Jefferson City — Hickman’s football team huddled in the end zone minutes before the second half began Friday.
What was said in that huddle belongs to the Kewpies. What was done afterwards sealed Hickman’s postseason fate.
After two short gains to open up the second half, Jefferson City quarterback Tom McKee dropped back to pass on third and eight.
With Luke Harper and Alex Geiger charging through the interior of the Jays’ offensive line, McKee hurried a pass down the middle. It never got to his receiver.
The pass was tipped at the line of scrimmage and hung in the air. Time seemed to slow as the ball fell and the Kewpies’ Devin Coleman dove underneath it before it could hit the grass at the 29-yard line.
Things moved quickly from there. Brandon Kendrick took a handoff on the Kewpies first play after the turnover and broke through the Jays’ secondary for a 29-yard touchdown run.
“They’re a team that really gets pumped up after half,” Harper said. “We knew if we could take those first few blows away from them and get a little doubt in their mind to start off (the second half), we knew they would be in trouble.”
The momentum went to Hickman for the rest of the game on the way to the state playoffs.
For the second straight year, Hickman (8-1) went undefeated in district play to advance to state quarter-finals, where it will play host to DeSmet Jesuit at 7 p.m. Friday night.
DeSmet clinched a spot in the quarterfinals last week, capped off a 10-0 season with a 36-3 win against Fort Zumwalt South on Friday night.
The Spartans, ranked fifth in the most recent Missouri Associated Press Class 6 poll, have outscored their opponents 319-119 on the season.
Hickman’s defense dominated Jefferson City (6-4) from the outset, allowing only 99 yards of offense.
Sixty three of those yards came on Jefferson City’s last drive of the game with less than two minutes left and the Kewpies leading 27-0.
Jefferson City’s running attack was muffled all night, beginning at the line of scrimmage.
“I think we’re as good as advertised (on defense),” Hickman coach Gregg Nesbitt said. “It’s awfully nice as an offensive coordinator to know we certainly don’t have to score a lot.”
The Kewpies gained 321 yards of offense, with 125 yards coming on three touchdown runs. Hickman struggled to cap off many sustained drives because of 13 penalties for 94 yards.
“I sure wish I had an answer,” Nesbitt said. “We’ve got to address (the penalties) and get better.”