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story.lead_photo.caption Rockhurst receiver Joseph Coit reaches for the pass as Jays defensive back Devin White chases after Coit during a game last year in Kansas City. Photo by Jason Strickland / California Democrat.

There was a different sound at Jefferson City Jays football practice this week.

Loud cracks of shoulder pads meeting in a confined space, the roar of cheers when the ball carrier got driven to the turf.

The Jays were enjoying a 4-on-4 version of the Oklahoma Drill.

It must be Rockhurst week.

"There should be some popping going on," Jefferson City coach Terry Walker said. "We have to get more physical, you've got to get mentally tougher and physically tougher. We have way too many kids on the sideline right now that are nursing some sort of an injury, so we've just got to figure out how to get tougher."

The Jays (2-6) enter tonight's game against the Hawklets (5-3), who are ranked 10th in Class 6 in this week's Missouri Media Rankings, on a five-game losing streak. Game time is 7 p.m. at Adkins Stadium.

Meanwhile, Rockhurst is starting to hit its stride with two straight wins, including knocking off second-ranked C.B.C. 31-14 last week in Kansas City.

The Jays are in for quite the battle, especially up front.

"I haven't been pleased with how we're controlling some of our gap stuff with our front seven," Walker said. "You've got to give some initial shock to set yourself up to destroy the block, and then based upon where the ball is going you've got to have your hands on the offensive man so you can throw him or get rid of him in a manner that's not going to impede your way to get to the ball carrier.

"So we're just working on some of that basic stuff."

A lot of what the Hawklets do is basic. They just do it better than their opponent more times than not. Look no further than coach Tony Severino, who's retiring after 37 years at Rockhurst.

Severino's final regular season game leading the Hawklets comes as Jefferson City and Rockhurst conclude a rivalry — at least for now — that began in 1976.

Rockhurst is 343-91-1 with seven state championships and four runner-up finishes since Severino took over.

"To coach as long as he has, and to have had all the impact on those players like he has, and to have had the success that he's had, you've got to be a grinder to be able to do that," Walker said. "He's been the model of consistency."

The Jays and Hawklets have met at least once every year since 1985, with Rockhurst holding a 27-15 edge in the all-time series.

The 1989 Class 5A state semifinal sticks out to Walker, who described it as "probably the greatest high school game in the state of Missouri."

The game lasted four overtime periods with Rockhurst winning 34-31 by recovering a fumble in the end zone on a third-and-goal from the 1.

"It's still talked about by a lot of people, especially a lot of old Jaybird football fans," Walker said. "Not necessarily fondly because we lost it, but it was still a great football game."

Tonight will be the last time the Jays and Hawklets will meet on the football field, at least until it's put on the schedule again.

Jefferson City will play six Central Missouri Activities Conference games next season with two St. Louis-area schools and Hannibal making up the remaining games.

"I am sad to see it go away," Walker said. "Obviously we're transitioning to the conference, so we'll start playing some other teams. But we're adding Helias, which we've never played before in football, so that will be a great, great matchup and a great rivalry. We're adding Capital City High School to the varsity level.

"So even though we're going to be losing Rockhurst, we're going to be gaining a lot of great matchups that I think, at least locally, people are really going to want to see."

The Jefferson City-Rockhurst rivalry has been one-sided recently, with the Hawklets winning the past three matchups by a combined score of 120-26.

Rockhurst is only averaging a little more than 20 points per game this season, but have scored at least 40 against Jefferson City twice in the past three years.

"We've got to block defeat and we've got to tackle," Walker said. "Because they're going to run iso, they're going to run blast, they're going to run their triple option, they're going to run toss, they're going to run draw, they're going to run reverse, all those plays they've been running for 30 years.

"And some of them we will even know before they run them, but it's a function of the kids have to execute and then they have to be willing to stick their nose in there and get kind of nasty in order to make a play."

Rockhurst leans on running back Max Williams to carry the ball, but also get fullback Chuck Ingram involved as well.

Taking the snaps for the Hawklets is Bobby Hummel.

Preparing for the Hawklets hasn't been easy for the Jays this week.

"We're struggling with some depth issues due to a lot of the injuries that we have, so we're not necessarily getting the best look in practice on some of these things so it's hard to replicate the speed of their team offensively," Walker said.

Rockhurst is still stiff on the defensive side of the ball, recording two shutouts while allowing fewer than 14 points per game.

The Hawklets have used three- and four-man fronts this season.

"Historically, they've been a three-man front and they play it exceptionally well, but this is the first year I've seen them jumping in and out (of the three-man front) before," Walker said.

"They don't have big guys on the D-line, but those guys are good. They're athletic. They do a great job of getting off the football. They do a great job of using their hands and controlling offensive linemen and they just do a good job, and that's why their defense is so salty."

III

Notes: The Jays will be without linebackers Michael Heislen and Bryant Gipe tonight because of injuries. Offensive and defensive lineman Brandon Backues will be out after being taken off the field on a stretcher in the third quarter of last week's game against Battle. "There's no serious injury so thank goodness for that," Walker said. "I think he's had some concussion symptoms and we'll have to see what the medical staff says about that." The Jays enter the final week of the regular season eighth in the Class 6 District 3 standings with 21.82 points, nearly six points behind Lindbergh (3-5). Joplin (8-0), ranked third in the media poll, is first with 45.75 points with ninth-ranked Marquette (7-1) in second with 42.86 points. Lafayette: Wildwood (7-1) is third with 42.55 points.

Related Media: Jefferson City Jays Football Podcast [Rockhurst preview, Oct. 25, 2019]

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