This is the game the Blue Springs South boys soccer team has been looking forward to all year.
Since the beginning of the season, the focus of the Jaguars has been to win a fourth consecutive district championship and meet perennial powerhouse Rockhurst in the sectional round once again.
The first goal has been accomplished as the Jaguars defeated Fort Osage 3-0 in the Class 4 District 14 championship game last Wednesday. Now, they will get their fourth crack at the No. 2 state-ranked Hawlets in the playoffs.
“The No. 1 ranked team (St. Louis U. High) has been knocked out of the tournament, so they are the best team in tournament right now,” South coach Jon Grice said of Rockhurst. “It’s going to take a gigantic effort from us. We’re going to take our best game of the year. It will be a tough matchup for sure.”
This season, the Jaguars are more motivated than ever. The past three years, they lost to the Rockhurst in the sectional round by a combined score of 7-1.
“This is one of the biggest things we’ve ever done here at South,” junior defender Brett Vaughn said. “I would be excited if we are able to pull it off.”
Added junior forward Bryce Millican: “We’re super pumped and it’s been our goal for the past three years to beat Rockhurst. We just hope this is the year.”
It won’t be any easier for South (11-14) to knock off one of the best soccer programs in the state. Rockhurst defeated Truman 6-0 in the Class 4 District 13 championship game last Thursday and only yielded one shot total.
The Hawklets have a high-powered offense, averaging 3.53 goals per game against some of the best competition in the state. They have a lot of team speed and that showed against the Patriots when they committed eight to nine players to the offensive side of the field and still were able to get back and stop any counterattack Truman had.
Some of the top goal scorers for Rockhurst include Kyle Ruark, George Marty and Jacob Amey – a trio that could make things difficult for Jaguars goalkeeper Keavin Hart.
“They are high schoolers just like us,” Hart said. “They are human. They are not above any of us. I played club soccer with Kyle Ruark. He’s great in the midfield we just need to shut him down.”
Added Vaughn: “They like to throw a bunch of guys forward and get a bunch of their guys in the box. We just have to match up against that and that will be a challenge for us.”
Added Grice: “All of those guys are dangerous with the ball, so we really have our work cut out for us.”
Another challenge for the Jaguars is scoring against one of the best defense in the state, which has allowed only 0.8 goals per game. And that will be especially challenging to a struggling South offense that has scored 1.5 goals per contest.
“It will be hard. They have a very, very good defense,” Millican said. “We will have to come up with some creative runs and attacks.”
Last season, the Jaguars held Rockhurst to just one goal but still lost 1-0. That game gives the Jaguars confidence that they can hang in there with the Hawklets.
It also helps that the Jaguars have all of their players healthy after some of their starters have battled injuries all year.
“We want to get a feel for what they got,” Grice said. “We have all of our guys back and they are getting comfortable playing with one another late in the season and are starting to jell. We finally have everyone at full health and at full fitness. We just have to commit to the game plan and stick to it.”
While the Jaguars will be major underdogs in this game, Grice feels like his team is playing with house money, which could benefit his team and make it more relaxed.
“We are the only team in the state tournament with a losing record, so I feel like we have nothing to lose,” Grice said. “We’re going to go out there and give it our all.”