It’s hard to beat a team three times in one season.
Rock Bridge made it look easy in a 3-0 victory against Hickman in the District 10 final at Cosmopolitan Park.
The Bruins advance to a sectional match against Francis Howell North (20-7-1). That game will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday at 179 Soccer Park in Jefferson City.
Contrary to the past two meetings between the teams, Saturday’s game featured first-half scoring. John Carney scored in the third minute to help the Bruins (21-1-2) establish control from the outset.
“I’m not the one that scores usually,” Carney said. “But everybody has to step up. It just takes one person to hit the ball in the net and set the tone.”
Rock Bridge regularly practices controlling the first 10 minutes of the game. Coach David Graham said it paid off.
“When we get to play from the front it not only builds our confidence, but also places a bit of doubt in the other team,” he said.
Carney scored after defender Ben Patton saved a loose ball and played it to Michael Ferguson. Ferguson then slid it to Carney, whose shot from 25 yards out got over the head of Hickman goalkeeper Drew Huckla.
“I’m so proud of John,” Graham said. “It was important for him to get a big goal. He’s been working hard at it all season.”
Rock Bridge kept the momentum and added to its lead in the 14th minute. Sam Richards’ shot got by the defense, but was rolling harmlessly out of the Kewpies’ crease until Ferguson redirected it in.
Huckla stopped Ferguson on a breakaway in the 20th minute and made several good saves to keep Hickman (11-13-3) in the game.
Rock Bridge, however, added a third goal on a penalty kick in the 32nd minute. Omed Latifi fouled David Hilderbrand in the box and the Bruins tabbed Ferguson to shoot the penalty.
“I like shooting PKs,” Ferguson said. “It’s a pretty easy shot. The keeper made it a lot easier when he guessed. I didn’t even get to do my thing. I won’t break that out until it’s necessary.”
The only thing in doubt during the second half was whether Rock Bridge would get the shutout. Tanner Mills made three saves to earn the Bruins’ school-record 16th shutout of the season.
“It was a statement about our team as a whole,” Mills said. “We try to stay defensive-oriented and let the offense get rolling. It’s a great feeling. I won’t underestimate it.”
Sweeper Josh McNutt echoed Mills’ sentiments.
“It was a team effort,” he said. “The whole defense worked hard all season to get (the record).”
The Bruins have rewritten the school record books this season, setting nine new marks.
“I don’t have anything left to say about these guys,” Graham said. “I’m so proud of them. I hope these records last forever because this is a special team.”