The matchup between Hickman and Rock Bridge is known to many in Columbia as an intense rivalry nicknamed the Providence Bowl.
But this year, the Kewpies are treating this week just like any other.
“Every victory is important,” coach Cedric Alvis said. “Whether it is the school down the road or a team eight hours away.”
With playoffs around the corner, both teams are looking to get things going the right direction — and quickly. The Bruins have dropped their past three games, while Hickman has dropped two in a row.
Rock Bridge will lean on quarterback Nathan Dent and running back Jim Whaley to stabilize an offense that has looked like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde this season, scoring 30 or more points in four games but 14 or fewer in the other three.
“They got some playmakers, some kids that are really talented,” Alvis said. “Their quarterback is a difference maker. I really like their running back, Whaley. The more and more I watch, he is a really talented kid.”
Stopping Whaley is priority No. 1 for the Kewpies, who have been plagued in recent weeks by an inability to stop the run. In their past two games, the Kewpies have given up more than 600 yards on the ground and nine rushing touchdowns.
“You can’t win if you can’t stop the run,” Alvis said.
The Kewpies know they won’t be able to take Whaley out of the game completely, but they’ll focus on limiting his impact as much as possible.
“I was talking with my defense staff, and they joked about calling him the government,” Alvis said. “Because he is always going to get his at the end of the day, but we got do our best to limit what he can do.”
Hickman’s struggles aren’t limited to defense. You can’t win games scoring only three points, as the Kewpies did last week in a loss to Raymore-Peculiar.
The biggest story on offense these past few weeks has been the Kewpies’ starting quarterback come Friday. In the past two weeks, freshman Carter Holliday has gotten the nod, but before that it was senior Colbin Clark.
Alvis hasn’t committed to either one the past two weeks, saying it’s a “competition” each week for the starting spot.
Alvis is looking for the QB each week, he said, who is “making some plays, moving the football, keeping the offense going, holding on to the football, not giving it to the other team.”
The primary goal for the Kewpies is establishing a rhythm in these last two weeks of the regular season that they can carry forward into the playoffs. They need everyone to buy in if they want any chance of making noise in districts.
“We need to just understand what we’ve been working for,” Alvis said. “The culture change and the mindset, because they are hugely important in the playoffs.”