An Undefeated Gem
COLUMBIA - Even in the midst of the best season in school history, Matthew Spencer likes to stay realistic.
His Christian Fellowship soccer team has steamrolled its way to a 15-0 record with one game remaining in the regular season, but even the senior midfielder admits his tiny high school would probably be no match for Columbia goliaths like Rock Bridge or Hickman.
"We could maybe compete with their JV teams," Spencer said.
At least one person disagrees with that statement.
Or, shall we say, a computer.
MaxPreps.com, an affiliate of CBS Sports, ranked Christian Fellowship number one in the state of Missouri and seventh in the nation through Oct. 9. That's a spot higher than Jefferson City High School, a school of more than 2,000 students with a total high school enrollment about 20 times larger than Christian Fellowship.
"Ridiculous," senior Chris McCoy said.
Rankings aside, there's nothing controversial about the Knights' 15-0 record. Facing fellow Christian schools with similar enrollments, the team has recorded seven shutouts and has scored at least seven goals on five different occasions.
Christian Fellowship, a school tucked in a quiet subdivision behind Scott Boulevard in Columbia, has defeated Applewood Christian from Sedalia four times by a combined score of 31-1. It won a 10-0 road game at Center Place in Independence, Mo., and it has ripped through every tournament it has participated in.
It's a significant turnaround after a rocky 7-15 season in 2011, a rare swoon for a program that often finishes well above .500. The Knights returned nine seniors this fall, though, and added two newcomers-including McCoy, who played at Hickman a year ago and now ranks second on the team in goals scored.
The senior class represents an anomaly for 11th-year head coach Art Hartle. He said he often loses talented soccer players to public schools at the beginning of high school, a move Spencer considered for several years.
"I thought about leaving for a long time to play football, and also for different classes and electives and stuff, but I stayed," Spencer said. "I'm happy I did."
Spencer and McCoy can now bask in the glory of that number one ranking, no matter how MaxPreps determined it.
"It's pretty much who you pl-I don't know actually," McCoy said, stopping mid-sentence. "I have no idea how that works."
Luckily, MaxPreps offers a guideline on its website for its computer rankings, claiming it does not "poll coaches, sportswriters or fans. Nor does our staff make any judgments on the merits of any individual team." If it relies solely on computers, it may be skewed - after all, the site does not list results for all of the games on Jefferson City High School's schedule.
"It's flattering," Hartle said, "but it's just somebody ranking somebody else they don't know."
Meaningless rankings or not, it's at least something for McCoy to brag about to his old teammates at Hickman.
"I've just been like, ‘ha ha, we're ranked, fifth in the nation, what about you guys? What's your record?'" McCoy said. "Obviously, we're in a lower division, but hey, it's cool if you wanna brag to somebody."
It won't be a joke anymore, though, if Christian Fellowship finds a way to keep this perfect season alive throughout the playoffs.
Just don't say the word undefeated around this team.
"You don't want to focus too much on that," Hartle said.
With his team's regular season finale set for Thursday against Benton, the team's undefeated record is about as important as, say, a MaxPreps ranking.
"I think it's nothing," Spencer said. "We're just gonna try to get another banner."
A real accomplishment awarded by people.