Jays preparing for traditionally strong Rockhurst (with PODCAST)

These aren’t your older brother’s Rockhurst Hawklets.

Rockhurst, up there with Jefferson City as one of the most prestigious high-school football programs in Missouri, is mired in a down year by the nine-time state champions’ lofty standards.

But don’t tell that to Jefferson City head coach Ted LePage, as his No. 7 Jays (5-2) host No. 8 Rockhurst (3-4) at 7 p.m. Friday at Adkins Stadium.

Audio

Jefferson City Week 8 Podcast (Soundcloud)

Each week, likely due out Thursday mornings, Jefferson City football beat writer Adam Stillman and host Tom Rackers will break down everything to do with Jay football. In this podcast, they look back at Jefferson City's Week 7 win against Gateway Tech and look ahead to Week 8's contest against Rockhurst.

“No, none whatsoever,” LePage said when asked if he put any stock into Rockhurst having a down year. “When you turn on film and you watch them, they played three teams that were ranked No. 1 in their states when they were playing them, and one that was ranked real high.

“So a lot of times some Jimmys and Joes on the other side have something to say about that. They’re a very, very good football team, they’re very well-coached and they look like Rockhurst.”

Those four defeats exceed Rockhurst’s loss total from a season ago, when the Hawklets went 9-3. The storied program’s last state title game in 2010, their fourth in 11 years.

LePage expects a vintage Rockhurst team Friday night.

“The biggest thing you expect there is Rockhurst is going to be Rockhurst,” he said. “They’re going to come in and they’re going to be a team that does not beat themselves. They’re going to do all the little things right. When you’re playing in this game, you have to emulate that and try to do all the little things right.

“It’s kind of like a blitzkrieg mentality. It looks like they’re just there, there, there, all of a sudden, ‘Boom,’ and they’re up 21. You can’t explain it, it’s because they do all the little things right.”

It appears Rockhurst is starting to assert that identity again, as the Hawklets have won three of their past four contests, including a 47-28 pasting of Rock Bridge last Friday.

“They block and they tackle,” LePage said. “That sounds very simple, but when they block their running backs find lanes and they get five, six yards. They’re a very patient football team. I guess that’s where the blitzkrieg mentality comes in, because they’re very patient. They’ll just 5, 6-yard you to death. They’re not in any hurry to get anything done. And then defensively they try to force you into as many three-and-outs as they can and they rally to the football really well.”

Rockhurst utilizes a two-quarterback operation, splitting time between junior T.J. Green (6-1, 185) and senior Ahmad Tyler (6-3, 180).

“Green is more of the traditional Rockhurst-type quarterback,” LePage said. “He can roll out, run enough to scare you, but he’s more of managing their offense.

“Tyler is more of the (Nathan) Scheelhaase kid they had a couple years ago (who is now the starting quarterback for the Illinois Fighting Illini), where they’re going to try to get him outside the pocket and let him make plays with his feet and then beat you with his arm.

“Those are the two guys who really stand out.”

On the defensive side, senior middle linebacker Luke Arbanas (6-3, 227) is the guy to watch.

“He is their best player on defense,” LePage said. “Traditionally strong middle linebacker, they base their defense off gap control and letting their middle linebacker make plays, and this guy’s as good as they’ve had for a while.”

Jefferson City appears to be gelling at the right time, as the Jays have won three straight, including a 55-22 victory against Gateway Tech last Friday.

LePage hopes to keep that momentum going against a big rival.

“We are going to have to play very good football, yes,” he said. “Our players are very upbeat, they have some confidence right now. ... What we talk about in a game like this, don’t get too high or low on emotions. When things are going good, just ride the wave but come back off of it knowing things are going to settle down. If things are going bad, stop the wave, reset and let’s keep moving on.”

Notes: Rockhurst leads the overall series 22-14. ... Rockhurst’s three wins have come against Hutchinson (Kan.) (41-7), Blue Springs South (27-6) and Rock Bridge (47-28). The Hawklets’ losses are to East St. Louis (Ill.) (19-14), Bentonville (Ark.) (24-21), Blue Springs (22-7) and Liberty (34-24). ... Jefferson City junior linebacker Travis Burris will be a game-time decision with a shoulder injury, although he’s been practicing this week.

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