Rock Bridge’s dream season ended in a nightmare Tuesday night.
The Bruins fell to Francis Howell North 1-0 in a Class 3 sectional in Jefferson City. The Knights (21-7-1) advanced to play Rolla in a state quarterfinal on Saturday. Rock Bridge finished 21-2-2.
In a game between evenly matched teams, one play made the difference for the Knights. Jack Traynor controlled a loose ball and shot it past diving Bruins’ goalkeeper Tanner Mills in the 73rd minute.
“I knew the ball was going to get into the middle,” Traynor said. “I just didn’t know if it was going to get to me. One of their players won a head ball, and Tim Daniels luckily turned around and stopped him. It just kind of popped back out to me. I put it on the ground. That’s the only thing that went through my head was, put it on the ground.”
Adam Reed was the closest Bruin to the play.
“The ball bounced through and got to me,” Reed said. “I tried to clear it out and just didn’t get a good foot on it. It went to (Traynor) and he hit a good shot.”
Rock Bridge’s best scoring chance came in the 36th minute. Knights’ goalkeeper Chad Becker got a hand on David Hilderbrand’s drive and redirected it over the crossbar.
Bradley Wulff helped keep the Bruins in the game with his defense in the first half. In the 29th minute, Howell North’s Jordan Lee had a shot at an open Rock Bridge net after Mills bobbled the ball. Wulff stepped in and blocked it with his chest.
“It was instinct,” Wulff said. “Playing with Tanner, every so often he does drop the ball. I guessed right. (Lee) thought I was going to the center, but I stayed where I was and just took the hit.”
Two minutes later, Wulff cleared out a shot that was rolling through the Rock Bridge goal mouth.
The Bruins loaded the offensive end in the final minutes, desperate to get the equalizer. But the Knights defense turned them back.
Howell North coach Vince Nowak was relieved to be moving on.
“We just kept attacking,” he said. “It was a fine game between two really fine teams. Somebody’s going to win, somebody’s not.”
Bruins coach David Graham said he was sad to see 16 seniors depart from Rock Bridge’s first 20-win team.
“I’m really disappointed we lost the game,” he said. “I think we had the team to make state. We knew this game was going to be the tough one, and it was.
“This feeling that I have right now will go away. But what won’t go away is how awesome the seniors were. What an incredible ride they took us all on.”