SEDALIA — Nate Peat was tired of the slow starts.
His team hadn’t scored first-quarter points in any of its past three games, but the Rock Bridge running back buried that streak. On the Bruins’ first play from scrimmage Friday at Smith-Cotton, he burst through the line of scrimmage and flew untouched for a 60-yard touchdown.
Peat scored three first-half touchdowns as Rock Bridge raced out to a 28-0 halftime lead, scorching the Tigers on Smith-Cotton's Homecoming night on the way to a 49-0 shutout victory.
It might not signal a permanent remedy for the Bruins' white-knuckle ways in the first quarter, but Friday was a sight to behold, on the field and on the stat sheet.
Peat more than quadrupled the Tigers' first-half offensive output, tallying 211 yards, and scored three of the Bruins' first-half touchdowns. The exhausted Tigers defense had no answer for the Stanford commit.
Peat followed up his first run with another explosive first-quarter touchdown, this one for 57 yards. He would add another with 6:18 left before the half to put Rock Bridge firmly in control.
"It was a great day for the offense," Peat said. "We’ve been wanting that (fast start) for a while now. It’s really the offensive line, they make great holes. Any running back could have ran through those."
In the buildup to the game, Vanatta and his staff had been particularly concerned about the creativity and complexity of Smith-Cotton’s offensive scheme, noting that they "can formation you to death."
There was no formation in gridiron football that Smith-Cotton made work Friday. The Tigers were held to all of 50 yards in the first half, with several plays ending with a horde of Rock Bridge defenders swarming the backfield.
"Our secondary ever since early in the year has kind of completed itself out and gotten a little bit better at what they do," Vanatta said. "We kind of had a scheme to stop the run this week and let them do their thing. They played well up and down the board."
The Bruins showed no mercy as the second half kicked off. Tiger fans were treated to the sight of Martez Manuel taking the kickoff and racing 80 yards for a touchdown. Manuel made his presence known again on the ensuing Smith-Cotton possession, recovering a fumble to set up the offense deep in Tiger territory.
A 31-yard touchdown by Peat quickly followed. The Bruins’ running back had enough daylight to jog the last 15 yards.
Not two minutes had run off the clock in the third quarter before the Bruins had a five-touchdown lead, resulting in a running clock for the rest of the game. Peat and most of the starters were done by the end of the third quarter, and running backs Payton Carr and Bryce Jackson took their turn to run over and past overmatched Smith-Cotton defenders.
For Peat, seeing his running back group put up nearly 400 yards on the ground was a point of pride. "Our running back corps, we go pretty deep," Peat said. "We’re all friends, we joke around, we do everything in practice, and if one person succeeds, the whole group succeeds."
After sitting at 2-2 after four weeks of football, with a wealth of frustration over missed opportunities, the Bruins have come into form in the final month of the regular season. A three-game winning streak is in the books as Helias prepares to come to town next Friday. Vanatta, always one looking for something to improve, reflected momentarily on how far his team had come in the last month.
"We’re starting to click a little bit," he said. "We’re starting to get some of our younger players to figure it out, but we’ve got to line up on Friday and that’s the only thing that’s going to matter in those 48 minutes."
Supervising editor is Theo DeRosa.