COLUMBIA — Hickman senior linebacker Christian Geen, sitting in the school's training room early in the week before a practice, insisted that this week was no different than the past one.
The Kewpies are in a bye week, and therefore not playing Friday night.
But it is not a week off for the players.
"Having an off week, it really doesn't mean much," Geen said. "Practice stays the same. We just don't have a game. But mentality's the same."
He was propped up on a cushioned bench with the padded chords from an electrical stimulation machine's taped to his shoulder. It's a common treatment for players.
As is ice, and team athletics trainer Stefanie West came by to place a bag of it over his shoulder.
"Ah," Geen said. "So cold."
On the floor beneath the training room in the coaches offices, coach Arnel Monroe was sitting near assistant Ryan Nesbitt, who was relaying stats from midway through the season.
At this time last year, Hickman was undefeated. This year, the Kewpies sit at 2-4.
The team's experienced thrillers such as the on-the-road game against Helias, erasing a 17-point deficit with 27 unanswered points to win 27-17. It's had games on the other end like last week against Jefferson City where Hickman rallied in the final minutes only to fall 40-33.
"I'm actually just trying to breathe because every week there through Helias to Jeff City, the stakes got higher," Monroe said of the season.
He said the bye week served as a time of rest for his team, which consists of multiple two-way players.
"We're gonna do some ice baths this week. We're gonna do some things to heal our bodies," he said. "(But) it's not like were not gonna practice football. The focus this week is gonna be about Hickman getting better for Hickman."
The plan is for players to be in the stands Friday night at Battle, which hosts Jackson, the team the Kewpies are scheduled to face next.
"We're still gonna be a team Friday," Geen said. "We just won't play."
Outside the training room, senior center and defensive tackle Don Blackman was strapping his shoulder pads on and tugging his gloves on.
"(Coach Monroe) wants us to get better and make sure we're not taking off just because we don't have a game this week," he said.
After all, there's still half a season to play.
"Now we've been through it," Monroe said. "The wounds are there. We can heal and get ready for the second part of the season and the playoffs."
Supervising editor is Erik Hall.