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story.lead_photo.caption Jefferson City defensive back Tripp Maassen communicates with teammates prior to a play Friday night during a game against Rock Bridge at Adkins Stadium. Photo by Associated Press / News Tribune.

Rock Bridge quarterback Nathan Dent was in the pocket, pressured by multiple Jefferson City Jays.

Dent was hit from each side as he rushed a throw, causing the ball to flutter straight up in the air. Sitting in the middle of the field was Jays linebacker, Ethan Garnett, like a center fielder with a routine fly ball in the air.

The ball bounced off Garnett's fingers and onto the turf late in the second quarter.

It was that kind of night for the Jays, who suffered a 49-34 loss to the Bruins on Friday night in their Central Missouri Activities Conference opener at Adkins Stadium.

Two plays later, another Dent pass went right through the hands of a different Jays linebacker. Instead of getting the ball deep in the red zone, the Jays had to await a Bruins punt down 21-13 late in the first half.

Turnovers were one of the biggest differences in the game for the Jays, and while the defense was unable to force any — both the Bruins' turnovers came on muffed punts — Jefferson City coughed up the ball four times on its own. With both offenses having a lot of success, turnovers were one of the key differences in the game.

"Obviously you can't be successful in the game when you turn the ball over as many times as we did, so that's somewhat to be expected," Jays coach Damon Wells said. "We'll go back to work and try to fix that."

Two of those fumbles turned into scores for the Bruins, while they nullified multiple Jays possessions that crossed midfield.

The Jays ran for more than 300 yards and had their best offensive game of the season, but three fumbles and a late interception on a desperation throw by Seth Brooks combined with a defense that struggled spoiled the team's best chance at a win so far this season.

Jefferson City got a late field goal after that punt on the first half's final drive to pull within five, but an interception would have given the Jays a golden opportunity to tie the game before the break.

It also offered one of the few opportunities the defense had to stop Dent, who had more than 100 yards through the air and on the ground to lead the way for an offense that had its way against the Jays in the second half.

The team has now given up 66 second-half points this year, with 54 of them coming during the past two games.

"I think the effort was consistent," Wells said. "Perhaps the execution was a little bit where we didn't want it to be, but the effort is absolutely consistent.

"And let's not forget that other people practice too, and we've played some pretty talented teams. We competed and we had a chance."

It's been a struggle for the Jays in the first three weeks under Wells, but this was the closest defeat the team has had so far against a team that expects to be in the upper-tier of the CMAC.

"This one was definitely tough," Wells said. "We'll keep working and I have faith in these boys."

The early results haven't come yet for Wells or the Jays, but the first-year coach said he's been proud of the team's consistent effort and has been happy with the past few games where they have competed against teams that all beat them at least once during the past two seasons.

Now the challenge is to keep that buy-in after a close loss while the team has some more favorable opponents on the horizon.

"I think part of your job as a coach is to hopefully teach kids that maybe it's worth it even when that one metric isn't going your way," Wells said.

The team looks forward to a chance at its first win of the season next Friday against Sedalia Smith-Cotton. The Tigers are 1-2 this season and lost 35-10 to Warrensburg on Friday after losing to Rock Bridge 50-0 last week.

Jefferson City plays Smith-Cotton at 7 p.m. on the road after beating the Tigers 27-6 last season.

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