Jean Paul Richard just did what he’s been trained to do.
The senior midfielder from Lafayette struck a stunning half volley off the crossbar from 22 yards out, then striker Kyle Farmer buried the rebound into the top shelf to give the Lions a 2-1 lead in the opening minutes of the second half.
“I saw the perfect opportunity and then just put my laces on it, then it hit the crossbar,” Richard laughed. “But we still got a goal out of it.”
It was a lead they did not relinquish on their way to 3-1, upset victory against Division I, District 3 rival Acadiana. The win sealed a district title for the Lions in the final game of the regular season.
Richard said winning the game, especially with the high stakes, in front of a home crowd made it a special night.
“It was definitely a thrill,” Richard said. “I love home games. I love playing under the lights. I just love coming out here everyday.”
The game didn’t start well for the Lions, though. In the fourth minute, Acadiana defender Alex Caswell pounced on deflection in the box after a set piece delivery by Aaron Clark to squeeze it past Lions goalkeeper Matthew Sellers.
Lafayette coach Josh Vidrine said despite the mistake he had confidence in his goalkeeper and said his team played well in the opening half.
“I thought we played well, we had one mistake when the keeper bobbled it, but beside that they didn’t create anything other than off of set pieces,” Vidrine said. “(At halftime) I told the boys if we played another 40 minutes like that we would win a district championship.”
“I know my keeper. He has plenty of experience. The early goal wasn’t going to rattle him.
“I knew I didn’t have to tell him anything. He’s strong in the head, and he made great saves for the rest of the night.”
The goal was the Rams last quality opportunity for the rest of the game, as the Lions midfield wrested control of the middle third of the field.
The Lions used two holding midfielders, Jean Paul Richard and Austin Sun Ceefore, to shut down the Rams’ creative hub Salvador Colin.
Jean Paul Richard said he’s played with Colin before and knew the Lions would have to account for the talented midfielder if they wanted to have a chance to win.
“I thought (Colin) was a little off tonight,” Jan Richard said. “But they did a good job of locking him up.
The Lions equalized in the 21st minute, when Devin Minnick took advantage of a defensive breakdown to stride into the box and finish past Rams goalkeeper Zac Elegamy.
After Farmer’s goal opened the second half, Acadiana seemingly responded four minutes later, putting in another set piece goal, but the goal was disallowed because of a foul on the goalkeeper.
“That’s just how the game of soccer is,” Jan Richard said. “Sometimes you get those calls, sometimes you don’t. The referee saw something we didn’t see.”
The Lions benefited from another officiating decision 10 minutes into the second half, being awarded a penalty kick after defender Dylan Castaneda crashed into striker Trevin Kelly. Jean Paul Richard buried the penalty kick giving the Lions a 3-1 lead, allowing Vidrine to drop another midfielder behind the ball to shut down the Rams offense.
Jan Richard said going into the game he thought his team was vulnerable, with the Rams not having lost since Nov. 22.
“We’re you’re on the road and you’re playing a rival like this, it just didn’t go our way,” Jan Richard said. “Once they got the lead, they sat in behind the ball, and we couldn’t break them.”
Richard said while the loss in a crucial game was tough, he thought it prepared his team for the challenges to come, and the Rams have their eyes on a bigger prize.
“They earned it tonight, and we didn’t. This district championship, yes it means something, but truthfully we want the state title,” Richard said. “That’s what we are going to see in the playoffs, so even if we lose the game we can’t lose the lesson.”