Shouts of joy rang out into the cold night air from the Denham Springs sideline as the clock struck zero at Yellow Jacket Stadium Thursday evening.
Behind a second-half hat trick from sophomore Alexis Larimore, Denham Springs defeated Sulphur 5-0 in the bi-district round of the Division I girls soccer playoffs, securing its first home playoff win.
After losing every game two seasons ago, Denham Springs (17-4-3) bounced back in 2014 to win its first district championship under first-year coach Nikki Deshotel. The Yellow Jackets took things a step further in Season 2 of the Deshotel era with a playoff win over Sulphur (11-9-4).
“The program is just getting better and better,” Deshotel said.
“I never in a million years thought that we would have won the first ever playoff game at Denham Springs.”
For Sulphur coach Walter Oglesby, it was another disappointing offensive performance.
“It was a bitter pill because I thought we were a lot better than 5-0,” Oglesby said. “All year we’ve suffered from lack of scoring. We play a good game, but we just can’t put it in the net.”
Leaving the game in the 16th minute to stretch a few tight muscles, freshman Makenzie Maher returned later in the first half to ignite the Denham Springs attack.
In the 39th minute, Maher received a pass from sophomore Payton Trepagnier, outraced a Sulphur defender and blasted Denham Springs’ first goal past Sulphur goalkeeper Shelby Mendibles.
“That goal could not have come at a better time because it really sparked us back up and added that extra little burst of momentum that we needed to keep going,” Deshotel said.
The Yellow Jackets squandered a few early second-half scoring chances, but at the 51st minute, Larimore found Maher for a strike in front of the goal, her second goal of the game and 32nd of the season.
Larimore called her own number in the 61st and 71st minutes, extending Denham Springs’ lead to 4-0.
“In the first half, my nerves may have gotten the best of me,” Larimore said. “I think I was trying too hard to make something very good happen, and I kind of psyched myself out.”
“Battling” for the hat trick, it was only appropriate that Maher found Larimore for the final Yellow Jackets goal in the 79th minute to seal the 5-0 victory for Denham Springs. Larimore has 38 goals this season.
“Makenzie giving me that last ball was very nice of her because she could have easily taken it herself,” Larimore said.
“Once we hit that third goal, it was kind of like is this really happening. We’re really going to do this,” Deshotel said.
For Oglesby it was the end of a season that had some good moments, but fell short in other respects.
“We had a good season, but with a few breaks or a little bit better playing, we could have had a lot better season,” Oglesby said.