The Student News Site of Rock Bridge High School

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The Student News Site of Rock Bridge High School

Bearing News

The Student News Site of Rock Bridge High School

Bearing News

Boys’ soccer falls in district championship bid

Senior Zeke Lage stares on in disbelief after the end of a game against Jefferson City High School. The Bruins lost in the district championship game 2-1 Nov. 7. (Photo by Ana Manzano)

With the Class 4 District 9 championship and a ticket to the Class 4 sectional game on the line, the boys’ soccer team (21-4) faced Jefferson City High School (JCHS) Nov. 7 at Battle High School. In the last regular season match, the Bruins lost a stunner to the Jays, considering the team came off a victory over 16th ranked Gateway Legacy Christian Academy in October. 

The two teams fought throughout the contest, forcing a sudden death penalty kick (PK) shootout after double overtime. In the end, however, JCHS player Lucas Godon scored the winning kick to send the Jays to the Class 4 sectional, ending the game 2-1. 

For the Bruins, the match marked the end of a historically successful season, as it was the Bruins’ eighth winning season during the last decade and had the second-most wins of any season during that span. Head coach Scott Wittenborn said he is proud of the effort from the team throughout the game and entire season.

“I honestly thought our guys played extremely well. I thought we controlled much of the game, and only gave up a handful of counterattacks for the most part,” Wittenborn said. “[With] the goal we gave up [in regulation], we didn’t cover the way we had discussed and that cost us, and in these big games, one mental lapse can cost you. Other than that, I thought we did a nice job of executing our game plan, playing fast and strong and playing as a unit.”

Junior forward Jeremiah Johnson agreed with Wittenborn, saying the team executed its plans for most of the game.

“I think the team played very well. . . one thing we did well was we kept fighting,” Johnson said. “I could tell we all wanted to win and would do almost anything to reach our goal.”

Johnson, who scored the Bruins’ lone goal in regulation, said he felt the team’s overall effort and performance was solid and something to be proud of. With so many shot attempts taken throughout the game, Johnson and the team were hoping one shot would eventually find the back of the net.

“The game plan going into the game was to close their two forwards,” Johnson said. “We did [that] pretty well all game [and] didn’t have to make [many] adjustments. I think something I did well was finding the open play because there was almost always someone ready to receive a pass.”

Senior goalkeeper Cooper Deneke reinforced Johnson’s comments about the team’s effort and drive throughout the game. Although the score didn’t show success in the end, Deneke said the Bruins had all the ingredients to rack up goals during play.

“Our team played great during the last game. One of the best games we have played all year,” Deneke said. “We played a majority of the game in front of Jeff City’s goal and had chance after chance to score. We also limited Jeff city’s chances very well. We just couldn’t finish our chances.”

Despite the team’s best efforts, JCHS capitalized, preventing the Bruin offense from gaining momentum. Wittenborn said the Jays “did a nice job of getting [their players] behind the ball defensively and then sending quick counterattacks.” The opposing forwards successfully attacked with speed and created dangerous chances before the Bruins could transition back to defense. 

“We really focused on covering for each other defensively and playing strong on the ball,” Wittenborn said. “I thought overall our guys did a fantastic job of this.”

Each team traded chances to take the lead late, and the final outcome came down to penalty kicks.

“The PK shootout is always tough, and you never know which way it’s going to go,” Wittenborn said. “The PKs that we had stopped I thought were hit pretty well, but their goalie guessed correctly.”

Although the ending left the Bruins empty-handed of postseason hardware, Wittenborn said this year’s team should hold its head high.

Deneke is equally impressed, saying the success of this season’s team will stand out when he looks back on his high school career. As a senior, Deneke said he will miss RBHS soccer.“I thought this team was incredible. As of last week, we were ranked number 32 in the nation, and had beaten several highly state and national ranked teams,” Wittenborn said. “We found ways to win a lot of our close games; we fought and found, and I’m so incredibly proud of the season as a whole.”

“This team will always be one I remember. We all grew closer together throughout the season, and it was fun to watch the change especially from the start of the year,” Deneke said. “My favorite part of the season was when we beat St. Thomas, SLUH and then Gateway within a few weeks of each other. Coach [Wittenborn] had told us we had the talent to be good, but I don’t think anyone else realized it until then.”

Along with Deneke’s departure, Johnson said he is grateful for the connections and memories made with all 10 graduating seniors.

“My funniest memory with a senior was with Karsen [Schweikert],” Johnson said. “[We were] watching a game because I got a red card, and he was injured. It was just fun talking about the game, and it may have been different if we were playing in it.”

Wittenborn said the journey with the seniors over the past four years was incredible. Wittenborn said all of them are “great guys that work hard and are just fun to be around.”

Deneke said he has optimistic hopes for the team next year and believes the team is in good hands. Although the team is losing many varsity players, Deneke has confidence the team is up to the task of winning state next year.

“My advice for next year’s team would be to not take any team lightly,” Deneke said. “We did that a couple times this year with Helias and JC the first time we played them, but I thought we learned from that [and] came out ready during the finals. We just couldn’t get that last little bit. But, hey, that’s soccer for you.”[/vc_column_inner][vc_custom_heading text=”Coach Scott Wittenborn talks about his Bruin leadership” font_container=”tag:h4|text_align:left” google_fonts=”font_family:Roboto%3A100%2C100italic%2C300%2C300italic%2Cregular%2Citalic%2C500%2C500italic%2C700%2C700italic%2C900%2C900italic|font_style:400%20regular%3A400%3Anormal”]

  • “Preston Fancher was a starter for three seasons and is a person that I will just miss getting to be around. He plays so strong and fast and just competes. It will be difficult to replace his presence in the midfield.”
  • “Jack Jenne and Will Linder were two big time defenders for us the last two years, and the addition of Zeke Lage and Karsen Schweikert made us a very fast and strong back line. Zeke and Karsen really improved so much going into their senior year and became impact players for us. They were such a great group that you trusted to get the job done night in and night out.”
  • “Matthew Cathro and Sergio Pico are two of the best guys you’ll ever meet. They work hard, play strong and make your team’s work rate and energy better.”
  • “Cooper Deneke as goalie had big shoes to fill and stepped up tremendously. He became a well-deserving captain of the team and is a guy that you just enjoy being around. All of them are terrific guys and will be missed tremendously.”

What are your thoughts on the boys’ soccer team’s record-breaking season? Let us know in the comments below.

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