FNF: First year head coaches look for first wins of the year in 2016 Providence Bowl
COLUMBIA - Something has to give in this year's Providence Bowl. Teams separated by less than five miles of road are not separated at all in terms of record. Both Hickman and Rock Bridge enter the game 0-4 and are looking for that elusive first win.
It's been a season of adversity so far for Rock Bridge and first year head coach Joe Collier. The Bruins are averaging only 10 points on the offensive side of the ball and are giving up an average of 35 points a game on defense. Collier said he's starting to feel the pressure build to get that first victory.
"It just started building," Collier said. "You know you're down three games and then you're like 'ok it'll get better,' and then it gets a little bit pressured on after four [losses]. You know you'd like to start winning at some point."
Although this is his first season as head coach, Collier is no stranger to Rock Bridge football. He was previously the team's defensive coordinator under former head coach A.J. Ofodile.
Bruin players value the relationship many of them have already built with their new head coach.
"Freshman year he was our coach, and now we have him as our coach senior year, so that's a cool thing," senior linebacker Randy James said. "We didn't have that much belief in ourselves last year, and Coach Collier has given us a lot of confidence this year."
Unfortunately for the Bruins. that belief has yet to translate to wins on the scoreboard.
Collier knows the defeats weigh heavily on his players.
"You see these kids work hard day in and day out, and it sucks sometimes that the hard work sometimes doesn't show through the losses," Collier said. "You know you go 0-4 and you know all of a sudden 'you don't work hard enough or put in the time' because of the losses, but these kids work their butt off every practice and during the summer so you'd like to see that winning success."
The rookie leader of the Bruins will have some company in length of tenure, and season record on the sideline Friday. Hickman head coach Devin Brown is also in his first season at the helm of his team, and like Collier, he feels the pressure mounting to get that first win.
"There's pressure anyways, but when you haven't won yet and you're still looking for one, it just gets more and more," Brown said. "You just have to keep grinding and find a way to do it."
Brown, like Collier, echoed the resiliency his team has shown this season despite adversity.
"They don't give up," Brown said. "We keep fighting for the whole game. Some teams and some games you can see kids giving up, but we just keep playing and stay together. It's a big team camaraderie thing, and we'd like to keep it that way."
The fact both coaches could earn their first win in a rivalry with a legacy like the Providence Bowl is on the minds of both Brown and Collier.
Neither coach thinks the game has lost its luster, despite the disappointing records from both Rock Bridge and Hickman in recent seasons.
"I think it's pretty big still," Brown said. "At least for Hickman and Rock Bridge it is. With a third school opening it's obviously a little different, but it's a competitive game and a fun game so we're just going to have to get out there and play."
Collier said his players, as well as himself, still get amped up for the Providence Bowl.
"It's always good to beat Hickman in any sport around here, so we try to take pride in that," Collier said. "They [the players] know it's Hickman week. When it's an in-town rivalry game they know it. They say something about it but we always talk about when the game starts, it's just your assignment."
A win in the Providence Bowl would be the breakthrough Collier and Brown have both been looking for.
Collier said seeing his players happy after a game for once would be the most satisfying part of notching his first win.
"These guys work so hard, and [winning] is kind of the only thing that matters in the public eye and sometimes in their eyes," Collier said. "So it would be good to see them on the sideline rejoicing after a win."