92
      Wednesday
      92 / 70
      Thursday
      92 / 69
      Friday
      91 / 70

      Time to Rock

      It was just over two years ago when we last saw this game at Adkins Stadium.

      It was the best game and the biggest crowd in the history of this new gem.

      Rockhurst vs. Jefferson City.

      It was a step back to the glory years of this once-great rivalry and it went to double-overtime --- of course it did.

      Jays 33, Hawklets 30.

      Thanks for the memories.

      "It was an amazing game," Jays coach Ted LePage said. "There were so many things that happened, but it just came down to two teams fighting down to the very last play."

      The last play was a game-winning, 30-yard field goal by Ryan Tanner.

      "Seeing that field goal go through the uprights," LePage said, "that's always my first memory of that game. The finality of the (officials') hands going up and it was over is something I'll never forget."

      The only thing better than that game was the atmosphere. This, too, was a step back to the glory days.

      "The noise level, the intensity ... we could feel it on the field," LePage said. "I remember we brought the quarterbacks out for warm-ups and I looked over and the stadium was full --- and it was 5:45 (75 minutes before kickoff).

      "I thought, 'You've got to be kidding me.' It was a really special night."

      There haven't been many special nights for the Jays in this series in recent years, however. That 2011 classic is Jefferson City's lone win in the last 14 years, a span of 15 games.

      Rockhurst was a 16-6 winner last year in Kansas City.

      "There have been a bunch of close games," LePage said. "It always seems to come down to one possession that's changed the game."

      This reunion may not have quite the same buzz as the one two years ago, when both teams came in undefeated --- and the Hawklets were ranked No. 1 in the state, the Jays No. 3.

      This year, the Jays are 5-2 and ranked No. 7, Rockhurst is 3-4 and No. 8.

      The Hawklets' four losses have been to East St. Louis, Ill. (19-14), Bentonville, Ark. (24-21), top-ranked Blue Springs (22-7) --- those were the season's first three games, as Rockhurst started 0-3 --- and Liberty (34-24).

      "They've lost to some really, really good football teams," LePage said. "They're still Rockhurst. They're really good fundamentally and they don't beat themselves.

      "If you beat Rockhurst, you've earned the victory. You don't have to do anything special to beat Rockhurst, you just can't beat yourself."

      Rockhurst routed Rock Bridge 47-28 last week in Kansas City, scoring touchdowns on seven straight possessions to end the game.

      The Hawklets use a two-quarterback system, Ahmad Tyler and T.J. Green, son of former NFL QB Trent Green. Last week, Green completed 5-of-7 passes for 134 yards and a touchdown, he rushed for 47 yards and a score, and also caught a 46-yard pass from Tyler.

      "Offensively, they do a lot of things well," LePage said. "Defensively, they're solid as a rock (pun intended, perhaps). They take what you do well and they take it away, and make you beat them with something else."

      The Jays came into this season with more questions than answers, after the team was pitted by graduation. So far, so good. Not great, but good.

      "It seems like each week, we're getting just a little bit better in some areas," LePage said. "We're not a great football team, but we're getting better and that's all you can ask of your team. They're a work in progress.

      "Everyday they come out without much fanfare, they don't want anything special ... they just appreciate the game of football and work hard at it. As a coach, you really appreciate that kind of attitude.

      "They fight, scratch, claw ... whatever it takes to get it done. This team is a team, they all stick together. They rely on each other."

      Two seniors, in particular, are leading the charge. On offense, it's quarterback Gabe Marcantonio, who's thrown for 816 yards and seven touchdowns and rushed for 592 yards and nine scores.

      "Gabe has never been labeled as a guy with breakaway speed and break the 70- or 75-yard run," LePage said. "But this year, when he gets in the secondary, nobody's been able to catch him. That's really been impressive.

      "Everybody's better when Gabe's on the field. He's going to do everything it takes to help us win a football game."

      It's as much about what Marcantonio does off the field as on it.

      "He's not very vocal, but he comes in every day, he listens, he works ... and he's as smart as anything, he's a 4.0 student," LePage said. "The most impressive thing is that he crosses over to every type of individual on our team; there's not a person on our team that he doesn't get along with.

      "That's really remarkable for a high-profile position player."

      On defense, it's linebacker Hayden Strobel who leads the team in two key areas --- tackles (72 total, 51 solo) and inspiration.

      "He's our best leader, vocally and work-wise," LePage said. "He's the defensive version of Gabe. Humble, works hard, studies hard, first one in the weight room and the last one to leave ... he just sells out every day and every play.

      "He's a typical Jay linebacker. He fits into the mold of one of Ron Cole's great linebackers."

      So, here we go again ... Jefferson City vs. Rockhurst. Is there a little extra bounce in the players' step this week?

      No.

      "They're excited to play Rockhurst, but they're just very-workmanlike in their approach to every game," LePage said. "I haven't seen an overabundance of energy and saying, 'Hey, we're playing Rockhurst,' it's been more of what we've seen all year.

      "They just continue to impress me."

      III

      This too is impressive --- Friday night's game will feature a Central Bank/KRCG Tailgate Party (the fourth and final one of the year), from 5-6:30 p.m. at the stadium. Paying fans will receive a free t-shirt, quarter-pound hot dog, Hy-Vee chips and a Coke product.

      This is the seventh year for these tailgate parties, and more than 40,000 shirts and too many hot dogs to count have been given away.