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story.lead_photo.caption Jefferson City quarterback Seth Brooks searches for room to run during last Friday night's game against Hannibal at Adkins Stadium. Photo by Jason Strickland / California Democrat.

A couple yards at a time was about all the Jefferson City offense could muster Week 1 against Wentzville: Holt.

A week later, two of the Jays' three touchdowns came on plays of at least 30 yards.

It was a sign of progress for the Jays, who enter Week 3 trying to win for the first time since Week 3 of last season.

With Jefferson City playing in its first Central Missouri Activities Conference game tonight against Rock Bridge (2-0), the Jays will need to progress further against a team coming off a shutout victory next on the schedule.

Kickoff is at 7 p.m. tonight in Columbia.

"We're just searching, to be honest with you," Jays coach Scott Bailey said. "We're searching for a way to get our playmakers the ball or searching for schemes and formations that work."

Whatever the Jays find for their offense will be matched up against a defensive unit that limited the Sedalia Smith-Cotton Tigers to fewer than 70 yards in the second half of a 42-0 road win.

A week earlier, the Bruins used a 50-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown to come back from a 10-point second-half deficit to win 26-24 against Staley at home.

A pair of second-half interceptions led to two Hannibal touchdowns in last week's 32-21 defeat of Jefferson City at Adkins Stadium.

Quarterback Seth Brooks was successful on the ground, though, gaining 47 yards on 16 rushing attempts.

"Seth did a pretty good job of the inside run game last week, which he hasn't really been asked to do much in years past so it's new to him," Bailey said. "One of the things that is difficult when you're an inside run quarterback is you run the ball, you run the ball, you get hit and then I call a pass where you're expected to throw that on the money and all of a sudden you're either winded or banged up.

"So it's a little bit different style of offense when it comes to that. He's gonna learn that you've got to take that hit, be able to come back and throw an accurate ball."

Brooks and the Jays will line up opposite a 3-4 alignment tonight with some size on the line.

Drew Nichols, a 6-foot-3, 280-pound senior, starts at nose guard for the Bruins. At one of the end positions is junior Jeremiah Nathan (6-3, 250 pounds).

Junior linebacker Nate Norris, who caused and recovered the aforementioned fumble against Staley, lines up at an outside spot.

The Jays were held to 2.5 yards per rushing attempt in last season's 41-28 loss to the Bruins, who have defeated the Jays three straight times.

Jefferson City averaged 3.0 yards per attempt on the ground last week.

"The No. 1 thing of anybody's run game is improvement in the offensive line," Bailey said. "I think our offensive line improved from Week 1 to 2. We've still got a long way to go but we hope to be playing a long season, so we hope that each week our offensive line improves."

Rock Bridge leans on its rushing attack. Senior running back Bryce Jackson has reached 100 yards on the ground in each of the first two games, gaining 211 yards on 41 carries.

Jackson surpassed that yardage last season against the Jays alone, running for 230 yards on 29 attempts.

Taking the snaps is junior quarterback Nathan Dent, who can contribute through the air and on the ground.

Rock Bridge receivers Payton Messer (6-1, 160) and Mark Hajicek (6-2, 160) could be matched up against Isaac Jones (5-10) and Ian Jones (5-10) on the outside.

Bailey made a switch last week at the corner positions to avoid having so many two-way players.

"There were a lot of new guys playing in our secondary in Week 2 from Week 1 and I thought they did a really good job," Bailey said. "Some of them have had zero varsity experience. I thought early on the speed caught them off guard and once they adjusted to it I thought they played pretty well."

This will be the 28th meeting between the Jays and Bruins, with Jefferson City leading the all-time series 18-9.

Jefferson City's last victory against Rock Bridge came in 2016, when the Jays scored five touchdowns in the second quarter on their way to a 61-21 win at Adkins Stadium.

The last time Jefferson City won in this series in Columbia was in 2015 in a 31-21 victory.

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