Like a pair of prizefighters, Denham Springs and Zachary went at each other on the soccer pitch Wednesday night. Every time the Broncos took a swing, the Yellow Jackets would retaliate with a haymaker of their own.
That is, until Denham Springs (24-2-1, 8-0) junior Joao Borsato delivered the knockout blow.
In the 68th minute, Borsato made a perfectly timed run on a corner kick to head the ball over the head of Zachary goalkeeper Martin Fontenot to give the Yellow Jackets a 3-2 lead and ultimately put them good shape to win the Division I, District 4 title.
“It felt really great because they’re the strongest in the district, and to score the (game-winning) goal — it’s really awesome,” Borsato said. “When I saw the ball coming, I said, ‘I need to come,’ and the header was just perfect.”
Borsato’s goal was the first instance that either side maintained a lead for any extended period of time.
Both of Zachary’s goals were immediately followed up by a Denham Spring retaliation within four minutes of game time, including a game-changing three minutes to end the first half.
The Broncos (11-3-1, 7-1) struck first in the game when Lee Brinkhaus sent a long ball over the top of the Yellow Jackets’ back line to Connor Gibbon who flicked the ball over the rushing goalkeeper in the 37th minute.
Three minutes later, Denham Springs senior Zachary Kimball netted a penalty kick to even the score just before halftime.
“It almost seems like we’re cursed when it comes to playing Denham Springs,” Zachary coach Scott Delhom said. “It happened last year where we’d go up, and it was tit-for-tat on goals.
“We’ve never been able to hold a lead.”
The second half picked up right where the first left off, with neither allowing the other an inch of space.
In the 46th minute, Zachary regained the lead when Jude Brian lobbed a ball over Denham Springs goalkeeper Tyler Medina who fell on the play with an injury.
“He kicked the ball and it was going upper left and I just went for it and rolled my ankle and it popped,” Medina said. “I thought it was broken. I thought my season was done.”
But Medina’s night wasn’t done as he limped back onto the field with 26 minutes to play just in time to pick off a pair of shots to maintain the Yellow Jackets’ lead in the closing minutes.
While Medina was on the sideline, Denham Springs senior Peyton Humphrey picked up the equalizer on a cross from Taylor Trepagnier in the 50th minute.
Medina finished with three saves but cut off several plays before the Broncos pulled the trigger.
The Yellow Jackets outshot Zachary 12-9, including 7-5 in shots on target.
The Broncos will have their chance at revenge, though, as the teams face off Monday to finish district play.
“This is why we all play sports,” Denham Springs coach Chris Thorne said. “You want a good, competitive rivalry. From little kids to the pros, the rivalry game is what we all live for. This is as much of a playoff atmosphere as we’ll see in the postseason.”