Jefferson City football had its best offensive performance of the season Friday at Adkins Stadium.
Unfortunately for the Jays, the Rock Bridge offense was even better. Bruins quarterback Nathan Dent had six total touchdowns to hand Jefferson City a 49-34 loss.
"Our kids played hard," Jays coach Damon Wells said. "Unfortunately in this game and to most people in society there is one metric and we didn't get it done."
The Jays (0-3) had trouble handling the speed and quickness of Dent as he glided out of the pocket or on designed runs. The ground game also opened up a couple of deep balls, which Dent used to slice open the defense for two passing scores to Payton Messer.
Dent got the scoring started when he rolled to his right and flung a 47-yard pass down field as he was hit out of bounds. The throw found a wide open Messer who strolled into the end zone to give Rock Bridge the lead with 3:53 left in the first.
The Jays answered with a 2-yard score with 1:25 left in the quarter a play after the Bruins muffed a punt that was recovered by Jefferson City at the 2-yard line.
The teams traded punts until Dent scored twice in 29 seconds with rushing scores from 24 and 2 yards out. The second one put the Bruins up 21-7 with 5:01 left in the first half and was shortly after a Jays fumble.
David Bethune returned the ensuing kickoff 86 yards for a touchdown and Jays placekicker Jacob Wilson hit a 43-yard field goal on the last play of the half, putting the Jays down 21-16 at the half.
That was the team's smallest halftime deficit of the young season and meant it was another night where the Jays were within striking distance. Jefferson City has been down two scores or less going into halftime of each game this season.
Any thoughts on a second-half comeback were dashed when the kickoff out of halftime was returned by Messer for an 85-yard score. He backpeddeled into the end zone to put the Bruins up 28-16 and the Jays wouldn't get closer than six the rest of the night.
Jefferson City running back Zane Wings and Messer traded scores before Bethune scored from 8 yards out and Rock Bridge was up 35-28 at the end of the fourth. Dent then shut the door on the Jays hopes of a season-opening win with two fourth-quarter rushing scores to give him four rushing touchdowns with his pair of scores through the air to Messer.
"Talent always makes an offense tough to stop," Wells said. "They're a pretty talented group."
While Dent was rushing into the end zone, the Jays had a costly that put the game out of reach.
Jefferson City had four turnovers, with three fumbles and a late interception thrown by Seth Brooks.
"You can't be successful when you turn the ball over as many times as we did," Wells said.
Bethune had a 33-yard score where he hit a hole between the tackles and blazed past a defense that looked like it was in slow motion, but that was little more than a consolation score to bring the Jays within two scores with 2:26 to go.
Next, Jefferson City travels to Sedalia Smith-Cotton next Friday in search of that illusive first win.
"We ask our kids to put us in positions to have an opportunity to win the game and they've done that more than one time now," Wells said. "We're going to keep practicing and keep getting better and see if we can get it done."