The kickoff team has had a lot of running to do this year.
Because of kicker Scott Russell, Rock Bridge’s coverage team has a 65-yard sprint on almost every kickoff. On touchbacks, the coverage team is required to run through the end zone.
Rock Bridge, ranked No. 4 in Class 6, can use as many touchbacks as Russell can kick at 7 tonight against Jefferson City. The Bruins (7-0) open District 6 play against the Jays (5-2).
Russell has 18 touchbacks this year and nine in the past two games. Russell had six touchbacks against Hannibal on Oct. 10, with most of the kicks landing in the back of the end zone.
Russell said better conditioning is the reason for the recent success.
“If you’re all tired and you’re going to kick the ball, it just seems … hard to hit it with full power,” Russell said. “Since I’m playing other positions, it helps me kick farther.”
Russell is on the field for nearly every play. He also plays wide receiver and cornerback.
He has 27 receptions for 415 yards and leads the team with seven touchdown catches. Russell also has a fumble return for a touchdown.
“I rarely get a break,” Russell said. “It’s fun. It’s what I like to do. I’d rather be out there on the field doing something than watching on the sidelines.”
Russell, a senior, started kicking his sophomore year. He played soccer as a child and started playing football in eighth grade. He is 42-for-45 on extra points and has made both field goal attempts. Russell said he started kicking because he saw an opportunity.
“I just saw that I was better than the kicker we had,” Russell said. “I just knew I could go out and do it.”
Russell said he is starting to receive recognition from colleges and has received letters from Illinois, Missouri, Kansas State, Oklahoma and TCU. Russell said he can consistently make field goals from 50 yards and closer and has made a 60-yard field goal in practice.
Rock Bridge coach A.J. Ofodile said having a kicker as consistent as Russell is an advantage.
“It’s a huge luxury to have a team start from the 20 the majority of the time,” Ofodile said. “It’s a luxury for a coach to have that kind of high school kicker.”
The Bruins need all the advantages they can get for the start of district play.
Rock Bridge is the defending Class 6, District 6 champion. Last year, the Bruins beat the Jays 24-21 at Jefferson City on its homecoming.
The Jays struggled last year, going 2-8, but seem to have rebounded this season. Quarterback Tim Allen leads the team with 470 rushing yards. The Jays’ losses are to Olathe North, a school in Kansas, and Rockhurst, the defending Missouri state champion.
Rock Bridge quarterback Chase Patton, who is 61-for-80 for 909 yards and 13 touchdowns the past three games, said it will be a tough game.
“Watching their defense, they’ve got a good idea of what they’re doing,” Patton said.