Practice pays off in the game, just ask Hickman coach Gregg Nesbitt.
The Kewpies spent two days practicing third down conversions, and their success helped Hickman beat Rock Bridge 30-14 on Friday at Hickman.
The Kewpies are now set up for a Class 6 District 6 title game against Jefferson City next Friday. The Bruins’ loss knocks them out of contention for the district title.
Hickman was able to convert on third downs while the Bruins’ offense stalled. The Kewpies converted on 11-of-15 third downs and punted only once. Rock Bridge was 2-for-7 on third downs and punted four times.
“I mean, just overall period, they had their way with us,” said A.J. Ofodile, Rock Bridge coach.
Rock Bridge faced long third down situations most of the night, with only one of the seven being shorter than five yards.
Tight end Kyle Nuelle said Hickman knew third down conversions would be the key because Rock Bridge has good linebackers, starting with Van Alexander.
“Coach really came in and said, ‘we need to execute third down because they’re going to stop us on some,’” Nuelle said. “Third down’s the key and we prepared well for it.”
Hickman’s conversions came almost at will in the second half, which allowed it to put the game out-of-reach. Hickman had the ball first in the second half and went to work, converting four third downs on a 15-play drive that took seven minutes.
“You’ve got to win third down, and probably the biggest one was the first third down of the second half,” Nesbitt said.
On third-and-7 at the Hickman 35, quarterback Blake Tekotte completed a 12-yard pass to Cedric Alvis for the first down to continue the drive.
Hickman was 6-for-8 on third down conversions in the second half. Ofodile said Hickman’s success on third down started with its success earlier.
“More importantly on third down, I think they did a great job on first down,” Ofodile said. “I think getting six or seven yards a pop on first down makes it third-and-short, and that’s a real hard down to defend.”
Rock Bridge struggled throughout, with quarterback Chase Patton being pressured on nearly every play. The Bruins’ offense never managed a long drive, scoring on a five-play drive and a two-play drive.
“We’re pretty good at third downs usually,” Patton said. “They were getting so much pressure and we just weren’t able to get the throws. They just did a great job preparing, I guess.”