Catholic sophomore Peyton North wasn’t supposed to be in the starting lineup against District 5 rival St. Amant on Wednesday night. He was only there because usual starter, junior Matthew Morales, was out with a hamstring injury.
But the Bears (9-1-5, 5-0-2 Division I, District 5) are certainly grateful North was in the game in the 18th minute when he struck a ball from 12 yards out to give the Bears the night’s only score in a 1-0 win over the Gators (11-5-2, 4-3).
“A ball just slid across, and I was there. I was just lucky it was me,” North said. “It just popped out to me, and I tried to hit it home.”
The Bears maintained the lead the rest of the match, securing a season sweep against the Gators and continuing their winning streak against St. Amant extending to 2011.
The Gators weren’t without their opportunities, though, as the contrasting styles of play — Catholic with a patient and technically sound strategy and St. Amant with a more aggressive, high-pressured attack — made for a closely, fought battle for 80 minutes.
“We really felt like once we won the ball, if we could get the ball down and posses and switch the point of attack, we had a chance at success and we created good chances when we did,” Catholic coach Bo Cassidy said. “When we sort of fell into their direct play, because they are so physical, we played right into them.”
In the second half, the Gators outshot Catholic 4-1 with several shots missing by mere inches.
St. Amant had another four shots in the first half, three of which were on goal.
“It’s frustrating,” St. Amant coach Adrian Garcia said. “It’s just one of those things. You give yourself an opportunity and hope for the best and sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. Tonight, we just weren’t either.”
The second half also featured more fouls (10) than shots (five) as both sides began adopting a more physical style late in the game.
Three players were booked by the referee for excessive play, including a red card for St. Amant’s Matt Rosendale just before the final whistle blew. The Gators’ Briggs Bourgeois and Catholic’s Andrew Wilson also received yellow cards.
Garcia said he was disappointed in the way his young squad lost its cool toward the end, while Cassidy was proud of the way the Bears didn’t let the tension get the best of them.
Cassidy also credited St. Amant for giving the Bears their most physical game of the season — at least since the last time the two programs met.
“I thought it was a really disciplined performance by our guys,” Cassidy said. “I’m really proud of how we were professional in the way we went bout things.
“We defended well and managed the game well to close it out.”