With Jefferson City Helias already entrenched as a major rival, Rolla High School boys' soccer head coach Mike Howard says the Bulldogs' Missouri Class 2 District 10 was already a strong one.
And Howard said it just got stronger on Friday.
The district assignments for soccer were announced by the Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA) on Friday. And in addition to again being pitted with the always-rugged Helias, Rolla also has to worry about Missouri's newest public school – Columbia Battle.
The inclusion of Battle gives Class 2 District 10 a total of five schools, with the others being Rolla, Helias, Bolivar and Marshfield. The Battle Spartans will come in as a huge unknown. The team will surely be made up mostly of former players from the other two Columbia public schools – Hickman and Rock Bridge, who have both been soccer powers in the past. In fact, the Rock Bridge Bruins have advanced to the Class 3 Final Four the past two seasons, finishing third overall both years.
"It just made a tough district even tougher," Howard said. "We've just got to make sure when November comes around we're playing our best soccer and have a chance to advance."
Rolla hosted the District 10 Tournament last season and put the home field advantage to good use, clipping the Helias Crusaders 3-2 in the title game. The Bulldogs have won three consecutive district championships and four in the last five years. Last year was the first year the 'Dogs moved down from Class 3 to Class 2.
Last year RHS moved on to beat St. Francis Borgia at home in the sectionals and then fell to eventual Class 2 runner-up Carthage on the road in the quarterfinals.
Led by returning senior all-staters Aaron Froehlich – whose 66 goals was the second-most scored in Missouri prep soccer last fall – and Nate Kramme the Bulldogs have a strong group back from last season's 24-5 squad that was ranked sixth in the final 2012 Missouri Class 2 state poll.
This year's Class 2 District 10 Tournament will be held in Bolivar. If Rolla can repeat as district champion and then again meets Borgia in the sectionals, that game will be held in Washington.
And if Rolla returns to the quarterfinals against Carthage...that contest would be held in Rolla.
A lot of ifs to be sure for August.
The same district setup will no doubt be used for girls' soccer in the spring.
"That would make things really hard for our girls," Howard said. "That would be one nasty girls' district."
Helias advanced to the girls' Class 2 State Tournament championship game last spring.