ST. AMANT — “The Pit” at St. Amant is one of the most feared places to play in Louisiana soccer. With its narrow field and fierce crowds, it isn’t hard to see why the Gators were undefeated at home this season coming into Wednesday night’s second round match up with Catholic High in the Division I boys soccer playoffs.
Catholic freshman Cole Cazenave wasn’t worried about any of that.
With the game tied at 1-1 in the 76th minute, Cazenave — the Bears’ leading scorer this season — buried a shot from close to 30 yards out to lift the No. 12 Bears to an upset win over No. 5 St. Amant.
“I don’t really know how to explain it,” Cazenave said. “I’m just overjoyed that we were able to get the win.
“I just had the ball and no one was on my back, so I turned and took a shot.”
Earlier in the week, Catholic coach Josh McReynolds said playing at “The Pit” was one of his biggest concerns heading into the game.
But team captain Matthew Morales put some of those fears to rest in the 24th minute when he struck what McReynolds called one of the best shots he’s seen all season.
While on a near all-out sprint to his left, Morales pulled up to take a shot from over 30 yards out with his non-dominant foot and sent it on a line drive into the far upper corner.
“I was so proud of them,” McReynolds said. “There’s been a lot of good teams that have come in here and have been dominated because of the style that (the Gators) play. … I thought our guys did a great job of being resolute and showing resiliency through a lot of the match.”
Despite finishing with less goals, St. Amant (16-3-1) out-shot Catholic 13-10 and had several more opportunities than the Bears.
St. Amant tied the game in the 38th minute when Hector Rodriguez put in a rebound off a corner kick from Seth Benoit.
The Gators tried to put together a last-minute comeback, but couldn’t overcome 12 second-half fouls, including five in stoppage time.
The win is Catholic’s second over St. Amant this season and prevented what would have been the Gators’ first victory against the Bears, as well as their first trip to the quarterfinals, since 2011. Catholic (13-7-2) hasn’t reached a quarterfinal game since 2013.
“(Catholic) was real defensive tonight, and I credit them for slowing down our attack,” St. Amant coach Adrian Garcia said. “An inch or two here or there and we finish a little better and we’re in the game and we’re not upset right now.”
Catholic plays the winner of No. 4 Jesuit and No. 13 Sulphur in the quarterfinals.