COLUMBIA — Most everyone on the Rock Bridge boys soccer team says the same thing about senior Tyler Brittain: His odd sense of humor is an asset to the team.
“He’s really just fun to be around,” senior midfielder Kory McDonald said. “He has a crazy sense of humor that everyone loves. He knows when to say stuff to lighten the mood.”
The Rock Bridge boys soccer team didn't play its best game Saturday against visiting Fatima, even though it earned a 6-0 victory.
In the first half, the Bruins, who play in Class 3, were held to one goal against the Comets (7-9), who play in Class 1.
By halftime, Rock Bridge (11-3) had put the ball in the back of the net three times but only had one goal to show for it. One goal was disallowed because the Bruins' Matt Kelly was called offsides. Another was called off because of a handball on Rock Bridge. Only sophomore Salim Gumati's goal 12 minutes into the game was allowed to stand.
"We needed to be more patient," Rock Bridge coach Kyle Austin said about the first half. "We were playing selfish. Everybody wanted to be the player to put the ball in the back of the net."
In the second half, Rock Bridge created some breathing room. The Bruins responded to a halftime speech from Austin with a pair of goals in the first six minutes to stretch their lead to 3-0. Afterward, the subs for Rock Bridge fed off the success of the starters and added three more goals in the game's final 30 minutes.
Meanwhile calls started going Fatima's way, and Bruins fouls began to pile up.
"We want to be physical, not dirty, but physical," Austin said.
The Bruins were much more efficient in the second half. While they scored one goal on 23 shots in the first half, they converted five out of 20 shots in the second.
"I was much more pleased with our patience in the second half," Austin said. "They finally got away from the selfish play."
Bruins assistant coach Brandon Butcher agreed.
“Ty’s a good guy. He just kind of likes to lighten the mood of the team, and that’s a good thing for the team — gives it personality and loosens everybody’s nerves,” Butcher said.
Brittain says it's not anything he reserves just for his teammates and coaches.
“With everyone I know, I’m pretty much the same,” Brittain said. “In class, if it’s not early in the morning, after 9:30, I’m typically a class clown. I just like to joke around, have fun. But nonetheless, I still get my work done."
For some athletes with an off-the-field personality such as Brittain’s, the hard part comes at game time. For Brittain, though, just as it is in class, the change is seamless.
“I think he understands that when it’s time to play, it’s time to play,” Butcher said. “He is one of the most competitive guys that I’ve seen play, and his demeanor changes once he steps foot on the field. Once it’s game time, he means business."
For Brittain, it's not much of an issue.
“It really doesn’t even cross my mind,” he said. “I know that if it’s time to go, then it’s time to go. There’s no more joking around.”
Last week, Brittain helped Rock Bridge reach the championship of the CYC/Guelker tournament in St. Louis. In the Bruins' first-round game against Lindbergh, he made the assist on senior Matt Kelly's winning goal. Two days later, in a third-round match, he scored his only goal of the season in a 3-2 victory over Trinity Catholic.
Brittain is not usually an offensive presence because he spends most of his time playing defense. He is often assigned the task of slowing down the other team’s best forward.
“If we need somebody to be shut down, I can just tell him to shut them down,” Bruins assistant coach Alex Nichols said. “He’ll make the adjustment that he needs to.”
Brittain says his speed helps him the most on the soccer field.
“If a forward happens to beat me off the dribble … 95-or-more percent of the time, I can count on being able to catch back up with them,” Brittain said.
Brittain said his experience has also helped him this season.
“I have been playing soccer for 13 years — playing defender pretty much 13 years,” Brittain said. “Knowing when to do the right thing is a big part of what’s been successful this year for me.”
Brittain has found multiple ways to contribute.
“It’s an advantage having him,” Nichols said. “We can just tell him something and then he does it, and the job is done. At the end of the day he is just a good player.”