COLUMBIA — Rock Bridge senior midfielder Ryan Schmidt loves to use his head on the soccer field, especially to score.
Standing at 6 feet, 3 inches, Schmidt is at his most dangerous on corner kicks.
Class 3, District 9 championship
vs. Rock Bridge (24-3)
WHEN: 6 p.m.
WHERE: Rock Bridge High School
"He's a target for us every single time,"Rock Bridge coach Kyle Austin said. "Every ball that’s in the box is a dangerous opportunity for him."
One team that is certainly aware of Schmidt's ability is Hickman, the Bruins opponent in the Class 3, District 9 championship game at 6 p.m. Wednesday night at Rock Bridge. Schmidt scored twice off corner kick headers in the Bruins' 6-0 regular-season win over Hickman on Oct. 11 at Hickman.
Schmidt, who has eight goals and 13 assists this season, said that as a senior, he has tried to take an active leadership role on the team.
"I try and get everyone else talking, and also talk myself so people know what's going on out there," he said.
Austin said those kind of efforts have been a big help.
"I think he is an extension of the coaching staff on the field just by the way he conducts himself," Austin said. "He is kind of the glue that holds us all together."
His teammates have noticed, too.
"He's a really vocal player," junior midfielder Eli Sherman said. "He really calls for the ball, and when he wants it you better get it to him because he's probably going to do something good with it."
Getting the ball to Schmidt and letting him do his thing is something that has been working all season for the Bruins.
"He’s got a lot of assists this year, but I would guarantee he has probably given twice as many assists to other people," Austin said. "If they went by hockey rules he’d have 30 assists on the season."
In hockey, up to two players can earn an assist on a single goal.
"A lot of times I pass it to the person who gets the assist," Schmidt said. "I’m always just looking to play it to someone who is in a better position to score than me."
He did just that in Rock Bridge's Oct. 18 game against visiting Jefferson City. In the final minute of the first half, Schmidt played a ball to fellow senior Matt Kelly. Kelly crossed it into the box to sophomore Salim Gumati who finished the play for the only goal of the game.
Schmidt said having played soccer with many of his teammates for 12 years not only makes his job as a passer easier, but also gives his team an edge over opponents.
"We definitely have a bond that I would say other teams don’t have," Schmidt said. "We know what each other's going to do out on the field."
One of the things his team knows is when Schmidt is at his best.
"Definitely set pieces and corner kicks," Sherman said.
"He’s someone the other team has to be cognizant of every single time," Austin said
"You never know which ball's going to get through to him, and if it gets through to him, he finishes it every single time."