From Oct. 26 until Nov. 9, RBHS will host the Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA) Football District Championships. Last year, the team had made it to semifinals, losing to Blue Springs South High School 16-13. This year, the players hope to make it even further and are ready to take on one of their biggest competitors, St. Charles’ Francis Howell Central High School, head on despite a few setbacks.
Varsity coach Van Vanatta is in charge of preparing the players for the upcoming competition. The athletes are one injury away from having to play young competitors who have not had much varsity experience, Vanatta said.
The fact that the playoffs are at RBHS, however, does positively impact the morale of the team and gives players an ease of mind.
“Anytime you can host a playoff game it definitely makes a difference, since you may have to travel some distance the deeper you go into the playoffs,” Vanatta said. “I think this year the players know that in the playoffs everyone is going to bring their A game, which I feel we will be ready for.”
The team’s season has been very sucessful so far, having a 7-2 streak.
The playoffs give the football team an opportunity to show off their skills on the field and give their competitors a taste of what RBHS has to offer in terms of competition.
“I know [Francis Howell Cental] run a very similar team to us as some of their coaches worked under coach Vanatta,” Horton said. “So they are a very similar team to us and they have a very similar record, but I think we’re gonna kill em’.”
With many of the Bruins’ varsity players being seniors, the playoffs give them an opportunity to reminisce on their high school football experience before they step off RBHS’ field for their last time. Senior and center guardsman DJ Baker feels nostalgic as he thinks back on the times he has had with his fellow teammates and friends.
“I will miss just being a part of the team,” Baker said. “I’m just excited that I get to still play and be able to do it in front of my home crowd. Districts are a lot different than normal games. It’s always more physical since if anyone loses, their season is over.”
In addition to the pressure put on seniors to succeed on potentially their last game, the athletes feel the heat to end the season with a bang. With this pressure, comes the motivation to succeed and present themselves as tough competition. Still, the football players feel united as a team and are ready to push each other toward success.
“I admire how these guys work hard together and know the man next to them is working hard not only for themselves, but for the team to be successful,” Vanatta said. “We are good at a lot of things and we have to get better at everything. Good teams continue to get better at all aspects of the game and continue to progress at the things they do and the things that will help us week to week. The playoffs have one mantra, “just win.””
Are you going to the game tomorrow?