See Story on the
Hickman Kewpie Football Team
during the 2000-2001
JEFFERSON CITY - After 15 years
of waiting to beat Jefferson City, the seventh-ranked Hickman football
team was willing to wait until the final horn of last night’s Class 5A
District 10 contest with the Jays before claiming its impending victory.
"When the clock said zero, zero, zero, that’s when I knew we clinched," senior tight end Ehi Okoiron.
With the Kewpies on top 28-12 and the game clock flashing nothing but zeroes that’s when Hickman coach Gregg Nesbitt got his victorious water cooler dousing and the thousands of Hickman fans on hand stormed the field to celebrate the Kewpies’ first victory over Jeff City since Oct. 11, 1985.
"It’s unreal," said senior center Jed Paulsen, a four-year starter who won his first game against the Jays in five tries. "This is what we’ve been working for since I was a ninth grader, and it finally came true."
The victory snapped a 17-game losing streak to the Jays and clinched Hickman’s first district football title since claiming three straight from 1996-98. Hickman improved its lead in the all-time series to 47-45-4.
"It’s been so long coming for this rivalry," said a thoroughly soaked Nesbitt, who improved his record in the rivalry to 1-8 with the 100th coaching victory of his career. "We’re excited to finally win one back on our side, but the negative is we don’t have any time to relax. We’ll let the community enjoy it; we’ve got to get to work."
The Kewpies (9-1, 3-0 District 10) will host the District 9 winner on Wednesday in a 5A sectional at Hickman Field.
With its first-ever district loss, Jeff City (4-5, 2-1) saw its remarkable string of 14 straight district championships, dating back to 1986, come to an end. The Jays final record also marks their first losing season since going 2-8 in 1980.
"These things can’t go on forever," said Jeff City coach Ron Cole, whose record in the rivalry dropped to 6-1. "I’m disappointed that it ended tonight, but some place, some time, you knew it was going to happen. You don’t have to like it, but you have to accept it."
Hickman put together a complete - and nearly flawless - team effort to knock off the Jays. The Kewpies’ balanced offensive attack rolled up 392 yards of total offense, while the defense held the Jays to 257 yards.
"The whole team effort was unbelievable," senior quarterback Jamey Jouret said. "We came out here and we weren’t intimidated. We knew we could execute our game plan and we didn’t turn the ball over on offense - that was key.
Jouret, who started the season as a backup to injured starter Ryan Cubit, provided another poised performance for the Kewpies.
Jouret threw for 149 yards on 8-of-14 passing and directed Hickman’s option offense to near perfection as Clay Nuelle led the running attack with 92 yards and three touchdowns. Rob Harrison, back in the lineup after missing last week with an ankle sprain, added 79 yards.
Said Jouret: "Coach Nesbitt said if we get three scores and don’t turn the ball over on offense we’ll get a victory and that’s what we did."
The two Mid-Missouri rivals swapped touchdown on their first drives of the game. Jeff City got on the board first with a 20-yard run by Joe Coates to make the score 6-0 after missing the extra-point kick.
Hickman came right back on the ensuing possession. Harrison completed a seven-play 88-yard drive by following a crushing block by Kellen Nesbitt and taking an option pitch from Jouret 30-yards to knot the score at 6. Jouret’s extra-point kick gave the Kewps a lead they would never relinquish.
A 41-yard option reverse to receiver Randy Crowley set up Hickman’s second score. Nuelle bulled in from five yards out on fourth and one to give the Kewpies a 14-6 lead with 3:51 until halftime.
The Jays scored right before the half, though, on a 25-yard pass from Ryan Freeman to Mike Reed to make the score 14-12.
After a scoreless third quarter, Jeff Sturek recovered a Jays fumble at the JC-27 on the second play of the fourth quarter. Following a remarkable 27-yard reception by Joey Harrison down to the one, Nuelle scored his second touchdown to put Hickman on top 21-12 with 10:19 left.
After Mason Stevens ended a Jays drive on fourth down by snuffing out a screen pass, Okoiron set up Hickman’s final clinching score with a 53-yard reception down to the Jays 6. Okoiron, a senior tight end, made his first two receptions of the year for 87 yards.
Four plays later, Nuelle bulled over from two yards out on another fourth-down situation to clinch the contest with 2:39 left.
"When Clay ran in there that was just sweet," Jouret said. "After our last score, I knew it would be real tough to come back."
Nesbitt silently celebrates 100th Milestone win earns Hickman coach ball, shower and eventually — a ride home.
Hickman’s historic 28-12 victory
over Jefferson City on Friday at Pete Adkins Stadium will be memorable
in more ways than one for Kewpies coach Gregg Nesbitt.
