The tigers dropped a 5-0 decision to Rockwood Summit just two weeks ago.
After looking nearly unbeatable for much of the boys soccer season, a banged up Central squad hit the skids over the final week of the season, losing its final three games by a combined score of 9-0.
The Tigers (21-5-1) picked themselves up in the district tournament, though, clawing their way to a fifth straight district title. Central now has a chance to avenge one of its final three losses when it takes on Rockwood Summit (19-6-2) at 7 p.m. tonight in a sectional matchup at Farmington High School.
Rockwood Summit, which finished third in Class 3 last season, defeated the Tigers 5-0 at Summit on Oct. 26.
Central captain Cody Gaither, a senior defender who has missed the last five games due to injury but is hopeful to suit up tonight, said he is confident the Tigers will come out on top.
"If we play together, pretty much we can't be beat," Gaither said. "There's been times in the season when we've had ups and downs. When we had our ups, we played together and couldn't be stopped."
The Tigers are a playoff-tested group, with 15 seniors on the roster. Nearly every player likely to see action tonight was on last year's team, which fell 4-0 to Lafayette in the sectional round.
Playoff experience has not led to much success for the Tigers. Central has accumulated 107 wins over the past five seasons, but has a 2-5 record in the state playoffs. Those two wins came in 2003 when the Tigers finished fourth in the state. Overall, Central has a 2-11 record in the state playoffs.
"Right now we're right where we expected to be as district champions," Central coach Tom Doyle said. "The gravy comes from if we win from now on."
Central opened its season with a loss to St. Pius before reeling off 12 straight wins. After losing in the first round of the Quincy Tournament, the Tigers won seven straight before hitting the late three-game skid. The Tigers own three wins over district champions, including Class 3 teams Jefferson City and Springfield Glendale.
"We've played six district champions this year, plus some teams that were good teams that aren't going to be district champions," Doyle said. "The schedule we played this year, if we're not ready for sectionals, we'll never be ready."
In order to move on to the quarterfinals the Tigers will have to continue to play their possession-style game. Defensively, Central will have to do a better job defending corner kicks, something Rockwood Summit capitalized on in the first meeting.
"The main thing to me is you go out there, you start the game, and try to play your game, and during the game you make adjustments," Doyle said. "Hopefully our game is possession, ball control, moving without the ball and communicating. If we play that way I'll take our chances against anybody."
With such a senior-laiden roster, tonight's game could mark the final time together on the field for many players who have grown up playing soccer together.
"You don't want to leave anything behind and have regrets," senior Jesse Pyeatte said. "You just want to play as hard as you can."