COLUMBIA - Hickman High School’s Esports Rocket League team reached a new level in making it to the final six teams in the nation in the North American Scholastic Esports Federation’s (NASEF) Rocket League National Championships.

The tournament featured state champions and top teams from all over the country.

Hickman’s Rocket League team came into the tournament on a hot streak after winning Missouri’s first Esports Rocket League state championship.

Hickman High School’s Esports Rocket League team started right as the pandemic set in.

Matthew Pryor, Hickman’s Rocket League coach, said the immediate success was surprising.

“It's really mind-boggling for them that all this fun and all this play that they've been able to do has led up to something great that they've been a part of,” Pryor said. “That means a lot, you know, obviously, they're pioneers right now in the field of Esports.”

Pryor also explains how Rocket League is an incredibly fun and difficult game to master.

“Rocket League is basically a three-v-three-car soccer game with different elements, such as boost, obviously, rockets, there's a lot of physics involved,” Pryor said. “It's really a game of angles, speed momentum, there's just a lot of fast-paced action that goes on.”

The three team members; Jack Hamilton, Caleb Kincheloe and Owen Keeler, are all juniors at Hickman and said the season was quite a success.

“Yeah, I think it's cool and like we started the club,” Hamilton said. “It feels like we accomplished something pretty cool on the side of our high school careers.”

“But it's so cool to be the first state championship for high school Rocket League,” Kincheloe said.

“I’m relieved at least that we won because I expected that we were going to do good, and maybe even win,” Keeler said.

While some people are skeptical of Esports and their growing popularity, Hickman Esport’s general manager Andrew Bechtel explains how this club helps students feel involved.

“Our principal wants to tell the story about one student who is not very school spirited, not a lot of that sense of community necessarily, but he got up on stage for our first sort of show match against Rock Bridge, he had to put up the jerseys,” Bechtel said. “This changes everything, you know, probably the first time that student wore purple to school.”

By getting involved in school, Pryor said having an Esports team can help communities.

“Helping out the community, helping out these kids who you know, want to get in here and just play and you know, do something with a club at the school,” Pryor said. “Also have that chance of you know, if I'm good enough, I can start getting scholarships, I can get recruited.”

Kincheloe said Esports are exponentially expanding in the world and Keeler added that the growth is great to see.

“I think it's pretty cool. But like right now it's kind of a new thing that's coming out,” Kincheloe said. “It will be cool to look back on it and see that we’re like the first people to win.”

“At our school, you can also see the growth because last year, we really didn't have anybody except for us three and Mr. Pryor,” Keeler said. “But this year, a bunch of freshmen have joined our team, and are, willing to get better at the game and try to improve. So I think that's pretty cool.”

Hickman’s Esports team also streams on Twitch, where viewers can watch all of the different Hickman Esports teams. These teams play video games such as Rocket League, League of Legends, Overwatch and Super Smash Bros.

Bechtel summed up the season and said it was a nice touch during a hard year.

“I think it's been a bright spot and an otherwise dark year,” Bechtel said.