Familiar faces headline first Rock Bridge-Battle football game

Thursday, September 4, 2014 | 6:00 a.m. CDT
Battle High School Spartans practice Wednesday and prepare to host Rock Bridge High School on Friday.

COLUMBIA — They've yet to play a single game against each other, but the Battle High School and Rock Bridge High School football teams know one another very well.

Before he was the first-ever coach of the Battle Spartans football team, Justin Conyers was on the staff of the Rock Bridge Bruins for eight seasons, serving as both the assistant head coach and defensive coordinator.

When asked if he took anything away from his time at Rock Bridge, Conyers said that working under coach A.J. Ofodile taught him how to pay attention to detail.

"A.J. (Ofodile) does a great job of making sure all the X's and O's, from top to bottom, are taken care of," Conyers said. "He gets his guys prepared to win on Friday nights."

"Me and Justin talk all the time," Ofodile said. "He knows all of the kids over here (at Rock Bridge) for the most part, and I'm very familiar with his. I think that familiarity breeds a ton of enthusiasm for playing against each other."

The two schools faced off last month in the annual High School Football Jamboree and also in seven-on-seven drills in the offseason, helping to fuel some of the tension.

"I think this will be one of the most anticipated games we've had," Ofodile said. "We just need to make sure we're preparing the right way, so we can put our best foot forward."

Rock Bridge is a Class 6 high school football program, and Battle plays in Class 5, so Friday night's game won't have postseason implications. However, neither team is interested in losing to a fellow Columbia high school, especially when familiar faces stand on the other sideline.

The Spartan defense will have to deal with receiver and University of Oregon commit Alex Ofodile, and the Bruins have to go against a strong Battle backfield led by senior Nash Sutherlin. But Rock Bridge senior linebacker Matt Troyer said he thinks the Bruins will be ready for Battle's rushing attack.

"I think our front seven is just as good, if not better. We're definitely not scared of them," Troyer said. "We just need to read our keys and our assignments and have a good week of practice. I'm not worried."

Friday's game will be the first time Conyers has faced off against his old team in the regular season. While he wants to treat it like any other game, Conyers said he knows it will be different seeing his former boss across the sideline.

"I think I'm putting a little too much pressure on myself," Conyers said. "I had been with that staff for (nearly) a decade. I don't want to come out and lose. But I told my team tonight, 'Let's have fun,' and I'm gonna do the same. I'm excited."

Supervising editor is Raymond Howze.

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