Capital City found itself in a one-possession game most of last Friday against Hickman.
The Cavaliers lost momentum down the stretch, something the fledgling program is looking to change this week against an undefeated foe that has thrived in crunch time.
Capital City (0-3, 0-2 Central Missouri Activities Conference) will travel tonight to Columbia to face Rock Bridge, its third straight week of playing a Columbia opponent. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Rock Bridge (3-0, 2-0) has already equaled last year's win total and is tied atop the CMAC standings with Helias. The Bruins went 0-5 in one-possession games last year, but are 2-0 in such games this season.
"They consistently do good things," Capital City coach Shannon Jolley said of Rock Bridge. "They've done certain things in a couple games this season to put themselves in position to win at the end. Even when they're not playing at their best, through consistency and expectations in the program, they find a way to win ball games."
The Bruins started the season with a 26-24 home win against Staley — a perennial state title contender that was coming off a 10-win season and the Class 5 District 8 championship.
Rock Bridge traveled to Sedalia Smith-Cotton for its inaugural CMAC game, routing the Tigers 42-0. Jack Bower booted a 27-yard field goal with 25 seconds left to lift the Bruins to a 23-21 home win last week against Jefferson City.
Rock Bridge has overcome the graduation of 18 players — including Missouri linebacker Will Norris and Minnesota defensive lineman Jalen Logan-Redding — by relying on its multipronged rushing attack. Junior dual-threat quarterback Nathan Dent has seven total touchdowns in his first year as the starter. Senior Bryce Jackson has scored four times on the ground in the last two weeks, and teammate Jonathan Garr has been an effective complement at fullback.
On the other side, Capital City is looking to become more stout in its run defense. Opposing offenses have averaged 12.1 yards per carry (86 rushes for 1,042 yards) against the Cavaliers this season. Hickman racked up 455 yards on the ground last week.
"We have to go back to the whole philosophy of doing your job," Jolley said. "It's an educational process of teaching these kids the difference between inside and outside zone, as well as where they need to be and why. They're learning what different offensive looks require defensively."
Another area of improvement for Capital City is ball security. The Cavaliers have fumbled 11 times this season and lost six — most on exchanges between the center and quarterback.
"That's something we've taken a good look at. It's been terrible so far," Jolley said. "There's some execution and maturity issues there. We also still have some nervous energy that we're trying to work through."
The Cavaliers' starting quarterback situation is still fluid. Junior southpaw Taggert Bodenstab started last week, but Kaden Dassrath came on in relief late in the third quarter while his classmate dealt with leg cramps. The two signal-callers split the remaining snaps against the Kewpies, and on several plays, both stayed on the field.
Bodenstab and several of his teammates struggled with cramps last week under rainy, humid conditions. In addition to his quarterback duties, he serves as a defensive back and plays on special teams, which means he puts an emphasis on proper nutrition and hydration to stay in the game.
"On game day, I try to eat bananas and drink a whole lot of water," Bodenstab said. "I bring a plastic water bottle and try finish it during each class I have, then refill it all day."
Capital City did not complete a pass last week, but it is looking to continue its momentum on the ground.
After rushing for 96 yards on 22 carries the first two weeks of the season, junior Ethan Wood erupted for 143 yards and 22 carries against Hickman. Sophomore Hurley Jacobs had three rushing scores in the first half, and junior Ian Nelson gave the Cavaliers their first second-half lead as a varsity squad.
Per Columbia Public Schools athletic department guidelines, there will be limited fan attendance to watch the Cavaliers and Bruins in person.
Players for both teams will be provided with one player card to give to a guest. There will be no general admission. Fans are required to wear a mask or face covering while entering and exiting the facility and when social distancing cannot occur. Separate entrances and restrooms will be marked for both teams.