Although he was soaking wet and without a ride home following Friday's 28-22 victory over Jefferson City, Hickman football coach Gregg Nesbitt was all smiles as he tucked the game ball under his soggy-sweatered arm outside an empty Pete Adkins Stadium. The win was Nesbitt's first over the Jays in nine tries at Hickman and was the 100th victory of his 14-year high school coaching career.
R.C. Adams photo
Not only did the seventh-ranked Kewpies (9-1) finally snap that hideous 17-game losing streak to Jeff City (4-5), giving Nesbitt his first win over the Jays in nine tries, but the victory also marked the 100th career coaching win for the Kewps head coach.
"I won’t forget this one," Nesbitt said. "It’s pretty special, really."
Nesbitt is now 100-48 in his high school coaching career that includes a 44-20 mark in six years at Hannibal. Currently in his eighth year at Hickman, Nesbitt is 56-28 with the Kewpies.
Despite the milestone victory, Nesbitt said he didn’t think about his personal accomplishment until his players presented him with the game ball following the win.
"I forgot about it until they gave me the game ball," Nesbitt said.
Nesbitt’s players certainly didn’t forget about their coach’s milestone victory. Besides the game ball, Nesbitt also received a well-executed water cooler drowning as the final horn sounded.
As far as storybook endings go, it’s hard to find a more fitting way for the Kewpies and Nesbitt to end Hickman’s 15-year drought to the rival Jays.
"I was thinking the whole time that God works in mysterious ways," Paulsen said. "I believe in my heart that we had some things happen so we could get to this point and have it be coach’s 100th victory."
HOW SOON THEY FORGET: Nesbitt may have clinched his 100th win on Friday, but he obviously wasn’t missed when the team bus headed to Columbia without him.
Separated from the team to do a radio interview, Nesbitt was left looking for ride home following the game.
Fortunately, his wife, Jackie, didn’t forget about the Kewpies coach. She eventually found her husband and offered him a ride home - wet clothes and all.
THEY CALL HIM TODD: Senior tight end Ehi Okoiron had not caught a pass all year for the Kewpies entering Friday.
But he quickly shot up the Kewps’ receiving charts after hauling in two catches for 87 yards in the victory.
"Coach kept telling me I was going to get my chance to shine," Okoiron said. "Today was the day."
Although he hadn’t caught a pass all season, Okoiron’s contributions as a blocker had not gone unnoticed to offensive line coach Steve Luetjen, who prefers to call his bruising tight end "Todd" rather than Ehi (pronounced Ay-hee).
"Steve said he couldn’t have a lineman on the team named Ehi," Nesbitt said earlier this year, "so we call him Todd."
PLAYOFF ROAD: Hickman’s path to its eventual goal of a state championship appears pretty clear in the early part of the playoff schedule that begins Wednesday at 7 p.m., for all classifications
Hickman will be at home for its 5A sectional against District 9 winner Francis Howell Central (6-4). The Kewpies will be looking for a repeat of their 48-0 plastering of the Spartans on Sept. 22 that also took place at Hickman Field.
With a win, the Kewpies would travel to either Lebanon or 10th-ranked Springfield-Kickapoo (9-1) on Monday for a 5A quarterfinal.
For the two remaining area football teams in the playoffs, things look a little tougher starting out.
Coming off its first district loss in four years, a 36-35 overtime defeat to Bowling Green on Friday, District 6 winner Fulton (5-5) will host seventh-ranked St. Francis Borgia (9-1) of Washington in a 3A sectional.
An upset win by the Hornets would send them to either second-ranked Salem (10-0) or No. 3 California (10-0) for an even tougher quarterfinal test.
After claiming its second straight district championship with the 2A District 6 crown, North Callaway (9-1) will be at home for an intriguing sectional contest with District 5 winner Cuba (8-2).
The Thunderbirds will likely be favored against the third-year varsity program, but Cuba is playing with a lot of confidence after fattening up its record against a weak regular-season schedule.
If North Callaway gets past Cuba, the T-birds would travel to either top-ranked South Shelby (10-0) or third-ranked Palmyra (9-1).
MESS IN THE MIDDLE: The Rock Bridge football team made considerable strides this year, moving up from last place in the North Central Missouri Conference standings to third this year.
Of course the Bruins (4-6, 3-4 NCMC) will have to share their third-place finish with five other league teams. Following a remarkable chain of events, five NCMC teams finished with 3-4 league records.
Helias (5-5, 3-4) was the final team to join the 3-4 club with its blowout loss to conference champ Hannibal (10-0, 7-0) last night in Jefferson City.
