Republished from the Columbia Missourian
COLUMBIA — On Nov. 2, 2012, Rock Bridge quarterback Logan Twehous and Hickman quarterback Mason Murray will face one another in a district playoff game.
On Oct. 21, 1994, they weren’t even born.
But while the Rock Bridge and Hickman high school quarterbacks were waiting for the stork to stop by, something big was brewing at their future stomping grounds.
That Friday night, the one-loss Kewpies hosted the undefeated Bruins in a game KOMU television would later call “The Game of the Century.”
Corby Jones, a future MU star, was the quarterback for Hickman. In the third overtime, Jones found his way into the end zone on a play-action quarterback run. With the game on the line, Hickman coach Gregg Nesbitt told Jones to run a duplicate of the previous play and go for the two-point conversion. Jones, who said before the game that he’d never play football again if the Kewpies lost the game, thought Hickman should kick the extra point. But he begrudgingly agreed, and moments later he not-so-begrudgingly leaped into his teammate’s arms after scoring two points and securing a 43-42 victory.
Rock Bridge athletics director Jennifer Mast was a student at Rock Bridge in 1994.
“It was overcrowded, people standing three- and four-deep around the fences,” she said. “It wasn’t extremely cold, but it was rainy, and the rain picked up at the end of the game significantly. I remember it being very rainy with no umbrellas up because the game was so intense.”
Current Hickman coach Arnel Monroe was at the game, too, one of about 9,000 in attendance.
“It was the first time in a long time that we had taken Rock Bridge as a serious foe as Kewpie nation,” he said. “We were really amped for it. They had a great team, and, of course, we had a great team.”
The teams hadn’t played each other since 1981, when Monroe was a freshman at Hickman. That year, Rock Bridge won 7-0 in a state sectional game.
Former Rock Bridge coach and athletics director John Henage said he had tried to prevent a rivalry between the two Columbia public schools, fearing the bad blood that could be created.
“I had a bad experience in St. Joe with two city schools playing each other,” he was quoted as saying in a 2008 Missourian article. “Brothers had kids, and they would end up playing each other. Then they wouldn’t speak to each other at Christmas.”
Mast wouldn’t put the rivalry at quite that level.
“The rivalry is very strong,” she said. “But I wouldn’t call it bad blood.”
When the rivals face off Friday, the stage will be set for quite the matchup. We can’t say it will be another game of the century — though, it is a different century. What we can do is present you with the facts and let you decide for yourself:
- This the first time Hickman and Rock Bridge have ever played each other in football twice in the same year.
- This is only the second time the two schools have played one another in a playoff game. Sort of. Before this season, the final three games of the season were essentially a team’s district playoff games, and the schools have played each other in these games. “The playoffs completely changed complexion with the new rules,” Mast said. “If your definition is past week 10, then yes, this is the second time.” The first was in 1981.
- For the first time since 2003, the two schools will be playing each other at a high school venue. In 2004, the teams began playing the Providence Bowl at MU’s Faurot Field. This year, the game drew 15,000. Hickman High School will host Friday’s game, and while its field usually only holds 3,500 fans,bleachers are being added and more than 5,000 are expected. In other words, a ’94-esque crowd could be on hand.
- The first game between the Bruins and Kewpies in 2012 may not have earned a “Game of the Century” distinction, but it was decidedly a wild one. The Bruins brought an 11-point lead into the fourth quarter, but the Kewpies took the lead with 1:13 remaining on a touchdown catch by Grant Jones. Rock Bridge drove down the field to set up a 29-yard field goal, but it missed the uprights as time expired. The Hickman fans rushed the field after the 22-21 victory.
- Rock Bridge (7-3) and Hickman (8-1) are both ranked in the top 15 of Missouri schools by USA Today High School Sports. Rock Bridge is at No. 9, while Hickman comes in at No. 14.
So just how high are the stakes?
Bruins coach A.J. Ofodile, who was playing for the NFL’s Buffalo Bills in 1994, said this game isn’t on a different level than any other playoff games he’s coached in the past.
“I don’t think this one’s necessarily any bigger, as far as the ramifications go,” he said. “We already lost. How many more rap songs can you make? How many more Twitter battles can you have about us losing? We’ve already lived the nightmare.”
Mast, on the other hand, said it could be another legendary contest.
“I would say so. It’s gonna be hard to top the ’94 (game) because of the way it happened … but yes, I think there’s a similar feel in Columbia as there was prior to the ’94 game,” she said.
Topping the Game of the Century might be impossible, but it might be just as tough for this sequel to live up to the first game of 2012.
“I don’t know how you could,” Ofodile said. “Honestly, for my health, I hope (it doesn’t). I hope they either put us out of our misery early or we have a big one, one of the two.
“To be honest with you, though, if you look at the last three years, the odds are, it’s probably going to go down to the wire.”
— Matthew Fairburn contributed to this report