If the Belaire soccer season were a movie, the Bengals would be at the point where the protagonist’s car is precariously hanging over the edge of a cliff.
One wrong move and the whole thing could come tumbling down.
With two games left in the regular season, the Bengals are No. 26 in the latest LHSAA unofficial power rankings for Division II — a decent showing for a program with no real history of success and that is rebuilding under a first-year head coach.
The problem is, only the top 24 teams make the playoffs.
“I think about (the playoff implications) every day and night,” Belaire coach Tyler Love said. “But I try not to let my kids in on too much information. I try to keep my kids as focused as possible and ready for the next match.”
Belaire has a 10-4-3 record, which is solid by itself, but gets dragged down by its weak schedule.
The Bengals have the worst rated schedule in Division II at a -9.2 rating, according to MaxPreps.com, which has a partnership with the LHSAA, and the third worst schedule in Louisiana’s 151 boys soccer programs.
Love said he tried to schedule tougher opponents, but many schools had already finalized schedules by the time he finished with the Belaire football season.
To make matters worse, Belaire lost to Live Oak 3-1 on Wednesday night, which officially knocks them out of contention for the automatic district champion qualifier.
It now has to rely on its final two games against Hannan and Saturday’s rivalry match against Woodlawn to possibly put them into the top 24 teams. The Bengals sit .68 points behind No. 24 Carencro.
“You have to get your team ready to compete with whoever is on the schedule,” Love said. “We haven’t just been beating teams; we’ve been beating teams pretty convincingly. Getting those guys motivated every match is tough to do, but we’ve been going out there consistently every game trying to get those 8-0, mercy rule victories against whoever is on the schedule.”
The Bengals have beaten nine teams by three or more goals this season, including four matches that ended 8-0.
Love considers himself primarily a defensive-minded coach, but he’s been more impressed with the Bengals’ offensive, which has scored 110 goals in its 17 games.
Sophomore Rony Castellanos leads the program with 29 goals and six assists.
It’s been a slow process for the Bengals who are made up of mostly Hispanic players, many of whom speak English as a second language. Tapping into the Hispanic population of the school was a main goal of Love’s at the beginning of the season, but it took time to develop strong communication.
“Coach Love has done an amazing job this season,” said junior Christian Melgar. “We haven’t been that good in the past, so this is the first time we’ve ever reached double digit wins and had a real winning streak.”