Rock Bridge football is angry. After a 50-7 defeat against De Smet last week, there is a chip on the 0-2 Bruins’ shoulders, and they’re looking to get rid of it.

“That was a horrible loss,” coach Van Vanatta said. “It was absolutely disgusting. There’s a sick feeling in that locker room right now.”

But that is exactly how Vanatta wants his players to feel. The team could have easily justified its two losses this season. Both were against very quality opponents: Rockhurst played in the Class 6 state championship last year, and De Smet returned more starters than graduated from the 2018 team that was only defeated by Vianney and CBC, teams that won the Class 5 and 6 championships, respectively.

Instead, the Bruins have come out in practice this week and “answered the call.” Vanatta says that his mantra this week has been one of no more excuses. His team “has to get it done” this time.

At stake this week is more than just the worrying prospect of beginning a season with three consecutive defeats for the first time since 2016. Local bragging rights will also be on the line when Battle comes to play on Friday.

“They’re going to get after us,” Vanatta said. “It’s a rivalry game and I don’t expect anything less. I would be upset if there was anything less.”

Battle’s offense has been unstoppable so far, racking up 108 points through two games against SLUH and Smith-Cotton. But the Spartans’ defense has been almost as porous. Battle conceded 52 points in its narrow loss against SLUH and then let up 21 more against the Tigers.

It could be the perfect game for Rock Bridge’s sputtering offense to finally click. The Bruins have struggled to piece together successful drives, as negative plays and penalties have stopped many possessions in their tracks. In fact, the defense has more points this season than the offense, thanks to Peyton Carr’s pick six against Rockhurst and Payton Messer’s scoop and score against De Smet.

But Vanatta is hoping to leave the mistakes in the past alongside the two opening defeats.

“We’ve got to come together as a team,” Vanatta said. “We’ve got to start building ourselves up first and then our team second, and basically learn to trust each other. We have to get back on track, we have to get some positivity going, and we’ll continue to climb from there.”

With what is likely to be their two toughest opponents out of the way, the Bruins now can look forward to an easier schedule. They have the talent to win all seven of their remaining regular season games, but they will need to get off to a good start when they host Battle at 7 p.m. Friday.

  • Sports reporter, spring 2019. Studying sports journalism. Reach me at, or in the newsroom at 882-5700.

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