DENHAM SPRINGS — For the second straight game Catholic High’s soccer team played in bad weather on wet artificial turf. For the second time they fell behind early and mounted a second-half comeback.
But their efforts fell short Tuesday when Denham Springs senior forward Taylor Trepagnier booted a 19-yard free kick into the upper right corner of the net in the final minute to give the Yellow Jackets a 2-1 win in Division I, District 3-5A play.
The victory was especially sweet for Denham Springs (16-7-5, 2-2) as their players and fans felt they had underachieved in district play, bringing a 1-2 district mark into this game.
“We played tonight — for the most part — like we can play,” senior forward Cam Hilliard said. “The reason we have two losses is because we thought we would win the game before we even stepped on the field. We underplayed our abilities big time, and we got taken advantage of.”
Hilliard put his team on the scoreboard early in the first half when he collected a ball near the right sideline, outraced two Catholic defenders to the goal and won the challenge from goalkeeper Patrick Riley with a low hard shot to the lower left side of the net.
“I have a lot of friends at Catholic, and I’ve been looking forward to this game since freshman year,” Hilliard said. “I knew we had to come out hard.”
That goal stood up until the 66th minute when the Bears’ leading goal-scorer, freshman Cole Cazenave, took advantage of a slip and fall by a defender and found the net past goalkeeper Tyler Medina to tie the score.
“It wasn’t a bad play. Our defender just slipped,” Denham Springs coach Chris Thorne said. “Sometimes the ball bounces your way, and sometimes it doesn’t.
“This was the game I expected. Two evenly matched teams. I thought we had good intensity in the first half, and Catholic had more intensity and put pressure on us in the second half.
“Taylor struck a real nice free kick there at the end. He’s been doing that all year. I don’t think he feels much stress.”
Catholic (11-6-1, 3-1) failed to convert several other opportunities in the second half, the best one coming when Matthew Morales appeared to have a chance at a shot after he chested a corner kick in front of the goal, but Medina got to the ball first and smothered it.
With under two minutes left, Hilliard barely missed wide left on an open shot that it appeared Riley got a fingertip on, and it looked as though the game would end 1-1. Then the Yellow Jackets were awarded possession and a free kick after an injury stoppage. They mounted one last attack, and Trepagnier was fouled just outside the 18-yard-line.
Catholic players and coaches questioned both the possession ruling and the foul call, but Trepagnier calmly converted the free kick for the win.
Catholic coach Josh McReynolds saw the final call as a big one in a game his team let slip away.
“It was controversial for sure,” McReynolds said. “I thought my guy had position and played it as well as he could. In a game that close, one play can make a difference. But credit their guy who took the kick. He did a good job.”
“I thought we created enough chances to get a better result tonight, but unfortunately we couldn’t get that final touch.”