ZACHARY — Fresh off of a thrilling win over Zachary High School five days before, Denham Springs’ quest for the program’s second boys soccer district title was not locked up quite yet.
To achieve that, the Yellow Jackets were going to have to get past the Broncos once again, but this time away from home. Thanks to an early goal from captain Zachary Kimball and staunch defending, Denham Springs was crowned Division I, District 4 champions with a 1-0 win on Monday night.
“Honestly, our goal at the beginning of the season was not a district title,” said Denham Springs coach Chris Thorne, referring to his team’s aspirations for a first state championship. “This is one step toward reaching our goal, and now we’re ready to make that next step.”
While a second consecutive loss to DSHS is a tough pill to swallow, coach Scott Delhom took some positives from his team’s hearty effort as they now, along with Denham Springs, get set for the playoffs.
“Next year I’m going to make sure we don’t play Denham twice in a five-day span,” joked Delhom. “However, you want to play a good team like them so you get better for the playoffs, and that’s where it counts.”
Denham Springs’ plan coming in to the match was to get an early goal, and Kimball made sure to get that in motion with a fifth-minute strike for his 18th goal of the season.
“We preach every game to score in the first five minutes,” Thorne said. “Our goal was to score early and see if we can get Zachary to drop. They didn’t, but it ended being the difference in the game.”
Leading the break on a counter attack following a clearance on the other end by DSHS’ back line, junior midfielder Joao Borsato sprung Kimball free with a lead pass behind the ZHS defense. With only Zachary goalkeeper Martin Fontenot to beat, Kimball calmly slotted a shot just inside the far post for the goal.
“I didn’t want to mess it up,” Kimball laughed. “It was a big opportunity, and I didn’t want to lose it so I had to punch it home.”
With the early advantage, the DSHS defense made sure it would stand. With senior center back Zachary Boothe anchoring the back line in the middle, the Broncos could only find space four shots on goal.
“I have complete confidence in my back line, ” Thorne said. “In my opinion, Zack is one of the top two or three center backs in the state and he is just phenomenal.”
The Yellow Jackets almost doubled their lead in the 23rd minute when Borsato laid off a pass for an open Camden Hilliard after beating three defenders off the dribble. Hilliard took a touch and then fired a shot on target, forcing Fontenot to parry it just wide of the post.
As the Yellow Jackets continuously pushed for a second goal in the latter half of the match, Fontenot remained busy, recording six saves to keep ZHS’ deficit manageable.
“That may have been one of the best games he has played for us,” Delhom said of Fontenot who was one of six Zachary seniors that were honored before the match. “He and the rest of the team came out and wanted to shine in front of the fans.”