The Rock Bridge boys’ soccer team sent a message to the rest of the state: We can beat you.
Striker Michael Ferguson scored the game’s only two goals and the Bruins knocked off state runner-up Chaminade Tuesday at Cosmopolitan Park.
Rock Bridge avenged a pair of one-goal losses last year to the Red Devils, who are ranked No. 19 in one national poll, and set the tone for the season.
“This is a program-defining win. This is Missouri over Nebraska last year times 10 for us,” said head coach David Graham, referring to the MU football team’s first victory over the Cornhuskers in 25 years.
Rock Bridge seemed to answer every scoring chance Chaminade had early, but the Bruins couldn’t break into the scoring column, either.
Seven minutes before halftime, junior Matt Spainhour sent a cross from the right side to Ferguson, who slipped a shot past the goalkeeper.
“It wasn’t anything special. I was trying to get a little more foot on it, but it got through,” Ferguson said.
Chaminade had four shots in the first 10 minutes of the second half, but the Bruins kept the pressure on instead of falling into a defensive shell. Goalkeeper Tanner Mills got a hand on Joe Sondag’s point-blank shot in the 65th minute, spoiling the Red Devil’s best chance at a goal.
“It was just a reaction play,” said Mills, who made 10 saves. “It was all reflex. I just stuck my hand up and got a piece of it.”
Eight minutes after Mills’ save, Ferguson, who fell one goal shy of setting a school record last season, made a run behind the defense and converted David Hilderbrand’s pass to clinch the victory.
“It’s not always definite, but I was feeling pretty good,” Ferguson said of going one-on-one with the goalkeeper.
Another key in preserving the shutout was the defensive play of junior Josh McNutt, one of four underclassmen on the Bruins’ roster.
“For him to come out in his first varsity game and make the plays that he made, I couldn’t be prouder,” Graham said.
Though it was the first game of the season, the Bruins know that this game will go a long way to determining how they finish.
Graham and Ferguson agreed that Chaminade, which has been to the last three state finals, is a good opponent to measure this Rock Bridge squad against; and to be the best, you have to beat the best.
“Everything we do is about November,” Graham said. “We have to keep that focus. Sometimes it’s hard to get high school kids to remember that.”