffs)
2012: Hickman 22-21
2011: Rock Bridge 33-27
2010: Rock Bridge 24-20
2009: Rock Bridge 26-0
2008: Hickman 41-7
2007: Hickman 23-0
2006: Rock Bridge 48-0
2005: Rock Bridge 21-18
2004: Hickman 35-0
2003: Hickman 30-14
2002: Rock Bridge: 34-7
2001: Hickman: 28-8
2000: Hickman: 55-0
1995: Hickman 17-6
1994: Hickman 43-42 (2OT)
1981: Rock Bridge 7-0
Hickman leads the series 10-7
He remembers how his coach kept telling the team to stop looking up and to just focus on the matter at hand — on football.
"You want to remember that experience," said Monroe, now the head football coach at Hickman. "You want to remember playing at Faurot."
Every September for the past nine years, Faurot Field has played host to the Providence Bowl — the rivalry game between Hickman and Rock Bridge high schools. And each year Monroe has seen his players wear the same boyish expression he once had.
But on Friday, that won't be the case.
This time, Rock Bridge will play at Hickman's LeMone Field, and the annual regular-season match will kick off away from MU's campus for the first time since 2003.
Columbia Public Schools Athletics Department Director Bruce Whitesides explained the change came after Missouri filled its 2013 schedule in January with this Saturday's home contest against Arkansas State. By that time, high school schedules for the 2013 season were already complete. The schedules are created two years in advance.
By February 2011, Hickman and Rock Bridge had their Providence Bowl meetings scheduled for the 2012 and 2013 seasons. Three months before, in November 2010, Missouri announced its move from the Big 12 Conference to the Southeastern Conference, a league where teams' schedules are made on a year-by-year basis.
"We knew it was up in the air," Whitesides said of the 2012 and 2013 games. "The Southeastern Conference is not like the Big 12. The Big 12 schedules two years out like we do in high school. That made it fairly easier in the nine previous years."
Last season, the Week 5 Providence Bowl happened to coincide with Missouri's away game at South Carolina.
The situation is different for this year's Week 5 Providence Bowl.
"Part of the challenge is that our schedule has been a little more tricky with our move to the SEC," Missouri athletics department spokesman Chad Moller said. "Every league would prefer to have schedules set far in advance for planning purposes for things exactly like this."
"We absolutely want the game at Faurot Field whenever it's possible," Moller said. "Unfortunately, because of schedules, it didn't work out this year."
Whitesides and Moller said that negotiations initially continued in an attempt to keep the game at Faurot.
"It makes it really tough to turn the stadium around if you have a game on a Friday night," Moller said. If that were the case, Moller said, the stadium would have required an unrealistic amount of maintenance work within 24 hours of Saturday's kickoff.
A Thursday night Providence Bowl was also proposed and considered. But Whitesides said the game wouldn't have been played until after 8 p.m. He also said that parking in a stadium under construction and a busy campus with students on a school night were other concerns.
"We’re reasonable people just like they are, and we tried to make everything work," Whitesides said. "It’s just one of those things. It wouldn't fall into place. The stars didn't align this year."
Before the start of school, the decision was made for the game to be played at Hickman, which has been considered the "home" team of the series on odd years since it last hosted the regular season game in 2003.
"I think our perspective throughout the whole thing was, 'Hey, if we can make the Faurot thing work, let's do it,'" Rock Bridge Athletic Director David Egan said. "But if we can't, (the school district) can host it."
Last year's playoff meeting at Hickman encouraged Egan of the district's capability to host the rivalry.
"To me, it's still a 48-minute football game where two cross-town rival schools get to play," Egan said.
His sentiments were echoed on the north end of Providence Road.
"We’re athletes and we’re coaches, and they want to play," Hickman Athletic Director Doug Mirts said. "Let's get the game going and let's play."
Both Egan and Mirts shared similar views on how the atmosphere changes from a venue like Faurot Field to a more condensed stadium.
"I look at Faurot Field where you got 15,000-to-20,000 fans watching, which is awesome, but that still means there's 45,000-to-50,000 empty seats," Egan said. "So the old school person in me thinks there's something cool about that intimate atmosphere of a high school stadium where it's just packed and it's loud."
Rock Bridge coach A.J. Ofodile said he felt players would be missing out on a "unique opportunity."
"You don't get the same kind of crowds, you don't have the same kind of lights, you don't have the same kind of big field to it, to me, (as) playing it at the high schools," he said. "It's disappointing, but it's not something you're mad about. You go play it over (at Hickman) and that's what it is."
Even so, Ofodile said he didn't think the location change has generated much dispute among his players.
"I don't think our guys care wither way," he said.
Players at Hickman heard rumors throughout the summer about Faurot not being available. Many said they felt unaffected by the time the rumors emerged as fact.
"We’re not worried about where we play at," senior running back Bohannon Davidson said. "We’re worried about the team that’s across from us."
In previous years, Monroe could see how the stage at Faurot distracted his players.
"It was one of those things as a coaching staff, you (had) to really work to get that focus together," he said.
Monroe had to tell them what his coach had to tell him all those years ago - that it was about the matter at hand — about football.