When the Rock Bridge football team plays Friday in Marshall, it will officially begin defending its North Central Missouri Conference title. The team will have to adjust after losing two key stars from last year.
After leading the Bruins to an 8-2 record with 2,630 passing yards and 30 touchdowns in 2003, quarterback Chase Patton will no longer pull a green and yellow jersey over his shoulder pads. Instead, he will be competing for playing time with the Missouri Tigers, as will last year’s tailback Van Alexander, who rushed for 760 yards and 14 touchdowns during his senior season at Rock Bridge.
The Bruins will try to fill its offense with younger players such as Logan Gray, a 6-foot-1 sophomore quarterback who spent last season as a spectator during Patton’s record-breaking campaign.
“It’s going to be pretty tough,” Gray said. “But, I’ve got a lot of experience. Every day in practice, I got to watch (Patton). It helped out a whole bunch. I’ve got to do what I can do and not try to do what Chase did.”
Rock Bridge coach A.J. Ofodile has high expectations for his new quarterback.
“I expect a lot out of him,” Ofodile said. “I don’t expect him to be Chase, but I expect the same type of performance.”
The Bruins have 10 new starters on offense and eight on defense. Eight are sophomores. Gray will also have a bigger offensive line to help protect him.
“(We are) a lot more physical group than we were last year,” Ofodile said.
The Bruins will have to depend on their running back a lot more this season, as they plan to offer a more balanced passing and running attack.
Sophomore Scott Concannon expects to fill that role and said he thinks with a bigger offensive line, he will make a big contribution.
“I can bring some support and leadership to the offense,” he said.
After the Bruins competed in a four-team Jamboree in Blue Springs on Friday, Ofodile said he feels the team still needs improvement.
“Poise is going to be an issue. They are a talented group, but there is a lack of experience,” he said. “Overall, it was not one of our better outings.”
Ofodile said he was impressed with both Gray and Concannon’s ability to run the ball.
“Even though we are young, we are going to have a good team,” Concannon said.
Said Gray, “Pressure is pretty high. This year, I definitely want to prove to people that we can still win without them.”