By RUS BAER
Columbia Daily Tribune
COLUMBIA, Mo. -- The Hickman football team was doing what it does, hanging around waiting for someone to provide a big play.
Tied at halftime with Jackson during Friday night's homecoming game on LeMone Field, those big plays came in droves during a 20-point third quarter that continued the sixth-ranked Kewpies' undefeated season with a 27-14 victory.
"We're kind of good at just bleeding you, bleeding you, bleeding you until you soften up, and then we'll hit you hard," Hickman senior Jared Hyler said. "That's what we do."
Hyler started Hickman's big-play explosion by doing something defensive linemen don't normally do. Sniffing out a screen pass on Jackson's first possession of the third quarter, the 215-pound Hyler intercepted a short pass in the flat by Jackson sophomore Dante Vandeven, who was making his first varsity start at quarterback. The play set up the first of three third-quarter touchdowns that turned a tied game into another Hickman (7-0) victory.
"It's nothing more than just doing what you're coached to do," Hyler said about his interception. "Third and long, they're going to try to get us upfield by screen."
Hyler's interception set up a 12-yard touchdown run by quarterback Mason Murray that made the score 13-7 with 8 minutes, 38 seconds left in the quarter. The Kewpies, aided by another interception by another lineman, added two more touchdowns within a minute of each other before the quarter was over.
"We love the second half," Murray said. "We always do good in the second half. We know how to come back in the second half. That's how we play."
After a 20-yard touchdown run by Roderick Beasley off an option pitch made the score 20-7 with 2:59 remaining in the quarter, junior defensive end Alex Fredette hauled in an interception after Vandeven's pass was tipped high into the air at the line of scrimmage. Fredette's short return set up Hickman at the Central 2, and two plays later Bohannon Davidson rolled into the end zone from 1 yard out to give the Kewpies a 27-7 lead with 2:06 left in the third quarter.
"Once we got focused, we took our game to another level," Hickman coach Arnel Monroe said.
The interceptions were the only two turnovers for Jackson, which committed eight turnovers in its previous two games combined.
Vandeven replaced junior Ty Selsor, who had thrown five interceptions over the last two games and nine on the season. Vandeven completed 14 of 31 passes for 186 yards.
"I'd give him at least a 'B', if not better than that," said Jackson coach Brent Eckley, who said Vandeven had been splitting time evenly with Selsor in practice. "He got beat up tonight. Their defense kept coming and had a lot of pressure in there. If you're a 15-year-old kid and you get tagged a couple times, it's tough to keep your eyes down the field."
Added Eckley, "He's one of the better athletes on the field, so I think we have to be able to use him."
Jackson, which had been averaging 235 yards rushing per game, was limited to 35 yards on 31 attempts.
Colten Proffer had a team-high 22 yards on 12 carries. Vandeven had five yards on 17 carries.
The Indians, who were averaging 432 yards, had 221 yards of total offense.
Playing its first game in two weeks, Hickman's focus appeared a bit fuzzy early facing the Class 5 Indians (5-2).
Murray, who had thrown only two interceptions coming into the game, tossed two in the first quarter and was picked off two more times by game's end.
Jackson didn't turn any of the early interceptions into points, but the Indians did strike first when senior speedster Brannon Wright, who has track scholarship offers from Missouri and Alabama, got behind the Kewpies for a 64-yard pass from Vandeven.
Two snaps later, Hickman turned to big-play back Deven Larry for a 54-yard touchdown run to knot the score at the 6:24 mark of the first quarter.
Larry churned out 144 yards on 28 carries, and Davidson added 58 yards on seven attempts for a rushing attack that collected 259 yards on 46 carries.
Jackson tried to make things interesting in the fourth quarter. Vandeven scored on a 1-yard run with 11:18 remaining and appeared to complete a fourth-down touchdown pass to Proffer with 6:40 remaining. But Proffer was ruled to be out of the back of the end zone when he caught a pass that was tipped by a teammate, and the Kewpies took over on downs.
"Their judgment was that he was out of bounds when he caught it," Eckley said. "From where we're at, there's no way we can see it or argue it."
The victory improved Hickman to 7-0 for the first time since 1973.
"The record is 7-0 now, but, as soon as tomorrow hits, it's 0-0 and we're trying to get 1-0," Hyler said. "That's been the strategy all year long, and that's what it's going to be the rest of the season."
The Southeast Missourian contributed to this story.
Hickman 27, Jackson 14
J -- Brannon Wright 64 pass from Dante Vandeven (Adam Brown kick), 7:15
H -- Deven Larry 54 run (Sam Smith kick), 6:24
H -- Mason Murray 12 run (kick no good), 8:38
H -- Roderick Beasley 20 run (Smith kick), 2:59
H -- Bohannon Davidson 1 run (Smith kick), 2:06
J -- Vandeven 1 run (Brown kick), 11:18
RUSHING -- Jackson: Proffer 12-22, Wright 1-7, Vandeven 17-5, Lowgn Wren 1-1; Hickman: Larry 28-144, Davidson 7-58, Beasley 3-25, Murray 5-18, Marshall Willingham 3-14.
PASSING -- Jackson: Vandeven 14-31-2-186; Hickman: Murray 3-8-4-21.
RECEIVING -- Jackson: Wright 6-105, Proffer 3-28, Skyler Steele 2-23, Ty Selsor 1-15, Hunter Schuette 1-12, Wren 1-3; Hickman: Larry 2-13, Willingham 1-8.