Hickman gears up for a hostile environment in North Kansas City

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“Gladiator,” starring Russell Crowe, was released in May 2000, before many members of the Hickman football team were even born.

Even so, the movie describes what coach Cedric Alvis expects when the Kewpies travel to face the North Kansas City Hornets on Friday night.

“They need to be watching ‘Gladiator,’” Alvis said. “Because that is what it’s going to be like.”

Regardless of whether players have seen the movie, a raucous atmosphere similar to a match at the Colosseum awaits the Kewpies on Friday night.

At 6-0, North Kansas City might be the most complete team Hickman will face all season. The Hornets are enjoying their best start since 1941 and are coming off a 40-0 drubbing of Truman last week.

The Swarm, the affectionate name of the Hornets’ student section, will be waiting to create a unique atmosphere the Kewpies have been preparing for this week in practice.

According to Alvis, North Kansas City’s stadium feels more like an arena than a typical high school football field. The difference is how close the stands are to the sideline. Without a track to separate the field from the stands, there is a feeling of the fans being on top of you, even though the bleachers are about 10 yards away.

“The student section is nuts from what I’ve seen on film,” Alvis said. “A kid gets tackled Oklahoma State style, knocked right into the wall where the students are. It’s going to be a crazy environment.”

Clyde Price has given Hornets fans plenty to cheer for. The senior running back is averaging 301 yards per game and has 24 touchdowns this season.

The Kewpies have already faced a top-tier running back in Nate Peat, but Price provides a different set of problems. According to Alvis, Price’s speed at 6-foot-1 and 220 pounds is what separates him from other backs.

Peat may be faster, but Price’s size makes him tougher to tackle when he builds up speed. The Hornets’ offensive line is extremely physical at the point of attack. Price has 1810 yards so far this season.

“Clyde reminds me of what Adrian Peterson looked like in high school,” Alvis said. “He’s a dynamic dude and we have to be ready to tackle him.”

Another focus for the Kewpies this week has been special teams. In last week’s loss to Battle, two kickoff returns destroyed any chance for Hickman to win. A late fumble on special teams sealed the Spartans’ win.

Staying assignment sound on kick returns was the biggest point of emphasis, as well as working on ball security for kickoff returners.

Hickman hasn’t won in all three phases of the game since its Week 1 win over Pattonville. The effort and execution offensively and defensively against Battle reminded players what they were capable of.

It’s one thing for members of the coaching staff to talk about it, but for them to perform like that in front of a homecoming crowd was huge.

For Alvis and his staff, the hope is that Kewpies players continue to rise to the level of competition. According to Alvis, Hickman needs to avoid performances like its second half against Rock Bridge and continue to build on last week’s success.

The Kewpies take on the Hornets in North Kansas City at 7 p.m. Friday.

Supervising editor is Theo DeRosa: sports@columbiamissourian.com, 882-5730.

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