The Episcopal boys soccer team didn’t need the full 80 minutes to earn its ticket to the second round of the playoffs Friday.
The No. 9 Knights defeated No. 24 Grant 8-0 in the first round of the Division III playoffs, ending the game in the 64th minute because of the LHSAA’s mercy rule.
“It feels good to move on,” Episcopal coach Miles Vaughn said. “We take this as a positive that we’re able to move on to the next round and start preparing for that one.”
Episcopal (13-5-2) lit up the scoreboard early and often on Friday with five first-half goals in only 25 minutes of play.
Episcopal sophomore forward Chima Mbagwu started the scoring when he beat Grant goalkeeper Frankie Meux on a breakaway run off a through ball sent by center midfielder Trevor Bisson.
Bisson — the Knights leading scorer this season — got the first of his two goals of four minutes later, ripping a shot from 12 yards out.
Bisson scored again in the 62nd minute on a corner kick from Jack Melton. The scores were his 19th and 20th of the season.
He also finished with two assists, including one on the final score, when he put a free kick in to the back post for a waiting Cody Hultgren.
Episcopal’s Grant Bergeron and Garret Dahm also scored a goal each, while the sixth goal was an own goal by the Cougars (2-14-1).
“It was definitely important for our morale,” Bisson said. “We did pretty OK in the regular season, but we definitely want to do big things this year.”
Episcopal produced 31 shots in the shortened game, 17 on goal. The Knights took advantage of the early scoring as Vaughn worked several younger players in for experience.
Vaughn said the extra work was important after what he considered to be a nervous start to the game, adding that the Knights can’t afford slow starts when they move on to No. 8 North Vermilion next week.
“A lot of players were trying to beat everybody up the middle, not really trying to include their teammates or combine anything, and I think that’s a little bit of nerves,” Vaughn said. “Once we realized how the game was going to go, we kind of settled down.”
Grant is a program playing varsity for the first time.
The Cougars didn’t have a single shot and only threatened the Episcopal defense twice, but coach Mark Cavaco said he was proud of the way his team fought until the end.
“It’s was exciting,” Cavaco said about his team’s first postseason appearance. “They learned a lot, and they know what their mistakes were. They sat there and corrected themselves after the mistakes were made. We know we just have to fix it on the field.”