FENTON, Mo. -- Central's boys soccer team finished its best season in history in fourth place of Class 3 after a 1-0 loss to Rockhurst in the third-place game Saturday at the Anheuser-Busch Center.
The loss, which snapped Central's streak of 27 games without being shut out, dropped the Tigers to 26-2. Rockhurst, 23-5 and making its seventh straight final four appearance, took its second third-place trophy in the past three years.
"It was a tough way to go out," Central forward Heath Orr said, "but all in all we had an incredible season."
Coming off their first loss of the season less than 24 hours earlier, the Tigers were lethargic early -- a mood shared by their opponent, who was dropped by Chaminade in Friday's late game.
"There's been talk about doing away with the third-place game," Central coach Tom Doyle said. "It's just so hard with their emotions at such a high in the semifinal game."
Central seemed to right itself as the half went on. Midway through the half, Orr took a pass on the sideline and nearly scored on a tight-angle shot.
Grant Hengst took an Orr feed late in the half and fed a cross right across the goalbox. The ball went out of bounds.
"We had opportunities," Doyle said. "We just didn't finish."
Jordan Duncan and Orr, scorers in Friday's game, each had chances in the second half. Duncan got a couple of strong shots early in the half and Orr nearly scored midway through the half while being tugged at by a defender.
After playing strong throughout the game, Central goalie Tony Leuckel couldn't save Seth Senovic's header on a Rockhurst cross with less than seven minutes to go in the game. Central created a few opportunities after the goal but had no answer.
Hengst said that despite the disappointment, he treasured one final game with teammates he's known much of his life.
"I told the guys in the second half I loved them, and it's been a pleasure playing with them," he said.
Central finished as the top Class 3 public school despite its two losses. Central finished the season with school records in wins and the longest winningn streak and brought home its first state playoff trophy in boys soccer.
"We knew we were good, and we knew we could go to the final four," Hengst said. "We just wish we could have won it."
Doyle said Central's performance over the weekend should erase doubts about the Tigers' ability to compete with Missouri's soccer powers. Central became only the second Southeast Missouri team to play in the boys soccer final four, a year after Notre Dame won the Class 2 championship.
"I think everyone saw we could play with SLUH and play with Rockhurst," he said.
Central used Saturday's game as a chance to give all its seniors one last chance to play. The only senior of the 13 on the roster that did not play was Josh Fee, who was injured in the Tigers' semifinal game.
"This is a special group of seniors," Doyle said. "I have had them three years. We'll miss them, but we have to retool."
335-6611, extension 171