Others tied for third along with Rock Bridge and Helias were Fulton (5-5, 3-4), Marshall (4-6, 3-4) and Kirksville (4-6, 3-4).
Mexico (7-3, 5-2) finished all alone in second place for its best conference finish in some time. Moberly (2-8, 1-7) continued its overall struggles by placing at the bottom of the league.
By RUS BAER of the Tribune’s staff
Story ran on Thursday, November 9, 2000
It was slippery, sloppy and all-around
messy last night at Hickman Field.
And then there were the playing conditions.
The Hickman defense wouldn't let Francis Howell Central Quarterback Derek Thrasher rest. Above, defenders Dan Stookey (51), who had two sacks, and Joe Ferling (57) put the heat on during a pass rush. Below, linebacker Brian Perry (13) breaks up a pass intended for Francis Howell's Matt Guenzler. The Kewpies held the Spartans below 100 yards in total offense to advance tot he quarterfinals Monday night against Springfield Kickapoo.
Ed Pfueller photos
On a cold and rainy night, the sixth-ranked Hickman football team played about as sloppy as the muddy mess it trampled around on the way to a 28-7 victory over Francis Howell Central in a Class 5A sectional.
The Kewpies (10-1) outgained Howell Central (5-6) in total yardage 529-97, but turnovers, penalties and some untimely mental miscues had Hickman coach Gregg Nesbitt cueing up last night’s game film just minutes after its completion.
"We have to get better," Nesbitt said with his hand already cradling the VCR remote. "It’s a W, we survived … but from a coaching perspective it’s not all about winning. We like our guys to show improvement, and quite frankly we didn’t do that tonight."
Nesbitt was talking specifically about his offensive backfield that, despite two 100-yard rushers, struggled holding on to the ball in the slippery conditions against a team it had beaten 48-0 earlier this year. The Kewpies fumbled five times, losing two in the first half to end drives.
"We shot ourselves in the foot with turnovers, penalties, and some mental errors, and those were the three critical areas we talked specifically about," Nesbitt said. "The slipping and falling down, that’s not a primary concern, but the turnovers are."
Remarkably, Howell Central didn’t fumble once in the conditions, but the Spartans had enough problems dealing with Hickman’s attacking defense.
Even with 1,300-yard rusher Kevin Simmons and 1,300-yard passer Derek Thrasher in its backfield, Central struggled mounting any kind of offense against the Kewpies.
Simmons managed just 18 yards on 11 carries, and Thrasher used a solid second half to total 81 passing yards in the game. He finished 9 of 21 with two interceptions - both by Hickman cornerback Aaron Wier, who now has four picks on the year.
"On defense, I never felt threatened," Nesbitt said. "The defense was big all night."
Linebacker Dan Stookey led a dominating performance by the Kewps’ defense that held Central out of the end zone all but one time despite good starting field position by the Spartans.
"We didn’t do a great job of holding on to the ball, but we managed to stop them on defense," Stookey said. "We helped" our offense "out. We knew we had to go out there and do our job, and we got it done."
Stookey pushed his team-leading sack total to seven with two more in the second half. Stookey nearly got a safety on his final sack, a 10-yard dumping of Thrasher at the goal line that set up Hickman’s final score.
"That 51 is a heck of a linebacker," Central coach Jim Greco said of Stookey. "They’ve got other players over there, but he stands out."
Despite the chilly conditions, Hickman’s offense looked properly warmed up to start with an eight-play, 65-yard scoring drive.
Josh Hatton’s 40-yard run set up quarterback Jamey Jouret’s 1-yard score with 4:06 elapsed to give the Kewpies a 7-0 lead after the first of four Jouret extra-point kicks.
Jouret, who finished with 166 yards on 14 carries, found the end zone two more times on option keepers that covered 82 and 10 yards in the second and third quarters, respectively.
Hatton, a senior fullback, totaled 108 yards on 11 carries and Rob Harrison (81 yards) and Brian Perry (72) also contributed a healthy dose of yardage to an offense that rushed for 493 yards on 60 carries.
Sophomore Kenny Blanford added 45 yards in the fourth quarter, including a 1-yard run that completed the scoring with 6:04 left.
Trailing 14-0 late in the second quarter, a 15-yard personal foul penalty and a diving 13-yard catch on fourth-and long by Justin Houberg helped the Spartans cover 41 yards for their only score. Thrasher’s 1-yard run cut Hickman’s lead to 14-7 at the 3:01 mark, but Stookey and Co., kept Central silent the rest of the night.
