COLUMBIA — As the opening whistle rang out, Rock Bridge immediately put its high-octane offense to work against Hickman goalkeeper Adrian Laikert, who faced half a dozen shots on goal in the first five minutes of Wednesday's boys soccer game at Hickman.
Laikert lunged left and right making saves and keeping his team in the game.
"Adrian played his best game of the year," Hickman coach Adam Taylor said.
It wasn't enough, though. Ryan Stanowski eventually broke through for the Bruins, scoring on a breakaway in the 13th minute of play. His strike from 20 yards out went just past the outstretched arm of Laikert into the top corner of the net.
Although Hickman was never out of the game, the score was the start of a decisive 3-1 Rock Bridge victory.
Bruins coach Alex Nichols was adamant about playing at an uptempo pace, and multiple times the coach acted as the team's 12th man, sprinting to balls around his bench and giving them to his players so they could get play started again.
"We play quick, and if we get a chance to counter we will," Nichols said.
Rock Bridge added another goal by freshman Tarnue Tyler in the 29th minute and the Bruins led 2-0 at halftime.
Hickman came out in the second half and matched the Bruins' aggressive play. Marcus Tigue managed to cut the deficit to 2-1 when he slipped the ball past Bruins' goalkeeper Greg Kelly after a flurry of activity in front of the net that saw several shots on goal.
The score gave the quiet home crowd life. The Kewpies fans began to stand as they realized another goal could send this game to overtime. Hickman had a good chance when Aaron Pressley put his head on a crossing shot, but Kelly made a good save for Rock Bridge.
Freshman Brett Bales, who had been called up from the junior varsity squad, added a third goal for Rock Bridge with just under 11 minutes to play to put the game out of reach.
Taylor said he was pleased with his the Kewpies' performance and that he hopes his players produce this type of energy in the future. He added that he would love to play Rock Bridge again in the district tournament.
Rock Bridge has had the upper hand in the series lately, winning both regular season games and a district contest last season. However, Nichols said that Hickman is on the rise and must be taken seriously.
Rock Bridge improved to 8-4-1 with the win, and the loss leaves Hickman at 4-6-2. Both schools will be playing in the Gateway Classic this weekend in St. Louis.