Bruins lose to Smith Cotton in district championship game


Senior midfielder Oliver Blitz sprints with the ball during the semifinals game on Oct. 23 that ended in a 1-0 victory, sending the Bruins to the district championship game against Smith Cotton High School. Photo by Gabi Tella

Allie Pigg

Under the bright lights at Hickman High School (HHS) on Wednesday, Oct. 25, the RBHS boys’ soccer (9-11-1) season ended with a 3-1 loss against the Smith Cotton Tigers (23-1) in the district championship game. The defeat was the first time the team lost the district tournament since 2014.
RBHS changed their starting lineup with junior goalkeeper Carson Linder out with a concussion after hitting his head on the ground while making a save on Monday’s semifinal district game against Jefferson City High School (JCHS). Head coach Scott Wittenborn said he hated for Linder to have worked earnestly all season to not get to play in the championship game, but he had to put his safety before playing.
Tonight, Sophomore Cooper Deneke played in goal and brought his 6 feet 5 inch height and fresh legs as an advantage to the team.
“It’s sad [Linder] is injured, but [Deneke] stepped up and did a great job tonight,” junior midfielder Nate Durdle said.
Smith Cotton, having lost to RBHS in last year’s district championships in a thrilling game ending in penalty kicks, came into the game seeking revenge.
From the first whistle, the Tigers came out fast, taking an early advantage with a goal in the 2nd minute. The Bruins, however, responded five minutes later with a forceful shot from sophomore midfielder Preston Fancher that deflected off a Smith Cotton player into the net, equalizing the score at 1-1.  The rest of the first half included Durdle dominating the midfield, a big save by Deneke and a close chance on goal from a corner kick by junior midfielder Trent Dunlap. The Tigers converted again off of a set piece in the 22nd minute, putting the Bruins down 2-1 going into halftime.
The Bruins came into the second half strong footed, but it was not enough to stop Smith Cotton senior forward Alex Esquivel, who scored his third goal of the night in the 43rd minute. The team’s competed equally for the rest of the game, but the final whistle sounded with Smith Cotton on top.
Although the score of the game ended in favor of the Tigers, Wittenborn is satisfied with his team’s performance.
“I thought we played well tonight,” Wittenborn said. “[Smith Cotton] scored three goals and I can only think of four chances they had to score the whole game. Soccer is one of those games where the ball just happened to sneak through three times for them.”
Despite the 2017 season ending tonight, Wittenborn recognizes that many of this athletes will return with ambition to compete stronger in the next district tournament.
“When you coach [RBHS] soccer, you’re expected to win every year,” Wittenborn said. “We have a lot of juniors who will be returning as seniors that I hope will find a little fuel to work hard in the off season and come in focused and ready to go.”
How do you think the RBHS boys’ soccer season went this year? Let us know in the comments below.