SPRINGFIELD — Having some fun on the bus must have helped Rock Bridge.
The Bruins ended their season on a positive note, beating Kickapoo 42-21 on Thursday in Springfield.
Rock Bridge (8-2, 1-2) changed its normal business-like attitude on the trip. Coach A.J. Ofodile allowed the players to talk and joke with each other instead of requiring them to stay quiet during the ride.
“The guys had a lot of fun playing, really relaxed,” Ofodile said. “It’s really fun for some of our seniors to go out with a big game like they had.”
Rock Bridge’s playoff hopes ended in a 30-14 loss to Hickman a week ago and there was little pressure in the game.
The Bruins stayed relaxed in the third quarter after the Chiefs tied it at 21 on running back Matt Hamilton’s 10-yard run with 8:15 left in the quarter.
Rock Bridge reclaimed the lead on its next drive with quarterback Chase Patton finding Johnny Kruse for a 4-yard touchdown pass. Patton, who was 24-for-37 for 366 yards and five touchdowns, said playing for fun made it easier.
“Coach just let us be ourselves,” Patton said. “He just told us to go out and play like we do in the neighborhood.”
Patton finished his high school career with his longest completion of the season, a 78-yard touchdown pass to Johnny Kruse. The pass finished a 99-yard fourth-quarter drive that took four plays. Kruse outran two defenders and Patton hit him in stride, which allowed Kruse to out run the defense for the final 52 yards.
“Like I’ve said all year long, (Kruse) is a guy that deserves Division I recognition,” Ofodile said. “That’s the exclamation point that Chase and Johnny’s careers deserve.”
The Chiefs’ final drive of the first half kept them close. Kickapoo (5-5, 0-3) drove 64 yards and scored with one second left to cut the lead to 21-13.
Defense was still a problem for the Bruins, who gave up 319 yards rushing, Hamilton ran for 157 yards, and Shane Laurie gained 118 yards for two touchdowns.
With each team gaining yards successfully, turnovers were important.
Rock Bridge gave the ball away on the opening kickoff when Scott Concannon fumbled on the Bruins’ 14. Kickapoo capitalized and scored seven plays later on Shane Laurie’s 1-yard run.
The Bruins pulled away in the third quarter after Laurie fumbled on Rock Bridge’s 38.
Scott Russell intercepted a pass from Laurie in the fourth quarter on the Rock Bridge 1, which led to the Bruins final points.
While the Chiefs ran 64 times, Rock Bridge picked its spots to run, handing off only 10 times. Van Alexander gained 73 yards on nine carries and had a 21-yard touchdown run, which gave the Bruins their first lead at 14-7 in the second quarter.
Alexander said the pressure was off for the last game.
“We tried to emphasize that it’s our last game coming out here ... basically just have fun,” Alexander said. “I think we did that.”