Rock Bridge desperately needed a goal. The Bruins had less than a minute to score or they would lose an important game to district foe Jefferson City.
Adam Reed’s third shot in 10 seconds was blocked by Jays’ goalkeeper Dustin Dolce. Defeat seemed imminent.
Then, in a flash, the ball hit the back of the net and the crowd roared.
The flash was the foot of Michael Ferguson, in his signature bright yellow cleats, redirecting the rebound of Reed’s shot to tie the game.
That same flash has struck a school-record 37 times this season, leading the Bruins to a 19-1-2 record and the top seed in Class 3 District 10. Rock Bridge’s last district title came in 2000, meaning none of the current Bruins know how it feels to win one.
“I definitely want to see us win districts,” Ferguson said. “There’s a little pressure on us just because of the season we’ve had, but we’ve kept our heads. We just have to stay focused. We can’t afford to mess around and not come out hard.”
This year, Ferguson said, the expectations go beyond districts.
“We all know we can play with CBC,” he said, referring to the Christian Brothers College Cadets, the top-ranked team in Class 3 and the only team to beat Rock Bridge this season. “We think we can definitely make the Final Four.”
Rock Bridge’s lone state semifinal appearance came in 1987.
Once the season is finished, Ferguson plans to sit down with his parents and discuss his college options.
“I want to see how far soccer can take me,” he said. “This year has been a big stepping-stone.”
This season Ferguson set the Rock Bridge single-season points record with 83 and tied the career goals record at 73 in addition to the season goals mark.
“It’s been the whole team though,” he said. “We’re about to run out of game balls to give away because of the records we’ve broken.”
So far, the Bruins have set or equaled eight school records.
The “team-first” attitude Ferguson and the rest of the Bruins have has made an impression on the coaching staff.
“Mike’s just a big goofball isn’t he,” assistant John Hawks said as Ferguson and Reed teased each other during a recent practice. “And he’s not a prima donna, either, for how good he is.” Coach David Graham agreed.
“It’s unbelievable how he isn’t big-headed,” he said. “He’s just a gym rat. He absolutely loves the game.”
In an Oct. 21 game against Hickman, assistant Myles Hinkel urged Ferguson to spark the Bruins’ offense. Ferguson responded with the only goal in Rock Bridge’s second win over the Kewpies.
“The team feeds off his energy,” Hinkel said. “It’s important for the guys to see that he’s not only one of the best players, he’s also one of the hardest workers.”
Ferguson and the rest of the Bruins begin postseason play tonight at 5:30 at Cosmopolitan Park. They play the winner of the Tuesday night match of Jefferson City and Camdenton.
For the second time this season, they will be without Graham, who must miss one game because Rock Bridge has 15 yellow cards.
“At least this one is on me,” Graham said. He received the Bruins’ 15th yellow for questioning the officiating in a 3-2 win against Rolla on Thursday.
Graham said he didn’t think his absence would hinder his team’s performance.
“During the game is when I’m least effective as a coach,” he said. “Preparing the team during practice is when I’m needed. In a game all I really do is manage substitutions. As long as we carry out the game-plan, we’ll be OK.”