When the Rock Bridge Bruins run onto the field at Memorial Stadium tonight for week nine of their season, they will set foot on the same ground where Missouri greats Corby Jones, Brock Olivo and Justin Gage once played.
But before the Bruins get too caught up in the sense of awe, they will have to remember what they are at Memorial Stadium for: a game with the No. 1 Hickman Kewpies.
“There’s more pressure,” said Rock Bridge quarterback Logan Gray. “But it’s still just a high school game so you can’t let it get to your head too much.”
A win for the Bruins would give them the same record in the district tournament held by the Kewpies and would return them to the post-season race.
“For us, it’s a one-game season,” said Bruins’ coach A.J. Ofodile. “It’s do or die for us. If we don’t win, the season’s over as far as any type of opportunity to move on.”
The Kewpies (6-1, 1-0) have given up 48 points this season and opened district play last week with a 48-3 win against Fort Zumwalt West. Cedric Alvis returned a 93-yard touchdown on the opening kickoff and quarterback Andrew Perkins, who has filled in all season for injured starter Blake Tekotte, rushed for two touchdowns and passed for another.
The Bruins (5-3, 0-1) struggled against Jefferson City in their district opener, managing just one touchdown and getting called for 105 yards on penalties.
The Kewpies have lost only twice in seven games to Rock Bridge. Ofodile said that just like every year, his team will be the underdogs in this game.
But for several Bruins, that’s quite all right.
“I love being the underdog,” said Demond Thorpe, whose 534 receiving yards lead area teams. “I think it helps me get motivated. I like people who don’t think I can achieve something.”
Gray said that his team faces less pressure to win when it is not the favorite.
“I think Hickman has everything to lose, and we don’t have anything to lose,” Gray said. “It’s a lot easier to play that way.”
Both schools have tried for several years to play on the university campus, but this is the first year they have been able to manage it.
“It’s a great opportunity to play in that kind of venue,” Ofodile said. “One of the biggest reasons we’re doing it is because not everybody is going to always get to play in that kind of stadium.”
The game was originally scheduled at Rock Bridge, where the Bruins are undefeated this season. Ofodile thinks that moving to a nicer field could help in this week’s game.
“That’s the best advantage in the world when you have to actually run some routes and do some things on a good field, regardless of what the weather is going to be like,” Ofodile said.
Gray said he can’t wait for this opportunity.
“It’s gonna be exciting,” he said. “I heard they might even have the Jumbotron going. Whenever you play in an environment like that, you’ve really got to be excited. It’s something to really look forward to.”