Jays remember last two games against Hickman [with PODCAST]

Jefferson City probably doesn't need much motivation when it comes to playing Hickman.

But just in case, the Kewpies (2-3) have provided plenty of extra spark in the last two years to get the Jays (3-2, No. 9 in Class 6) fired up for Friday’s 7 p.m. kickoff in Columbia.

16-14 and 14-9 are scores the Jays aren’t soon to forget.

“You can’t sit and hide behind it,” Jefferson City head coach Ted LePage said. “That’s something that’s been talked about and is definitely something we are addressing with the players. This is a team that has found a way to beat us the last two years.”

With the Jays rolling toward the playoffs in 2011, Hickman abruptly ended the heavily favored Jays’ season with a 16-14 victory in the district finale, keeping the Jays at home in November.

Both teams entered last year’s game 5-0, with the Jays being ranked second in the state. The Kewpies frustrated the Jays on their way to a 14-9 victory. That loss seemed to put the Jays in a tailspin they never quite recovered from as they went 2-3 the rest of the season.

“This is something we have to turn around,” LePage said. “It’s more of how can we get better from those two losses because they have found ways to win the game.”

There are similarities LePage can draw from both of those losses. Two years ago, the Kewpies befuddled the Jays by forcing four costly turnovers. Last year, the Jays couldn’t score touchdowns after sustained drives. That frustrated Jefferson City to no end. The Kewpies pulled ahead for good on a late touchdown pass by Mason Murray.

The Jays outgained the Kewpies in both games, but it didn’t matter.

“They don’t beat themselves,” LePage said. “And that’s what makes them really dangerous. They find a way to keep in games by creating turnovers on defense, and they also find a way by controlling the ball on offense.”

Both teams have strayed a little bit from their norm this year.

Quick offensive strikes haven’t been Hickman’s modus operandi in recent years. But two weeks ago, Hickman fell behind Helias 17-0 before rallying for 27 points in the second half to win 27-17.

The Jays are averaging 22 points per game this season, their lowest total since 2005. But it’s been their defense that has been able to get the job done so far, allowing 20 points per game.

That was on display last week when the Jays bottled up DeSmet, holding Spartans running back Marcus Jester to 84 yards rushing. Aside from a 64-yard touchdown in the final minute, the Spartans did little offensively in the Jays’ 18-16 victory. DeSmet had been averaging 39.5 points per game.

But Jefferson City has another tall task to worry about, slowing down Murray and his ability to keep plays alive by scrambling.

“I think one thing you have to tell your club, and we’ve talked about it, is he’s going to make some plays,” LePage said. “He finds ways to make plays. I don’t think you can let it discourage you for the next play. And that’s what we’ve kind of addressed with our team.”

Something the Jays didn’t need to address? The name on the opposing team’s jersey this week. That was obvious in the moments following Jefferson City’s win against DeSmet.

“One of the players stood up and said ‘Hickman.’ It was just one word, all you had to say,” LePage said.

Notes: Hickman leads the series 53-51-4. Jefferson City has never led in the series. ... LePage said receiver Daniel Ellinger will play this week after missing the last three games with a knee injury. He has a pair of touchdown receptions this season. He also said running back Elijah Pittman should be back at full strength. ... Hickman also defeated Wentzville Holt 30-15. Its three losses were to Lee’s Summit North (27-16), Fort Zumwalt East (18-12) and Rock Bridge (27-10).

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