"It’s win, but we didn’t play nearly
as well as we should have," senior strong safety Jeff Sturek said. "Hopefully
we’ll come in" to practice "and deflate some peoples’ heads because we
still have a lot of work to do if we want to be successful."
SPRINGFIELD - One by one, every
member of the sixth-ranked Hickman football team received a standing ovation
following last night’s Class 5A quarterfinal against ninth-ranked Kickapoo.
quarterback Jamey Jouret is stuffed at the line by Kickapoo defender James
Bake. The Kickapoo defense held the Hickman offense in check for most of
the Class 5 A quarterfinal and won 12-6.
Edmee Rodriguez photo/Springfield News-Leader
As each player filed out of the locker room of Southwest Missouri State’s Plaster Complex, a large gathering of shivering parents and fans cheered their Kewpies.
But they weren’t celebrating another Hickman victory.
In what was likely a shock to the Hickman fans on hand, it turned out to be their final chance to cheer the Kewpies following a season-ending 12-6 loss to Kickapoo.
In a season that saw the Kewpies (10-2) overcome so many obstacles, Kickapoo’s swarming defense proved to be one hurdle that was too high for the Kewps to clear.
Kickapoo (11-1) limited Hickman to 230 yards of total offense, nearly half its average of 451 yards, to end the Kewpies’ season long before they were hoping - or expected.
"You’re never ready for it to get over," Hickman coach Gregg Nesbitt said. "You’re never ready for it at this time of year, whether it’s the last regular-season game or a postseason game."
Averaging 347 yards rushing a game, Hickman was held to just 153 yards on 32 attempts by a Chiefs defense led by Nebraska recruit Jared Helming.
"We never got anything going on offense," senior quarterback Jamey Jouret. "We played a heck of a ballclub. Their front four guys on defense are unbelievable players."
In what figured to be a key matchup entering the contest, Kickapoo controlled the line of scrimmage for most of the night. The Chiefs forced Hickman’s offense into uncharacteristic 3-and-out drives.
"They dominated the line of scrimmage," Nesbitt said. "They beat us on both sides. I thought their offensive line did a good job of knocking us off the ball and offensively, we knew their D-line was the best and probably the best coached we’d seen."
The performance was even surprising to Kickapoo coach Kurt Thompson, who led Kickapoo to the semifinals for only the second time in school history.
"To hold them to six points, I didn’t think we’d do that," Thompson said. "I figured it would take three scores to win. We just made some plays when we had to."
Kickapoo established its dominance in the first half by opening the contest with an impressive 12-play drive down to the Hickman 19, but came away empty after missing a field goal.
Hickman opened with an ominous 3-and-out drive - gaining just four yards - to give the ball back to the Chiefs and this time they found the end zone.
Quarterback Josh Smith completed a nine-play, 51-yard drive with a 1-yard quarterback keeper to make the score 7-0 after Zac Graham’s extra point.
Smith completed just one pass, but carried the ball 20 times for 59 yards. Pat Whitt led the Chiefs offense with 105 rushing yards on 18 carries.
Hickman had its chances in the first half. An interception by Whitt at the Kickapoo 9 ended one drive and Kewpies safety Kellen Nesbitt dropped an interception that would have set the Kewpies up deep in Chiefs territory.
After defensive lineman Marvin Williams forced a fumble that was recovered by Brian Perry, the Kewpies got on the board. Rob Harrison followed a block by Clay Nuelle and raced 37 yards for the Kewpies only touchdown.
The score gave Hickman some life, but Jouret missed his first extra-point kick of the year to leave the Kewpies trailing at halftime 7-6.
Harrison finished with 95 yards on 11 carries. Jouret added 77 yards on 6-of-11 passing, but was intercepted three times.
Hickman’s defense held Kickapoo out of the end zone in the second half, Kickapoo added five fourth-quarter points on Graham’s 30-yard field goal and a safety when the punter was tackled in the end zone after an errant snap.
But Hickman didn’t score despite a few chances in the final minutes.
The best chance came following a 33-yard completion from Jouret to Harrison at the Kickapoo 36 inside of three minutes. But Jouret was intercepted by Helming on an attempted shovel pass to Nuelle that ended the threat.
"We didn’t battle adversity all year to come down here and lose one like this," Jouret said. "For something like that to end your season is really tough."
Hickman’s defense gave the offense one last shot with 1:31 left, but Jouret was intercepted by linebacker Luke Johnson on a deflected pass with 1:09 left.
"I know everybody tried their
hardest out there and it’s just unfortunate the way things ended up," Jouret
said. "We set our sights on a state championship and unfortunately we won’t
be able to make it. But you know, they were the better ballclub tonight
and that’s the way it turns out."