ST. AMANT — There was no deviation from the plan for St. Amant on Tuesday.
The Gators went into the pre-district battle of two of Division I’s top teams with the goal of hitting the long ball into the path of Tyler Bridgewater who would try to beat the Catholic backline for a shot.
On a cold day at The Pit, St. Amant pulled off the 2-1 upset of rival Catholic, following the game plan to perfection.
Bridgewater scored both of the Gators’ goals, both on long balls played through the backline where he was able to make a play before narrowly edging the charging Catholic goal keeper.
“It was just playing long balls, get the ball and score,” Bridgewater said. “It was great. I like having the game on my shoulders in big games like this. We beat the No. 2 (ranked) team in the state, and that’s big.”
Third-ranked St. Amant (16-1-1) sent several through balls past the Catholic backline early on, but Bridgewater was consistently deflected at the last moment by one of the Bears’ defenders.
It wasn’t until the 31st minute that he broke through. He took a well-played cross from Tristan Alexander before hitting the tough angle into the side of the net.
Bridgewater stuck again in the 49th minute, this time on a more straight-on through ball from Henry Ecker that set up a similar shot from an angle.
Both teams had 11 shots on goal, with Bridgewater providing most of St. Amant’s chances on frame.
“He’s so fast, and if we get that ball out in front of him, usually good things are going to happen,” St. Amant coach Adrian Garcia said. “We just felt like they were so good in the middle, we didn’t want to play the ball there. We wanted to keep it out wide and hope our guys make a play.”
Catholic (7-1-1) didn’t go down without a fight, though.
With about five minutes to play, the Bears cut the deficit to 2-1 after a penalty kick from Rees Romero in the 77th minute.
For a brief moment it appeared Catholic may have succeeded in finding a stoppage-time equalizer, but a close offside call negated the goal, effectively sealing the win for St. Amant.
“Across the board was sort of back and forth,” Catholic coach Josh McReynolds. “We came out really good in the first 10 minutes. They had little spells where they had more possession, a little bit more opportunity. I think if we take some of those chances early in the game we created, we’re probably not worried so much in the last five minutes.
“But that wasn’t how it went, so we’re pushing the last five minutes trying to get a result and the ball didn’t bounce our way.”