GONZALES —Down by a goal with two minutes left to play against its biggest rival, there wasn’t much hope for the St. Amant boys soccer team.
Fortunately, two minutes were all the Gators needed.
St. Amant (15-2-1) pulled off an improbably comeback victory Thursday night, stealing a 2-1 win from the clutches of East Ascension (11-4-5) with a pair of last-minute scores and clinching its first district title since 2002.
“We have some captains, some seniors, some leaders on the team, and they just don’t quit,” said St. Amant coach Adrian Garcia. “We’ve been down this year before, and I just don’t think these boys know how to lose.”
Freshman Henry Ecker started the rally with a score in the 78th minute, but it was senior Seth Benoit who put in the game-winning goal just at the start of stoppage time when he picked up a rebound in front of the net. East Ascension goalkeeper Dohnovan Aguilar made the original save, but couldn’t get up in time to stop Benoit’s final shot.
Aguilar consistently kept the Spartans alive all night with a barrage of clutch saves and aggressive tackles on breakaways.
The comeback cost East Ascension — which had taken the lead on a perfectly executed corner kick by Wesley LeBlanc to Edgar Moyron in the 67th minute — its first win over the Gators since December of 2009 and first district title since 2008.
“It hurts to come so close and not take it, and it also hurts to watch them play as well as they did and not have a win to show for it,” East Ascension coach Michael Zanco said. “It’s like I told the boys, ‘It only hurts so much because you never thought you would be where you are now.’ ”
East Ascension 3, St. Amant 1: The East Ascension girls only needed a tie against St. Amant to clinch their first district title in three years.
Just for good measure, they won.
The Spartans, ninth in the latest LHSAA power rankings, beat the sixth-ranked Gators 3-1 behind the legs of senior forward Blaire Laiche who netted two goals despite leg cramps.
“We talked about (sitting on a tie score in the second half) but we couldn’t do that with them, offensively,” said East Ascension coach Chris Goodall. “They’ve mercy-ruled so many people and you just can’t do that.”
With the score tied 1-1 at halftime, East Ascension (17-2-3) could have dug in on defense and played for the tie, but Goodall said that was never an option with a team like St. Amant (9-3-5).
The Spartans went right at the Gators from the start of the period, outshooting them 9-2 in the second half, none more important than Laiche’s 68th minute game-winner.
Laiche showed off her speed on a 40-yard through ball from Dari Johnson, taking the ball into open space and slotting it in the goal.
East Ascension’s Maylen Mire put on the finishing touches with a stoppage-time goal while Jacie Dencausse put in St. Amant’s lone goal in the eighth minute.
“I had to wait for the right opportunity and try to pull them in and let them think I wasn’t going to take those risks,” Laiche said. “Once I saw it, it’s just patience.”