One team’s disappointment is another’s dream come true.
The Hickman Kewpies ended the Rock Bridge Bruins’ postseason hopes with a 30-14 victory on Friday night at Hickman High. The victory ensured the Kewpies a chance at a District 6 Class 6 championship, with the deciding game next Friday against the Jefferson City Jays.
Behind the Kewpies' offensive line, running back Brandon Kendrick rushed for 146 yards on 26 carries, including a touchdown. With Kendrick racking up yards on the ground, Hickman (6-3) secured the ball for 75 plays to Rock Bridge’s 39.
“We knew we had a good O-line, big and strong,” said tight end Kyle Nuelle. “We knew that if we got off the ball and pushed we could run the ball. Brandon Kendrick did a good job in picking up the hole and trusting his lineman and running hard.”
Hickman coach Gregg Nesbitt said he stressed the running game in practice.
“We couldn’t have drawn it up any better,” Nesbitt said. “It’s still football, in its simplest form. You still could block, you still got to tackle. Tonight we were able to control the line of scrimmage, knock them off the football, keep the ball for extended periods of time.”
Chase Patton, Rock Bridge’s quarterback, struggled to find open receivers, while the Kewpies constantly pressured him. Hickman sacked Patton twice and Kyle Nuelle and Cedric Alvis each had an interception.
“Our coaches did a lot of work this week coming up with a stunt package that we thought we could win with,” Nuelle said. “We prepared well, had an excellent week of practice, and ran it (the way) that we thought.”
Patton finished 19-of-30 for 224 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Patton struggled in the second half, completing four passes in the second half for 29 yards.
“They won it with their desire and their intensity to get after us,” Patton said. “They brought a bunch of pressure and we had to get the ball out a lot quicker.”
The Kewpies forced Patton out of the pocket all night, and the Bruins could not move the football.
“We pressured and harassed Chase enough,” Nesbitt said. “He’s a great football player, just to keep him from getting into a rhythm. The key was getting him out of the comfort zone.”
The Kewpies capitalized on three Rock Bridge turnovers, leading to 10 points. With 2:23 left in the half, Patton fumbled the handoff. The ball bounced back into the end zone where Josh Sallee recovered for a touchdown.
On the next Rock Bridge drive, Nuelle intercepted Patton’s pass. Aided by a controversial pass interference call on Rock Bridge, the Kewpies drove down to the 14 on six plays. With 16 seconds left, Brandon Ferling kicked a 30-yard field goal to give the Kewpies a 17-7 halftime lead.
Although Rock Bridge proved last week it could come back from a double-digit halftime deficit against Jefferson City, Bruins coach A.J. Ofodile said Hickman outplayed them.
“The bottom line is that we came out and lost to a better football team,” Ofodile said. “We lost to a team that was more physical, more prepared to play, a better-coached football team.”
The Kewpies ran 36 times for 130 yards, including a 15-play drive opening the second half. The drive lasted 7 minutes and ended with a 1-yard touchdown by Blake Tekotte.
“It was very important for us to get the running game established,” Kendrick said. “Our O-line picked it up, they were just swarming with the blocks.”