METAIRIE — A cold wind whipped across the pitch at a packed John Ryan Stadium on Saturday afternoon during the Division I boys soccer semifinal clash between No. 2 seed Jesuit and third-seeded Brother Martin.
By the time the intense rivalry clash was over, that wind had swept Jesuit into the title match. For Martin, it chillingly slammed the door on one of its most successful seasons in years.
After failing to convert numerous scoring chances, Jesuit got a set-play goal from senior midfielder Bo Devenport in the 67th minute and pitched its 10th straight shutout to beat the Crusaders 1-0 on Saturday.
While Brother Martin (21-3-0) saw its season end, Jesuit next faces St. Paul’s.
The Blue Jays seek their second straight state crown and seventh in the past 11 years next Saturday at Tad Gormley Stadium. It will be Jesuit’s fifth consecutive trip to the state final.
Following a shaky start to the 2012-13 season, the Blue Jays have reeled off a 15-game winning streak and positioned themselves to defend their state crown at the Louisiana High School Athletic Association State Soccer Championships.
“That was one of our goals this year: to defend the title,” Jesuit coach Hubie Collins said. “This is a credit to all of our players.”
While the Jays celebrated their hard-fought victory, the Crusaders sat on the turf, heads down, encircling coach Louie Smothermon, who did his best to console his charges after an intense, gutsy performance. After addressing his players, Smothermon spoke to the media with a measured cadence and a hushed tone, struggling to come up words.
“I really didn’t think it would end today,” Smothermon said, shaking his head. “I thought we would go on (to the final).”
Saturday’s contest was pocked by missed opportunities for both teams. It came down to which squad would finally convert one.
Midway into the second stanza, with Jesuit applying relentless offensive pressure, the Blue Jays set up a play they’ve been practicing all year but haven’t executed often.
In the 67th minute, Jesuit senior defender and captain Joseph Kepper lofted a free kick toward the Brother Martin goal. Devenport, positioned near the right post, slipped between Crusaders defenders and converted the perfectly placed ball. It was only the second career goal for Devenport.
“I’m always on the back post,” Devenport said. “I’ve just been waiting for that ball all year. It felt great.”
Smothermon called Devenport’s tally a defensive breakdown. He said the Crusaders didn’t react to Kepper’s volley and failed to seal off Devenport.
“A free ball like that, letting them beat you to the spot with everyone standing around watching, you’re going to pay,” Smothermon said.
Kepper said that competing in the title match is something Jesuit almost expects.
“A bunch of us guys have been there before, but for these younger guys, they get to experience it for the first time,” he said. “The other guys have a chance to see how good it feels.”