Rock Bridge now ranks among the state's powerhouses in boys soccer. The Bruins have reached three straight Class 3 Final Fours.
Jefferson City wants to make sure it's not a fourth.
"Realistically speaking we're probably the only thing standing in their way to a fourth straight trip," Jays coach Eddie Horn said as his team (20-6) prepares to take on Rock Bridge (20-4-1) in a sectional game at 6 p.m. today in Columbia.
"They have all the pieces to make a deep run, if not go all the way through. ... I'm sure they're looking at that bracket and saying, "We're more than capable of winning it.' There's never been a central Missouri team, or really any team outside of the two cities (St. Louis and Kansas City), ever to win one. They're poised to make a deep run. Hopefully we can spoil that party, though."
Horn thinks he has the team to do it. Jefferson City is in the midst of an historic season, having captured a school-record 20 wins in the process. The Jays currently sit sixth in the Class 3 rankings, not far behind the third-ranked Bruins.
"When you look at our team and look at the season that we've had, I don't know if giant-killers is the right word, or if overachievers is the right word, or a combination of both," Horn said, alluding to wins against C.B.C, Marquette and St. Louis University High. "But we definitely have won some games that probably people would look at us and say, "There's no way you're going to win that game.' I really like our mentality going into the game."
Rock Bridge has knocked Jefferson City out of the playoffs two of the last three years, including a 1-0 victory in the sectional game in 2012.
"You'd like to think the ball is going to bounce our way a little bit," Horn said. "... I'd like to think the soccer gods may smile on us a little bit and maybe have a ball bounce our way."
Jefferson City dropped a 1-0 overtime decision to Rock Bridge last month. Midfielder Aaron Crane missed that contest for the Jays, while Rock Bridge was without leading goal-scorer Tarnue Tyler, who tallied 13 regular-season goals.
"I'd like to think that those two would negate each other," Horn said. "We had our moments in that game that I thought we played really well. We didn't get the result, of course. We definitely had every opportunity to win the game, so it was a little disappointing that we didn't."
But that was the regular season.
"In the big picture this is the money game," Horn said. "This is the game that we and them have probably pointed to all season, knowing that this is the big one.
"I think we'll play really well."
With a win, Jefferson City would host either Glendale (15-8-1) or Joplin (21-4) in the quarterfinals Saturday at the 179 Soccer Park.
But the Jays have to take care of business tonight first against Rock Bridge.
"It should be a really tightly contested game," Horn said. "I think both teams will play very well. It's probably who takes advantage of their opportunities or who catches a break somewhere along the line. Hopefully it takes a special goal and it's not a mistake on someone's part that makes the difference."