Bruins hope to cage Jays in homecoming game

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Ji-Ho Lee

In the sports world, few events receive more attention than rivalries, and for good reason. Driven by history and fan fanaticism, these games are intense from beginning to end.
Whether it be the Red Sox and Yankees on the diamond, Alabama and Auburn in the Iron Bowl, Blackhawks and Blues on the ice or Duke and North Carolina on the court, the contests are filled with passion and guaranteed excitement for the spectators.
Closer to home, the Bruins are engulfed in several rivalries themselves. Across town, RBHS annually contends with the Hickman Kewpies; more recently, the Battle Spartans. Outside of city limits, the Bruins face the Jefferson City Jays, a competitive rival throughout the past eight years.
Regardless of the opposition in rivalry games, the adrenaline and the atmosphere provoke a new level of effort and performance from players on both sides.
The 2015 campaign has already offered a rivalry game. In week three, the Bruins fell 27-20 against Battle, the second-ranked team in the Class Five division. Although the Bruins carry a seemingly disappointing 2-3 record, the team’s mentality is still enthusiastic.
“We’ve played a lot better than our record,” senior quarterback Karson Ringdahl said. “We’re a couple plays away from being 4-1 against a stacked schedule.”
For the coaches, the final score and the record of the team are just footnotes in the spectrum of their own personal goals for their players.
“For me, it’s a lot more about the process in which we get things done than it is the outcome,” head coach AJ Ofodile said. “[The players’] mental attitude, their effort, their ability to maintain focus through adversity, to be committed regardless of the situation… It’s doing those things first and then living with the results.”
Ofodile has been pleased with his team’s effort. However, a few small mistakes throughout each game have been the difference between wins and losses.
“Our last couple of games have basically gone down to the last series,” Ofodile said. “You go back and review the game, and there’s individual instances that cost you, and in those close games, those are the things you have to eliminate.”
Despite their record, the Bruins have been successful in some, and competitive in all, of their games against highly touted teams. In week one, the team suffered a 19-point defeat against then third-ranked Rockhurst. Week two was a 47-17 drubbing of DeSmet Jesuit. In week four, the Bruins fell to undefeated Liberty, 27-19.
Even during the losses, there have been two constants which have kept the Bruins competitive in their games.
“Our strengths so far [this season] have been our defense and running game,” Ringdahl said. “They have both been phenomenal. To keep them going we just need to stay focused and keep having good practices.”
It was that defense and running game which led to the success of last week’s rivalry game against Hickman.
The Bruins’ defense shutout the Hickman offense, while scoring two points of their own, in a 22-0 defeat of the Kewpies.
“Our defense is very good,” senior receiver Taten Lyngstad said. “They’ve had a whole offseason to mature and get bigger, faster, stronger, and it really has shown. They do a great job with points on the boards.”
Meanwhile, the offense sputtered early, but would find its rhythm as the game advanced. Senior running backs Nick Collins and Tre Turner would both have big games, as Collins scored on a 42-yard touchdown pass from Ringdahl. Ringdahl also tossed a touchdown to receiver Tate Nickleberry, while scoring on his own with a 31-yard touchdown run.
“Our defense kept us in games even when the offense hasn’t been great,” Collins said. “When we are successful, it all starts with the offensive line.”
This week, the Bruins face another rival in Jefferson City. Despite the intense competition as of late, the team has yet to be phased by the task of facing rivals.
“The Hickman game was just another game for us, and so is Jefferson City,” senior defensive lineman and Arkansas Razorback commit Hayden Johnson, said. “We’ll ‘game plan it’ like any other and stick to our plan.”
Ofodile is not worried about his team in the pressure situations, either.
“We’ve already played a [rivalry game] with Battle…and we played the game at [Faurot Field] so we’ve had a couple opportunities to manage [the atmosphere],” Ofodile said. “I think we’re settled into [rivalry games].”
Although the Bruins remain cool, some history is involved in this year’s game against the Jays.
Last year, RBHS defeated Jefferson City 36-31 on a game winning touchdown with 25 seconds left on the clock.
The Bruins remain focused on the task at hand and gear up to face the Jays in front of the homecoming crowd.
“We know [Jefferson City] has some good athletes like always, so we know what we’re getting when we line up across from them,” Lyngstad said. “We need to have everyone focused in across the board, and we can’t afford these small mistakes if we want to be successful against [Jefferson City] and finish the season off well.”
For Ofodile, the Jefferson City Jays game, like the rest of the season, is not about being successful physically, but rather mentally.
“I don’t think we have very many physical weaknesses. We have big, fast, smart and strong kids. We have everything you need in that realm,” Ofodile said. “Overall, that mental focus piece has kind of been where our shortcomings have been this year. But the good thing is those are things that are really correctable, so we’re hoping down the stretch that’s what will happen.”